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BrothersJudd Blog

Blog of the Brothers Judd

Last Build Date: Sun, 04 Dec 2016 18:55:30 -0500

Copyright: Copyright 2016


Sun, 04 Dec 2016 18:55:30 -0500

"Despite lots of uncertainty about upcoming Trump policies, the good news is that the incoming administration stands to inherit a stable and growing economy with the strongest overall job market in a generation," said Andrew Chamberlain, the chief economist at Glassdoor, in a note. Private-sector employment is on its longest streak of growth on record. 


Sun, 04 Dec 2016 18:42:00 -0500

Italy Votes 'No' in Referendum, Projections Indicate (DEBORAH BALL and  GIADA ZAMPANO, Dec. 4, 2016, WSJ)

Projections late Sunday indicated that Italian voters have rejected proposed constitutional changes, in what if confirmed would be a stinging rebuke to the country's leader and a victory for populists in the heartland of Europe.

The natural momentum of sovereignty--especially in the absence of force--is centrifugal, not centripital.  They'd do better to vote on dissolving the country into its constituent regions.


Sun, 04 Dec 2016 18:02:05 -0500

Raines may have never played for the numbers, but he still managed to amass huge ones:

-- He's the only player in baseball history with more than two seasons with at least 50 extra-base hits and 70 stolen bases; he had four, from 1983 to 1986.

-- He's the only player, among seven, with at least 600 extra-base hits and 700 stolen bases not in the Hall of Fame.

-- He's the only player in baseball history with at least 100 triples, 150 home runs and 600 stolen bases. He amassed 113 triples, 170 home runs, and 808 stolen bases.

-- Sixteen of the first 18 players to accumulate at least 2,600 hits and 1,300 walks were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Raines and Pete Rose, who is banned from baseball for life, are the odd men out.

Raines was a career .294/.385/.425 (123 OPS+) hitter. He reached base safely 3,977 times and tallied 69.1 WAR, averaging 4.55 WAR per 162 games played.

Lou Brock had a career .293 batting average. Willie Mays had a career .384 on-base percentage. Rickey Henderson had a career .422 slugging percentage. Ernie Banks had a career 122 OPS+. Tony Gwynn reached base safely 3,955 times and tallied 68.8 career WAR. Derek Jeter averaged 4.23 WAR per 162 games played.

Still not convinced? Raines is the only player in baseball history with consecutive seasons with at least 30 doubles and 70 stolen bases. He had five in a row, from 1982 to 1986. Before 1982, the last player with such a season was Ty Cobb in 1915. When Raines failed to reach that level for a sixth straight season, stealing just 50 bases in 1987, he batted .330/.429/.526. That made him the first player to bat at least .325/.425/.525 with at least 50 stolen bases since George Sisler in 1922, his MVP season. In fact, Sisler, Raines and Henderson -- who did it in 1990, when he won the AL MVP -- are the only players with such a season during the live ball era.

Raines had five seasons with at least 70 walks and 70 stolen bases. Hall of Famers "Sliding" Billy Hamilton (six) and Henderson (seven) are the only players with more. No other player has more than two. Ty Cobb had just one.

Three players in history have hit at least 10 home runs and stolen at least 90 bases in a season: Harry Stovey (1890), Henderson (1982) and Raines (1983). Henderson and Raines had sneaky power, and Henderson is hailed for his record 81 career leadoff home runs.


Sun, 04 Dec 2016 17:26:22 -0500

Should Your Employer Go Full Robo on Your Retirement Savings? : Robo-adviser Betterment picks up steam with its pitch to handle 401(k) plans for companies. (Suzanne Woolley, December 1, 2016, Bloomberg)

 The Department of Labor's fiduciary rule, which takes effect in April, requires advisers for retirement investments to put a client's interest before their own. A 2015 government report estimated that adviser conflicts of interest cost investors some $17 billion a year. The rule could be a regulatory catalyst for growth, said Tyler Cloherty, senior manager with Casey Quirk by Deloitte.

