Quixey Makes Sense Now

The main drag here in Palo Alto is University Avenue, which is lined with pricey restaurants and retail. One city to the south of us, Mountain View, has their own main drag, and it’s called Castro Street (not to be confused with the gay mecca in San Francisco, half an hour’s drive north). I’ve walked […]
Slope of Hope

Company that makes business jet engines decides that business jets serve no business purpose

While on that cruise with mom I missed a big story about two of my favorite topics: aviation and corporate looting.

GE is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of business jet engines (product line). Recently the company decided that it shouldn’t operate business jets: “GE to shut down corporate jet fleet in cost-cutting move”



Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Harvey Weinstein makes the news

On the grounds that “some people in Hollywood mix sex and business is not news,” I initially ignored the New York Times “news” articles on Harvey Weinstein and his interactions with various women in the film industry.

But a friend sent me Weinstein’s recently published mea culpa and it is kind of interesting:

Over the last year, I’ve asked Lisa Bloom to tutor me, and she’s put together a team of people. I’ve brought on therapists

I so respect all women, and regret what happened. [he regrets having sex with the women who said “yes,” or he regrets the public complaints by the women who said “no”?]

I am going to need a place to channel that anger, so I’ve decided that I’m going to give the NRA my full attention. I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party. I’m going to do it at the same place I had my Bar Mitzvah. I’m making a movie about our President, perhaps we can make it a joint retirement party.

America’s gun-lovers and the Trumpenfuhrer are now going to be attacked by a naked Harvey Weinstein, fresh from the shower, leading a platoon of attractive young script girls (now referred to as “Script supervisor”)? Or is there an existing army arrayed against the NRA and/or Trump that is eager to be led by Mr. Weinstein?

[Separately, how does this work in our transgender age:

One year ago, I began organizing a $ 5 million foundation to give scholarships to women directors at USC.

Why can’t any student identify as a woman long enough to apply for this scholarship?]

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

General hysteria from the media makes it tough to pay attention to the real issues?

On August 26 I wrote The End Times in Texas: media portrayal versus reality about the contrast between the tone of at least some media stories regarding Hurricane Harvey and what Houston-based friends were saying in email or on Facebook. My post sought to avoid the selection bias of typical media reports by seeking on-the-ground accounts from non-journalists.

Within about 40 hours of that post it became apparent that the scale of damage was close to the worst-case scenarios that had been painted. None of my on-the-scene friends had been prepared for it. Now I’m wondering if the media’s generally hysterical tone is partly responsible for folks discounting the likelihood of the worst-case scenarios.

In the not-so-glorious-as-remembered days of my youth, newspapers didn’t have to work desperately to capture readers and advertisers. More or less every family in a city would subscribe to that city’s principal newspaper. There was a steady stream of subscription and advertising revenue even during “slow news” periods. An editor could run a quiet “human interest” story on the front page if there were nothing sufficiently dramatic happening to justify a big headline.

Today, however, newspapers have to compete for attention with other online diversions, streaming video, video games, etc. So even the most irrelevant information is characterized as having the potential to change readers’ lives, the smallest issues debated in Congress become life-or-death, and the most ineffectual action taken by a president is the next step toward tyranny.

As an example, here’s a front-page expose from the New York Times on the same day, August 26, as my Hurricane Harvey post: “Late Wages for Migrant Workers at a Trump Golf Course in Dubai”:

“Trump is not the owner or developer of Trump International Golf Club Dubai nor does it oversee construction or employ or supervise any of the companies or individuals who have been retained to work on the building of the project,” said a company spokeswoman, Amanda Miller, in an emailed statement.

The Pakistani driver who works at the Trump course arrived three years ago, seeking to support his wife and two boys. He took a job driving a pickup, earning over $ 800 a month, or more than twice his pay at home. He is supposed to be paid within the first five days of the month. Frequently, a week or more passes without the money arriving.

In other words, after reading about 15 screens of text one learns that the subcontractor of the subcontractor of the Trump partner does eventually pay workers in full. This merited “top of the home page” placement on the same day as stories about one of our largest cities being potentially flooded.

Readers: What do you think? When everything is presented as a crisis do we lose our ability to perceive the true potential crises?


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Government makes health care more expensive and therefore it is unreasonable to withdraw subsidies

“A Republican Health Care Fix” is a misleadingly titled yet still interesting article in the New York Times. (Misleading because, of course, the Republicans aren’t proposing to “fix” health care except maybe from the perspective of the health care industry, which will appreciate the continued flow of taxpayer cash, and also because the article itself doesn’t offer any proposed solution.)

One argument in favor of food stamps is that the government has a lot of programs that distort the market and drive up the cost of food. Having done this, it makes sense to provide food stamps (SNAP) to tens of millions of Americans so that their net food expenses return closer to what it would be if they could buy food at world market prices.

