The Israeli Hole Card

Efraim Inbar points out the weak link of the Iran/Syria/H'b Axis of Mideast evil.

The IDF's 'Cask of Amontillado' option won't touch U.N. 'peacekeepers', but will draw withering international ire.

When the Israeli people internalize the current threat, watch for this scenario to unfold...to everyone's surprise.

[Update] Walid Phares' bullshit detector goes Richter regarding the Syrian "Terrorist Attack". I had a similar reaction to the news, but his analysis is much more cogent than I could produce. I am reminded of a Far Side cartoon where two deer are standing in the woods. One has a target on his chest, and his companion says: "Bummer of a birthmark, dude!" I'm guessing that's what Imadinnerjacket's saying to Bashir about now.

posted by Mike at 8:02 PM 2 comments

Carnival of the Vanities #204 - The Last Free-for-All

Welcome to the last unruly version of the Carnival of the Vanities. Beginning with the next edition, there will be a new set of submission guidelines designed to make each Carnival fresh and compelling. But not this week! It's the Houston Texas zoning code circa 1982 - anything goes!!

For you perusing convenience, I have loosely grouped submitted posts into 5 categories:
  • Strong Opinions Strongly Stated - Polemics
  • A Word to the Wise - Advice
  • Let's Crunch the Numbers - Financial Analysis
  • Watch It, Pal - Analysis
  • Mmm...Chicken Soup! - Inspiration and Humor
Entries in each category are listed in order of submission.

Strong Opinions Strongly Stated

Francois Tremblay presents The Radical Libertarian: Accountability : What's it good for ? posted at The Radical Libertarian. Classic libertarian polemic on the dangers of monopolies!

Francois Tremblay presents Piece of Propaganda #1: Ann Graham Lotz. posted at Francois Tremblay. This entry is the very embodiment of the title of this category! Two scoops of Francois this week; that'll be a no-no in the future.

James Allen presents Why I am no longer a christian posted at The Allen Almanac. Says James: "It's basically a bullet list of reasons why I left the christian faith followed by an interesting discussion between believers and non-believers that somehow has managed to stay civil even 300+ posts in." Says me: "I wish all religious discourse could be so civil."

Stephen Littau at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds presents Serious Times He's not happy with some people's unserious approach to our serious times!

Jack Yoest presents What's Charmaine doin' with AmericaBlog's John Aravosis? posted at Jack Yoest. Possibly should have been filed under Watch It, Pal!.

Peter Kua presents A simple question stumping the physics grandmaster posted at RadicalHop.com: Grow with Passion. Even though I'm writing a book called "Moonshots and Tsunamis", I'm with Peter on this one.

Jon Swift at Jon Swift presents Lieberman Refuses To Cut and Run After Primary Loss . Says Jon: "When Joe Lieberman lost the Connecticut primary last week, he didn't cut and run as Ned Lamont and other Democrats might have done."

Adam Graham presents Wheel Of Allegations posted at Adam's Blog. Game show political satire at it's finest! I wrestled with deciding if this post went here or in the "Mmm...Chicken Soup" category (probably depends on your political leanings).

Random Yak of The Random Yak presents Your Results May Vary, in which he flays CNN's sloppy statistical work in their polling. I could honestly have put this entry into any one of the categories!

A Word to the Wise

[Some other] Mike presents The Secret to Weight Loss (Part 1) (1-5 of 10 steps) posted at OnlyOneMike.com. Says Mike: "This is part 1 of a 2 part series that outlines what I've done to lose weight thus far. I've lost 50 pounds now, in 4 months. This is my favorite topic as I want to help others lose weight." Says me: "Some interesting tips and techniques here."

Steve Faber presents There's a Storm Coming posted at Debt Free. Disasters come in man forms; Steve offers preparedness advice!

Flower Enthusiast at Serenata Flowers Blog presents Vaseology: the science of choosing the right vase for your flowers As someone with very little aesthetic taste, I really appreciated this entry!

jldude at my search for meaning, money... presents A Dude's Recipe for Impressing Your Babe Says jldude: "Here's a simple Japanese dinner you can make in under 30 minutes and wow your honey." Says me: "Note to geeks (like me): This post and the vaseology one make for a powerful one-two combo!"

Paul at Paul's Tips presents Understanding the games people play in which he discusses the book "Games People Play" by Dr. Eric Berne, the creator of the theory of transactional analysis. As Paul says, "The use of the word "games" should not give the impression that such activities are necessarily fun or played light-heartedly. Often the outcomes, though predictable, can be very damaging and distressing."

Aparna at Beauty & Personality Grooming presents Dandruff-Home remedies Some of these could be fun...

nickel at fivecentnickel.com presents The Danger of No-Interest, Same-as-Cash Purchases. Almost a "Let's Crunch the Numbers" item, but good advice for furniture shoppers.

Money Matador at Money Matador presents 5 reasons why some beggars earn more money than you Robert Cialdini would enjoy this one!

Mike Buckley at Mine Your Own Business presents Waiting for Things to Get Better Sad but true.