"There will be more impediments to moving small-balance accounts to advisers, so more money will likely stay within the 401(k)," he said, rather than be rolled into an IRA, for example, with the plan's outside administrator. 1

Why would a company choose a 401(k) upstart over the long-established pros? Among the reasons ticked off by Cynthia Loh, general manager for the product, are lower fees; managed, personalized portfolios for all participants; no conflicts of interest in fund selection; and a modern, intuitive user interface. Betterment 401(k) accounts also can use a new algorithmic service the company launched in September that aims to improve a portfolio's tax efficiency, which adds to returns over time.

"The opportunity is that innovation has to happen, and the 401(k) space is not blessed with innovation," said Alois Pirker, research director for Aite Group. "It has been a shielded kind of space."

Others have made inroads with online 401(k) advisory services, although they don't tend to have a soup-to-nuts operation that stretches from record-keeping to asset management as Betterment does. Financial Engines, a well-established online advisory service that acts as a fiduciary for 401(k) plans, works with about 700 companies that employ a total of 10 million workers. It offers basic portfolio advice for all accounts and more personalized advice for an additional fee. Morningstar is also a player in the managed account advisory business for 401(k) plans.

Betterment's 401(k) offering operates much like its regular advisory service. It creates portfolios of exchange-traded funds based on your age and answers to a risk questionnaire, and it rebalances portfolios to your planned asset allocation regularly. It charges an asset-based fee ranging from 0.1 to 0.6 percentage points, depending on plan size. The ETF fees are typically 0.1 to 0.12 percentage points in the tax-deferred accounts.


Sun, 04 Dec 2016 12:14:01 -0500

Standing in front of a painting by Richard De Cosmis - in his studio, improvised from a garage of his house in Weehawken, NJ - was a revelation to me.

Broken turbulent lines depicted a figure of a man, his torso bent, placed against an abstract background. It was reminiscent of the contorted bodies in the work of Michelangelo and Francis Bacon. But the painting I was looking at had its own unique style and emotional intensity. Who is this artist? And why we haven't heard of him?

Richard De Cosmis was a police officer. He died last year, leaving behind a large collection of paintings and drawings, as well as a mystery yet to be solved, on the over 100 paintings he produced, in seclusion, over the last 25 years. [...]

A series of paintings in which figures are huddled together, positioned off balance, slumping over the other's shoulder, or even as if floating weightless in mid air, were particularly striking.

His family reveals, that De Cosmis began painting after retiring his 30 year service as a police officer and was a self taught painter, a total outsider in the art world.

However, a great amount of books, sketches, and notes scattered in the studio suggest that he was very conscious about what it was he was trying to achieve.

I look through some handwritten notes: "Traditional out. Paint: or quit!", "Essentials: mood, emotions, tension" , "Forget realism", "Reduce Definitions", "Negative space needs movement." [...]

I am stricken by the fact that such a profound collection was created without any academic training, any creative surrounding and no direct interaction with other artists.

And I am truly wondering if this man, a former police officer, and a father of five children, might at some point be recognized as a great American painter.


Sun, 04 Dec 2016 12:08:26 -0500

For all the hoopla over china, trade and immigration, 85% of the manufacturing losses in the United States were due to automation, not trade. And it's not just manufacturing. Automation imperils huge swaths of employment, from the medical profession to the finance industry. Drivers of all kinds, from truckers to cabbies to worksite drivers, are all on the chopping block. Big data threatens to slash middle level managers and analysts of all kinds. Something will have to be done.

But most people aren't ready for a universal basic income. Wherever the public has had a chance to vote on it, it has failed-and usually dramatically. People aren't comfortable with the idea yet-they worry about creating a class of layabouts, and about removing the dignity that comes with a job, and about losing the leverage workers have had against capital since the dawn of the labor movement. Most of these are cultural fears that will dissipate over time, but they are very real.


Sun, 04 Dec 2016 06:21:10 -0500

What It Will Take for Us to Trust AI (Guru Banavar, NOVEMBER 29, 2016, Harvard Business Review)

The early days of artificial intelligence have been met with some very public hand wringing. Well-respected technologists and business leaders have voiced their concerns over the (responsible) development of AI. And Hollywood's appetite for dystopian AI narratives appears to be bottomless.

This is not unusual, nor is it unreasonable. Change, technological or otherwise, always excites the imagination. And it often makes us a little uncomfortable.