Health care is in kind of the same situation, J.D. Vance points out. Government drives up the cost of health care and now tens of millions of Americans can’t afford the new distorted prices. Vance highlights things like FDA regulation keeping generic drugs costing 10-100X the world prices and the employer health care tax deduction distortion to the economy, but I think he misses parts of the bigger picture. For example,  the Feds generate huge inflation by running Medicare and Medicaid on a “just send us the bill” basis. The Feds and states restrict competition with all kinds of licensing requirements for both insurance companies and doctors (e.g., a qualified doctor from New York can’t simply start practicing in Nebraska next week and a New Yorker can’t buy insurance that is offered to consumers in Nebraska).


The “full repeal” bill is nothing of the sort — it preserves the regulatory structure of Obamacare, but withdraws its supports for the poor. The House version of replacement would transfer many from Medicaid to the private market, but it doesn’t ensure that those transferred can meaningfully purchase care in that market. … devising that vision [to fix some of the biggest disasters in U.S. health care] is impossible when we refuse to accept that the government bears some financial responsibility in solving a problem it helped create.


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Marriage makes a woman more likely to be willing to have sex with a complete stranger?

“Would You Agree to Sex with a Total Stranger?” (Psychology Today, June 28, 2017) contains some surprising data:

Twenty years later, Hald and Høgh-Olesen (2010) largely replicated these findings in Denmark, with 59 percent of single men and 0 percent of single women agreeing to a stranger’s proposition, “Would you go to bed with me?” Interestingly, they also asked participants who were already in relationships, finding 18 percent of men and 4 percent of women currently in a relationship responded positively to the request.

Being married/partnered made a man much less likely to agree to have sex with a stranger, but made a woman more likely!

[Of course we have to consider the possibility that women who are more likely to agree to have sex with strangers are more likely to get married/partnered.]

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Trump makes a woman not want to have sex with guys her own age

“Trump’s election stole my desire to look for a partner” is an interesting Washington Post article.

The author describes herself as having had “[e]nough of this dating unavailable men a half-decade younger than me”. Let’s assume that “dating” translates to “having sex.” She is now “ready to look for a partner” who is “an equal” (i.e., same age or older?). She has “two children and our needy dog.” She says she has “no idea what a supportive partner would even look like”.

Fortunately, since she has no “partner” of any kind, she says that she “can support my family.” Perhaps her husband died and left her and the kids without life insurance? But then who babysits the kids while she is having sex with these “half-decade younger” men?

I found the author, Stephanie Land, on Facebook. Here’s a May 8 posting:


It seems that she is a big Sheryl Sandberg fan. Also, though she has no “partner,” she is cashing child support checks on a regular basis. Perhaps due to an imperfect understanding of Montana family law, which does provide for potentially unlimited child support profits, Ms. Land says that she is struggling financially despite receiving these checks from a “non-partner.” Could it be that the father of these kids, when he is not writing checks to Ms. Land, is also caring for them every other weekend, thus facilitating the dates with younger men? Why doesn’t he then qualify as at least a financial partner in Ms. Land’s journey of single motherhood?

[Actually perhaps there are two different fathers for the two kids (generally the best financial strategy)? One of the cashflow-positive kids is 9 and one is 2. The author says “I’ve been on my own with my kids for most of the past decade”. Was she actually “on [her] own” when the 2-year-old was conceived?]

Now that Americans have elected someone other than Sheryl Sandberg to occupy the White House (Sheryl for 2020?), what’s left for this mom?

I’ve lost the desire to attempt the courtship phase. The future is uncertain. I am not the optimistic person I was on the morning of Nov. 8, wearing a T-shirt with “Nasty Woman” written inside a red heart. It makes me want to cry thinking of that. Of seeing my oldest in the shirt I bought her in Washington, D.C., that says “Future President.”

There is no room for dating in this place of grief. Dating means hope. I’ve lost that hope in seeing the words “President-elect Trump.”

On Facebook she says that she will be at a conference in Washington, D.C. on December 12 (“How Progressives Can Defend the Working Class in the Trump Era”). In case she does meet a higher-income “date” there among the “progressives”, her May 8th financial woes might dissipate (see Real World Divorce for the variation in potential child support profits in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia).

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Facebook makes Americans hate each other?

I’m wondering if Facebook is at least partially to blame for Americans’ anger toward people who don’t vote the same way as they do. For my face-to-face friends (a.k.a. “real friends”) and neighbors I don’t know a whole lot about their political views. If politics does come up in conversation they tend to moderate their speech so as to avoid offense. If a Trump supporter were at a cocktail party at our town, most people would try not to say that Trump supporters were “stupid, sexist, and racist”. (That said, the one Trump supporter I know had his “Trump/Pence” lawn sign stolen within a couple of days. And the minister at the local Unitarian church filled a sermon with “What to do if you’re stuck at a family dinner with that crazy uncle who belongs to the NRA”. My friend, a retired military officer, thought “I’m that uncle and I don’t think that I’m crazy.” (The minister, who is married to another man and has two adopted children, neither of whom is of the same race as either the minister or his husband, works “diversity” into every sermon, but apparently an NRA member at the table is not as welcome as a Syrian migrant.))

With Facebook, however, we not only can see what everyone thinks about politics but see those views expressed in the strongest possible language.