Bull Jones presents 1st Day of School - Time for a Warning posted at The Bull Speaks!. Sadly, he's absolutely right about vigilence in protecting our kids.

Let's Crunch the Numbers

Free Money Finance at Free Money Finance presents Are Tankless Water Heaters a Good Deal? I didn't even know there was such a thing!

Dan Melson at Searchlight Crusade presents Option ARMs and Cash Flow Once again, who knew? But thanks for the warning.

Ian Anderson at MyQuo.com presents The Arguments Against Prepayments. Your mileage may vary, but a good illustration.

A Samuel at Overseas Property Investment Blog presents Pound strong against dollar and euro, buying property abroad a good bet? Rule Brittania!

Watch It, Pal!

Trent presents Stock Market Beat » Blog Archive » Hewitt (Part 1) - What They Do posted at Stock Market Beat, in which he discusses the various facets of the global HR outsourcing and consulting giant.

dad at raising4boys.com presents Catholic Church Urges More Kids in India. Says Dad in the post: "While I’m (obviously) not against having kids, I hardly think it’s a good idea to push people to have kids out of a sense of obligation." I'm guessing Dad didn't go to Catholic schools.

The Monk presents ABC Sports, RIP posted at The Key Monk. The wide world of sports may now belong to ESPN, but I'll never forget that crashing ski jumper!.

Vihar Sheth at VIHAR SHETH.NET presents Get On The Boat, Yeah, Banana Boat, Yeah. Chiquita shows how corporate responsibility is good for business!

Leslie Carbone at LeslieCarbone presents THANK YOU!, does something refreshing: "Since I criticize when warranted, I should commend when warranted. This is one of those times."

Alan K. Henderson at Alan K. Henderson's Weblog presents From Mexico To Lebanon, in which he draws an interesting analogy between the situation in Lebanon to the Mexican Civil War.

Stephen Hopkins at Buggyinfo Buggy Blog presents Thunder Motorsports threatens BuggyNews.com and California competition who question CARB certification. Legal battles in the world of motorsport! Again, who knew?

Wayne Hurlbut at Blog Business World presents Brand Royalty by Matt Haig - Book Review. Perhaps I'll need to check it out and see if I can't punch up the Spooky Action brand!

Mmm...Chicken Soup!

Avant News at Avant News - Tomorrow's news today presents Effort Underway to Improve Short Attention Spans of AmericansYour tax dollars at work!

Garoth Thorp at Forest Of Thought presents In Joyous Loss Thought-provoking reflection on the value of not always winning.

No catblogging today, since they have a Carnival of their own, but we've got something even better - ducks! Mama Duck at Lil Duck Duck presents The Continuing Adventures of a Toddler and his Duck

From ducks to alien abduction, we've got it all! Timi at Open Diary presents Abducted Please note that this material is R rated.

Monica Bielanko presents I Just Gave Up My Womanhood posted at The Girl Who. I was sorely tempted to put this in the advice section, for women who want to impress their men. Despite the title, it's PG material.

Village Smitty at Hippo Campy presents TSA Dictates Passengers to Evacuate Bladders Before Boarding Smitty, please don't give the TSA any bright ideas!

"If your husband ever invites you to join him on a business trip, be sure to ask him these questions:
  1. Will you ever get to see him while he is not -- technically -- asleep?
  2. What will he do, if you accidentally lock yourself out of your hotel room in the middle of the night while you are not -- technically -- dressed?"
Madeleine Begun Kane at Mad Kane's Humor Blog answers these questions in A Traveler's Net Woes.

Lastly, I present a motivational poster from hell. Those things are everywhere!

Thanks to all the contributors to this week's Carnival! Please check the Carnival of the Vanities site for the new submission rules and other carnival information. And the carnival needs hosts! It's fun; it's easy! (If I can do it, all of you can, too!!)

And feel free to poke around here at Spooky Action as long as you like, and come back often!

[UPDATE] CotV #205 is now up at Dodgeblogium, featuring Cthulhu!

posted by Mike at 6:00 PM 11 comments

Carnival of the Capitalists is Up at BarryBlog

Get over there and check it out!

I am very appreciative of Rob's kind words about my Charlie Munger post. I was blown away by Charlie's insights and I'm glad to get others excited about his ideas!

posted by Mike at 11:03 AM 0 comments


A Lattice of Insights from Charlie Munger

In a previous post I mentioned the "Latticework of Models" espoused by Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet's partner. I found this transcript of a rare Charlie speech. It's an MBA-in-a-PDF!!

No, really. It's one of those pieces that changes your world view forever. For the better.

He takes a hard science look at the soft science of Economics. Guess what? It turns out that a hard science view is the smart money view. And his criticisms of Economics can easily be translated into criticisms of current business management practices.

"at a very young age, I absorbed what I call the fundamental full attribution ethos of hard science...Under this ethos, you've got to know all the big ideas in all the disciplines less fundamental than our own. You can never make any explanation, which can be made in a more fundamental way. And you always take with full attribution to the most fundamental ideas that you are required to use. When you're using physics, you say you're using physics. When you're using biology, you say you're using biology...I could early on see that that ethos would act as a fine organizing system for my thought. And I strongly suspected that it would work really well in the soft sciences as well as the hard sciences, so I just grabbed it and used it all through my life in soft sciences as well as hard sciences. That was a very lucky idea for me."