But in my opinion, we have never known a technology with more potential to benefit society than artificial intelligence. We now have AI systems that learn from vast amounts of complex, unstructured information and turn it into actionable insight. It is not unreasonable to expect that within this growing body of digital data -- 2.5 exabytes every day -- lie the secrets to defeating cancer, reversing climate change, or managing the complexity of the global economy.

We also expect AI systems to pervasively support the decisions we make in our professional and personal lives in just a few years. In fact, this is already happening in many industries and governments. However, if we are ever to reap the full spectrum of societal and industrial benefits from artificial intelligence, we will first need to trust it.

Trust of AI systems will be earned over time, just as in any personal relationship. Put simply, we trust things that behave as we expect them to. 


Sun, 04 Dec 2016 06:10:44 -0500

Extremists Turn to a Leader to Protect Western Values: Vladimir Putin (ALAN FEUER and ANDREW HIGGINS, DEC. 3, 2016, NY Times)

As the founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party, an American group that aims to preserve the privileged place of whiteness in Western civilization and fight "anti-Christian degeneracy," Matthew Heimbach knows whom he envisions as the ideal ruler: the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.

"Russia is our biggest inspiration," Mr. Heimbach said. "I see President Putin as the leader of the free world."

Throughout the presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump mystified many on the left and in the foreign policy establishment with his praise for Mr. Putin and his criticism of the Obama administration's efforts to isolate and punish Russia for its actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. But what seemed inexplicable when Mr. Trump first expressed his admiration for the Russian leader seems, in retrospect, to have been a shrewd dog whistle to a small but highly motivated part of his base.

For Mr. Heimbach is far from alone in his esteem for Mr. Putin. Throughout the collection of white ethnocentrists, nationalists, populists and neo-Nazis that has taken root on both sides of the Atlantic, Mr. Putin is widely revered as a kind of white knight: a symbol of strength, racial purity and traditional Christian values in a world under threat from Islam, immigrants and rootless cosmopolitan elites.

By which they mean (((rootless cosmopolitan elites))).


Sat, 03 Dec 2016 19:04:59 -0500

Donald Trump's Trade Policies: Blessing Or Curse? (Stuart Anderson, 12/03/16, Forbes)   

What do economists think of Donald Trump's proposed trade policies? To find out, I decided to ask two leading economists, Daniel Griswold, a Mercatus Center senior research fellow and co-director of the Program on the American Economy and Globalization, and Mark Perry, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan's Flint campus and creator and editor of the popular economics blog Carpe Diem.

Perry: One very important, but almost always overlooked point is that there really is no overall deficit (or surplus) for international transactions once we account for both: a) cash flows for goods and services (current account) and b) cash flows for financial assets (capital account). A full accounting for all cash inflows and cash outflows over a certain period for all international trade in goods, services and financial assets in known as a country's "balance of payments." And just like a corporate balance sheet for a company, our balance of payments as a country always has to balance once we consider our "current account" (which has been in deficit for many decades) and our "capital account" (which has been in surplus for many decades).

Beyond the fact that the discussion on the trade deficit is typically incomplete by focusing only on trade flows for goods and services while ignoring trade flows for financial assets, there is a larger issue with the obsession with America's trade deficit. And that's the fact that the trade deficit is almost always reported in the media as a sign of America's economic weakness, when that is not the case at all. After all, the flip-side of the "trade deficit" is an inflow of foreign capital that provides a vital source of financing that fuels capital creation and business expansion in America, which leads to increased future output and employment in the U.S., and a more dynamic and vibrant economy. George Mason University economist Don Boudreaux expressed it this way: "To lament America's trade deficit is to lament the fact that foreigners are investing in America. And that seems very odd."


Sat, 03 Dec 2016 19:00:47 -0500

Is Trump's Deal With Carrier A Form Of Crony Capitalism? : interview with Donald Evans, commerce secretary during George W. Bush's first term, and Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University  (NPR,December 2, 2016)

Cowen: We're supposed to live under a republic of the rule of law, not the rule of men. This deal is completely nontransparent, and the notion that every major American company has to negotiate person-to-person with the president over Twitter is going to make all business decisions politicized.

