Everything you can imagine is real. RSS

An eclectic collection of things I'm reading, looking at or thinking about.

A stream of consciousness companion to the Park Paradigm.


How will a firm know if it is making real progress? Not having to plead guilty to felony charges or being assessed large fines is a good start.


Stretch goals in banking ethics: avoid felony indictments…

Implants and wearables will replace tools we carry or purchase. Technology will be biological in the sense that those who can afford it will ‘receive’ it as children. It will be part of our body and our minds will not function well without it. We will be dependent on it. There will probably be new forms of addiction and theft. It will also redefine what a ‘thought’ is, as we won’t ‘think’ unassisted.

Karen Landis, Killer Apps In The Gigabit Age 

(via stoweboyd)
We owe our prosperity to crazed entrepreneurs who had no patience for what everyone else knew to be right.

Imagine if France (or other countries for that matter) did this:
… roughly 98% of Estonians file their income taxes online through an automated system that takes roughly five minutes to complete » this has increased overall tax compliance, cut the tax agency’s staff in half - to 1,500 employees - and allowed the government to issue tax refunds within the week…

If you think about it, it is actually pretty shocking how much time, energy and money is wasted via Leviathan bureaucracies… You want to fight tax avoidance, raise revenues, cut costs? Get with the fucking program and make things easy, clear and digital… What if we all had governments like Estonia?


What It's Like to Carry Your Nobel Prize through Airport Security

  • “They’re like, ‘Sir, there’s something in your bag.’
  • I said, ‘Yes, I think it’s this box.’
  • They said, ‘What’s in the box?’
  • I said, ‘a large gold medal,’ as one does.
  • So they opened it up and they said, ‘What’s it made out of?’
  • I said, ‘gold.’
  • And they’re like, ‘Uhhhh. Who gave this to you?’
  • ‘The King of Sweden.’
  • ‘Why did he give this to you?’
  • ‘Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was accelerating.’
  • At which point, they were beginning to lose their sense of humor. I explained to them it was a Nobel Prize, and their main question was, ‘Why were you in Fargo?’”

Five Questions: Hong Kong’s “umbrella revolution”

(via Baker Institute at Rice University)

Tens of thousands of demonstrators recently took to the streets of Hong Kong to demand democratic elections in what was called the “umbrella revolution” — a reference to the umbrellas used to protect against pepper-spraying riot police. Steve Lewis, C.V. Starr Transnational China Fellow, offered his insights on the student-led protests and what lies ahead for the youth of Hong Kong.

What started the protests in Hong Kong?

It’s important to keep in mind that the protests in Hong Kong are essentially like the April protests in Taipei: They are predominantly student protests against an increasingly uncertain future. Students occupied the legislative chamber in Taipei for three weeks to protest the Taiwanese government’s lack of transparency in negotiating free trade and free population movement with the communist government in Beijing. They were also protesting for more democracy, but primarily they were concerned about potential competition from tens of millions of young mainlanders for education and jobs. Native Hong Kong high school and college students face the same situation as Taiwanese youth: increasing competition from mainlanders. In Hong Kong’s case, the spark was Beijing’s recent decision to put off direct elections for leaders of Hong Kong until 2017 or later. And like Taiwan, traditional opposition parties and a few liberal media outlets were able to spread the fervor of youthful protest beyond the social media protestors relied upon.

Do the people of Hong Kong generally agree with the demonstrators?

Polls suggest that Hong Kongers are divided along generational lines, along socioeconomic lines, and between native Hong Kong people and more recent immigrant mainlanders. The same polls suggest most Hong Kongers agree with the goal of student protests — more direct representation — but they disagree with popular protests shutting down key commercial and business districts.

Are protests an effective way to sway Beijing?

Protests are one of the few ways people disagreeing with PRC government policies are able to make their views known. The traditional media and social media are largely unfettered in Hong Kong, but in mainland China, state media and Internet censors quickly and effectively shut down public discussion of many government policies.

Hong Kong youth were likely protesting the lack of representation of their views in traditional media as much as they were opposing their government’s policies of continued integration with the mainland. Now their views must be considered in any public discussion of the popularity of government policies.

Tens of thousands protested in Hong Kong in the past week, but this week their numbers were greatly reduced. Why have they diminished?

Students are often the easiest to mobilize for protests against governments — they are passionate, they are invested, they are social, and as long as they are not penalized by school authorities, their schedules are free — but sustained protests are difficult for them to manage.

In Hong Kong, as in Taiwan, the protests did not spread broadly to include the greater population — other than as more passive observers — and now the student leaders must either find new energy to excite their peers or find a way to institutionalize or formalize their achievements through discussions with the government.

The Hong Kong government has thus far wisely chosen the same strategy as the Taiwanese government: wait and see, let the protestors vent their passion, and then begin discussions. Notably, Beijing will not be happy with this outcome, as it may embolden students at mainland campuses to launch their own protests against an uncertain future. Because mainland cadres lack the authority, the training and the temperament to negotiate with protestors, and their police also lack training in dealing with peaceful popular protest, there is the real potential that any protests in mainland cities will result in a severe military crackdown.

What happens now — is the crisis over or is it likely to flare up again?

The Taiwan student protests ended in April just before midterm exams, and next week in Hong Kong is reading/field trip week at several universities. At this critical juncture, students will want to know if universities will continue to look the other way as they skip classes or if the semester will continue apace and they will need to study and get good grades. They will have to decide: Do I continue to skip classes, or do I go on with my studies and my search for a future career? Unless there are other events — a violent crackdown, offensive statements by government leaders, etc. — that bring large crowds out into the streets, student protestors will have to look at their numbers and calculate whether or not their participation in the protests has impact worth their personal sacrifice.

It is also worth noting that the student leaders have adapted their methods to focus on street protests that still allow the government to function and much street traffic to continue, and thus they are likely to maintain a symbolic occupation of some public space, at least as long as the negotiations continue. Critics in Hong Kong and abroad have blamed the students for a drop in retail sales, but many observers note that the anti-corruption campaign in the mainland has already hurt Hong Kong’s retail sales, which are dependent on mainlanders buying luxury goods not freely available at home. Here, Hong Kong and Taiwan students are in the same position Korean youth were in 20 years ago: How do we maintain our ability to protest without disrupting national politics and in a way that strengthens civil society. Government leaders in Hong Kong and Beijing and Taipei may wish to study the case of South Korea, which has a thriving economy and also a thriving and largely nonviolent protest culture, the legacy of Korean youth adapting their methods to sustain civil society beyond their protests.

In the end it will come down to what shareholders want. And here there are signs the buy-back boom is peaking. A survey of fund managers in July by Bank of America Merrill Lynch found an overwhelming majority thought firms were underinvesting—the strongest reading for at least a decade—and that few wanted even more cash returns.

Share buy-backs: The repurchase revolution | The Economist

It shouldn’t be that hard, buy back shares when you can’t invest the cash more attractively in building your business…sometimes (for mature/declining industries this makes perfect sense, for growth companies/industries however it is a failure of management…)