To give you a flavor of his comments and to whet your appetite to read the whole thing, here are Charlie's nine points of criticism of economics:

1) Fatal Unconnectedness, Leading to "Man With A Hammer Syndrome," Often Causing Overweighing What Can Be Counted
"The only antidote for being an absolute klutz due to the presence of a man with a hammer syndrome is to have a full kit of tools...And you've got to use those tools checklist-style, because you'll miss a lot if you just hope that the right tool is going to pop up unaided whenever you need it..."

...Well practically everybody (1) overweighs the stuff that can be numbered, because it yields to the statistical techniques they're taught in academia, and (2) doesn't mix in the hard-to-measure stuff that may be more important. That is a mistake I've tried all my life to avoid, and I have no regrets for having done that."

2) Failure to Follow the Fundamental Full Attribution Ethos of Hard Science

3) Physics Envy
"I want economics to pick up the basic ethos of hard science, the full attribution habit, but not the craving for unattainable precision that comes from physics envy...Economics involves too complex a system. (Emphasis mine)

4) Too Much Emphasis on Macroeconomics
"My fourth criticism is that there's too much emphasis on macroeconomics and not enough on microeconomics. I think this is wrong. It's like trying to learn medicine without knowing anatomy and chemistry."
He proves his point by citing some very interesting examples and challenging you to understand why certain business thrived when logic says they shouldn't. And he discusses his lattice of factors for extreme success in a business category.

5) Too Little Synthesis in Economics
...people take four courses in economics, go to business school, have all these IQ points and write all these essays, but they can't synthesize worth a damn. This failure is not because the professors know all this stuff and they're deliberately withholding it from students. This failure happens because the professors aren't all that good at this kind of synthesis. They were trained in a different way. I can't remember if it was Keynes or Galbraith who said that economics professors are most economical with ideas. They make a few they learned in graduate school last a lifetime."
In this section Munger challenges the audience to tell him why in some cases raising prices also raises sales volume, and other situations in which synthesizing two ideas leads to a successful outcome that's a paradox to the original principles.

6) Extreme and Counterproductive Psychological Ignorance
Another challenge: why does one slot machine in 50 consistently outperform the others in terms of profits?
"If you want to go through life like a one legged man in an ass-kicking contest, be my guest. But if you want to succeed, like a strong man with two legs, you have to pick up these tricks, including doing economics while knowing psychology."
Beware of one-legged men swinging hammers.

7) Too Little Attention to Second and Higher Order Effects
"This defect is quite understandable, because the consequences have consequences, and the consequences of the consequences have consequences, and so on. It gets very complicated. When I was a meteorologist I found this stuff irritating. And economics makes meteorology look like a tea party."
He discusses why U.S.-China policy is a new form of the Tragedy of the Commons.

8) Not Enough Attention to the Concept of Febezzlement
"I asked the question 'Is there a functional equivalent to embezzlement?' I came up with a lot of wonderful alternatives. Some were in investment management. After all, I'm near investment management. I considered the billions of dollars totally wasted in the course of investing common stock portfolios for American owners. As long as the market goes up, the guy who's wasting all this money doesn't feel it, because he's look at these steadily rising values. And to the guy who is getting the money for investment advice, the money looks like well earned income, when he's really selling detriment for money, surely the functional equivalent of undisclosed embezzlement. You can see why I don't get invited to many lectures."

9) Not Enough Attention to Virtue and Vice Effects
"The cash register did more for humman morality than the congregational church...A system that's very hard to defraud, like a cash register, helps the economic performance of a civilization by reducing vice, but very few people within economics talk about it in those terms."

If directors were significant shareholders who got zero pay, you'd be amazed what would happen to unfair compensation of corporate executives as we dampened effects from reciprocity tendency.
Paging Dr. Robert Cialdini...he also talks about why it's in civilization's best interest that some system are deliberately made unfair. He also discusses the inevitability of paradox in economics, and business in general, and the fact that this inevitability of paradox is a source of opportunity:
"Well, if mathematicians can't get the paradox out of their system when they're creating it themselves, the poor economists are never going to get rid of paradoxes, nor are any of the rest of us. It doesn't matter. Life is interesting with some paradox. When I run into a paradox I think either I'm a total horse's ass to have gotten to this point, or I'm fruitfully near the edge of my discipline. It adds excitement to life to wonder which it is."

He concludes by saying: "If you skillfully follow the multidisciplinary path, will will never wish to come back. It would be like cutting off your hands."

Do read the whole thing.

Related Post: Miscellaneous Munger

posted by Mike at 8:33 PM 5 comments


Motivational Poster from Hell

While working on a chapter of "Moonshots and Tsunamis", I speculated on whether there are motivational posters in Hell, and what they might say. Here's my favorite:

posted by Mike at 8:02 AM 4 comments