We don't know exactly what the company is getting. There's plenty of talk that the reason Carrier went along with the deal was because they were afraid their parent company would lose a lot of defense contracts, so this now creates the specter of a president always being willing to punish or reward companies depending on whether or not they give him a good press release.

On whether there's a right or wrong way to interact with American corporations

Evans: Certainly over the long haul you can't get into the mode of picking winners and losers. The great hallmark of this country is we love to compete. And so what I think government's role needs to be, should be, will be under this president-elect, I'm confident, is create a playing field for our companies in America to compete not only here at home but around the world and provide that environment so that companies here in America are willing to stay here, employ more people and build their companies here in America instead of some other country in the world.

On United Technologies, Carrier's parent company

Cowen: They do a lot of defense contracting; it's at least 10 percent of their revenue. Carrier from the state of Indiana was already offered the tax break before the election. They turned it down. Now all of a sudden Trump is president, Bernie Sanders is telling Trump to threaten the defense contracts of the parent company. And now all of a sudden the company takes the deal, and Trump is known for being somewhat vindictive.

On crony capitalism

Cowen: Trump and Bernie Sanders, for all of their populist talk, their actual recipes in both case lead to crony capitalism ... a system where businesses who are in bed with the government and who give the president positive press releases are rewarded and where companies who oppose or speak out against the president are in some way punished.


Sat, 03 Dec 2016 18:36:25 -0500

Simmons vs. Gladwell: The Future of Football : Sagging ratings, national controversy, horrifying head injuries, shameless greed: The conversation about the NFL has officially changed. Is it too late to fix it? (Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell, 12/03/16, The Ringer)

Gladwell: [...] Football has a problem. I thought of this the other day when I had the fun job of interviewing Astros GM Jeff Luhnow at a RAND conference in Santa Monica. He talked entirely about analytics, and what all the data they now collect mean for the decisions they make -- how they didn't bid on a major free agent after doing a micro-analysis of his swing, or what can be learned, in real time, by precisely measuring the rotation on a pitcher's slider. That kind of stuff. The audience found him fascinating. Here's the thing, though: I'm guessing that less than half of the people in the room were actually baseball fans. But it didn't matter: There is now a second conversation about baseball -- the Moneyball conversation -- that is interesting even to people who don't follow the first conversation, the one that takes place on the field. Same thing for basketball. There's an obsessive first conversation about a beautiful game, and a great second conversation about how basketball has become a mixed-up culture of personality and celebrity. Boxing had a wonderful second conversation in its glory years: It was a metaphor of social mobility. Jack Dempsey, one of the most popular boxers of all time, dropped out of school before he even got to high school; Joe Louis's family got chased out of Alabama by the Ku Klux Klan. That underlying narrative made what happened in the ring matter. When the second conversation about boxing became about people like Don King and the financial and physical exploitation of athletes, the sport became a circus.

So what's the second conversation about football? It's concussions. There's the game on the field and then there's a conversation off the field about why nobody wants their kids to play the game on the field. How does a sport survive in the long run when the second conversation contradicts the first? I thought you were going to mention the other excruciating Panthers game this season: the league-opening-night Super Bowl rematch with the Broncos, where one Denver defender after another made a run at Cam Newton's head. After that happened a second time, a few weeks later, remember what Newton said? He doesn't "feel safe on the field" anymore. Newton is one of the league's biggest young stars, and the most memorable thing he has said all year is that playing football now scares him. Good lord.


Sat, 03 Dec 2016 18:27:54 -0500

The General Who Should Lead the Pentagon (THOMAS E. RICKS, DEC. 2, 2016, NY Times)

Usually, I'd oppose having a general as secretary of defense, because it could undermine our tradition of civilian control of the military.

But these are not normal times. The incoming president appears to be a profoundly ignorant man who often seems to act on gut impulse or on what pleases the crowd. That is a dangerous combination to have in the White House. Having known General Mattis for many years, I am confident that he will be a restraint on Mr. Trump's impulsiveness. I also think he will provide a strong counterweight to some of those around Mr. Trump who hold isolationist or pro-Putin views.


Sat, 03 Dec 2016 16:24:36 -0500

What the Alt-Right Really Means (CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL, DEC. 2, 2016, NY Times)

[M]ost of all there is sex. The alt-right has a lot of young men in it, young men whose ideology can be assumed to confront them with obstacles to meeting people and dating. Sex-cynicism and race-pessimism, of course, often travel in tandem. At the National Policy Institute conference, the writer F. Roger Devlin gave a talk on why young Norwegian women in Groruddalen, outside Oslo, preferred dating Somali and Pakistani gang members to ethnic Norwegian boys-next-door. "The female instinct is to mate with socially dominant men," he explained, "and it does not matter how such dominance is achieved." [...]

The internet liberates us to be our worst selves. Where other movements have orators and activists, the alt-right also has ruthless trolls and "doxers." The trolls bombard Twitter and email accounts with slur-filled letters and Photoshopped art. Doxing is the releasing of personal information onto the internet. Last month, several alt-right writers, including Mr. Spencer, had their accounts suspended by Twitter. Mr. Spencer says he appreciates the "frenetic energy" of trolling but doesn't do it himself.

The alt-right did not invent these tactics. But during this election the trolling reached a sadistic pitch. Journalists who opposed Mr. Trump received photos of themselves -- and in some cases their children -- dead, or in gas chambers. Jewish and Jewish-surnamed journalists were particular targets, especially those seen to be thwarting Mr. Trump's rise: Jonah Goldberg, Julia Ioffe and Ben Shapiro, among others. The Daily Stormer has been particularly aggressive in deploying its "troll army" against those with whom it disagrees. A signature punctuation of the alt-right is to mark Jewish names with "echoes," or triple parentheses, like (((this))).


Sat, 03 Dec 2016 07:16:54 -0500

Iran's Game in Aleppo (Ahmed Rashid, 12/01/16, NY Review of Books)

This could be a turning point in the conflict. The fall of East Aleppo would give the regime control of the country's five largest cities and the critical western part of Syria where the regime has its major popular support, now assisted by Russian air power and Iranian militias. Rebel groups would be reduced to a few strongholds in the north of the country and a few other remaining pockets--some around the capital Damascus. [...]

Yet one of the real victors in a post-Aleppo peace deal would also be Iran, which has been supporting the Syrian regime for the past five years and has been recruiting a series of militias from Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other Arab states to fight alongside the Syrian army. In doing so, Iran has enforced a sectarian divide, with its Shia forces allying with Syria's Alawite regime against the rebels, who are predominantly Sunni but also include other groups. 

Iranian forces have become a critical element in Assad's dramatic recent successes in the war. In late November, an Iranian official acknowledged that large numbers of Iranian fighters have been killed in Syria. "Now the number of Iran's martyrs as defenders of [the] shrine has exceeded 1,000," Mohammadali Shahidi Mahallati, head of Iran's Foundation of Martyrs, which offers financial support to the relatives of those killed fighting in Syria, told an Iranian news agency.

Iran labels its Shia fighters in Syria "defenders of the shrine," referring to Sayyida Zainab, a mosque near Damascus where a granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammad is said to be buried. The new Iranian death toll was much higher than the four hundred reported at the beginning of the summer--a clear sign of Iran's stepped-up involvement and also that the Syrian regime is chronically short of manpower. And showing the extent to which Iran has created a broader Shia front in Syria, Mahallati also admitted that the largest number of foreign fighters killed in August were Afghan Shias whom Iran had enlisted--although he did not refer to any number.

A US-Russia deal on Syria would be seen by many Syrians and by the Arab countries in the region as a surrender to Tehran, allowing the Islamic Republic to consolidate its influence across the Levant.

Leaving the Alawites with their rump state and elections to choose who they want to lead them. 


Sat, 03 Dec 2016 07:07:43 -0500

French energy giant Total SA is back in Iran, six years after it was forced to halt its operations due to nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran. Leading a consortium with China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) and Petropars, the company signed a heads of agreement with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) worth $4.8 billion to develop phase 11 of the giant South Pars natural gas field. The project is expected to produce 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. The preliminary agreement, due to be finalized by early 2017, gives Total a 50.1% stake. Other consortium members CNPC and NIOC subsidiary Petropars will take 30% and 19.9%, respectively.

The gas field, which is divided into 29 development phases on the Iranian side, is the world's largest.