Example from a anti-welfare-state friend: “[my former graduate school thesis advisor]’s Facebook feed is non-stop liberal hate.” I’m also friends with the guy and indeed his postings do seem hostile to American Deplorables:

Did Don the Con forget to mention his foundation was just SHUT DOWN by the A.G. in New York?

Shame on the WSJ for this editorial complaining that AG Schneiderman’s letter ordering the Trump Foundation to suspend operations and comply with the law is politically motivated and timed.

Bruce is right [when Springsteen talks about Trump having “no sense of decency”]

An ignorant thug gets his comeuppance. [over an article about Trump “groping women”]

Scientific American grades the candidates on science. Trump gets an F:

Washington Post follows with another huge slam: “It’s beyond debate that Donald Trump is unfit to be president.”

NYT offers a wordy, highbrow takedown of Donald Trump. In few words: He’s a bigot and a liar.

Why mince words, @latimes ? Trump is the biggest liar to run for president.

“Trump isn’t even qualified to be human, much less President.” Choice words here.

Trump’s campaign: built on racism and lies because he’s a racist and a liar.

Watching Michelle Obama speak now. She’s so good, so compelling. The presidential qualifications she speaks of rise far about party lines. [i.e., the spouse of a current or recent leader is a source of political guidance]

If not for Facebook both of us would likely be unaware of this guy’s (1) hatred for Trump and Trump supporters, and (2) hero(ine)-worship of Michelle Obama.

For my part, I was defriended after commenting on a posting demanding that Clarence Thomas resign because of a story quoting a woman who says the he touched her in 1999. (I asked “If I can find a woman to say that you touched her 17 years ago, will you give up your job and paycheck?”) I lost another “friend” after he celebrated the firing of Billy Bush based on a recording made surreptitiously 11 years ago. (I asked “Would you want your employer to make secret recordings of you and then decide whether or not to continue to employ you based on comments that you had expected to remain private? What if a Republican employer used these recordings to fire all of the most vocal Hillary supporters?”)

What do folks think? People are saying that Americans are more polarized than ever. Could it be that the rise of polarization with each election cycle is tracking the increasing popularity of Facebook? Another factor, of course, is that government consumes a larger percentage of the economy every year (now up to about 50 percent of GDP; compare to less than 20 percent in Singapore where, presumably, they aren’t bickering all the time). So of course people fight more about how the central planners in Washington, D.C. and state/local ministries will spend this increasing percentage, just as a family discussion over what new car or house to buy is more intense than a discussion about whether to buy a book or movie. But with Facebook we’re a lot more aware of what other citizens are advocating.

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Sony makes one of the world’s best lenses

Sony knocks it out of the DxOMark park with their 85/1.4 lens, which has an only slightly crazy price of $ 1,800: review with a score of 49. Worth reading just to see what Sony can do with their own designers (presumably) and under their own brand name rather than in partnership with Zeiss. Only about 1% as exciting as the iPhone 7, presumably, despite the vastly superior image quality. I guess that is fair considering that you’re not going to get this lens into your pocket.

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Massachusetts DCF (“child protection services” or “DSS” in other states) makes the New Yorker

New Yorker has published an article by Jill Lepore about the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. It is horrifying when you find out what your neighbors are capable of, especially when they’re under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs.

Other than trying to build a country with a better class of citizens/residents, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to stop child abuse. The author implies that the agency suffers from a lack of funding, but the Tax Foundation says that “Massachusetts’s 2011 tax burden of 10.3% ranks 11th highest out of 50 states, and is above the national average of 9.8%.” We’re a comparatively rich state (albeit poor compared to Singapore and other stars) and we’re more thoroughly taxed than other states so presumably DCF is at least as well funded as analogous agencies in other states.

Does Massachusetts DCF have a higher caseload than agencies in other states? Poverty and child abuse are positively correlated (see this paper from Wisconsin and this paper from NBER). Massachusetts has a lower-than-average poverty rate compared to other states (list), which would point toward less work for DCF. On the other hand, Massachusetts has perhaps the most lucrative child support system in the world and it is a standard litigation tactic for a child support plaintiff to report a defendant as a child molester everywhere in the U.S. that child support is substantially profitable. Examples:

“Best case for the mom is when dad is a child molester,” said a Massachusetts attorney, “which is why reports to DCF are so popular. But realistically nearly every guy worth suing could have started his own day care center if he actually had wanted to engage in funny business with children. So it is tough to cut the father back to less than every other weekend.”

So the mother could save herself $ 24,000 per year as well as enjoy more time with the kids if she could obtain sole custody? “Yes.” What would it take for her to overcome [Alaska’s] statutory 50/50 presumption? “It would have been tough until about 7 years ago. Then a well-meaning legislator added a statutory exception. If a litigant can establish that she has been physically abused or the children have been sexually abused then she can obtain sole custody.” Why does Sullivan say “she”? “I have never seen a man try this.” How about women? “Either there has been an epidemic of abuse in Alaska since this statute was amended or a lot of women are lying. In about 25 percent of the cases now the man is alleged to be a physical or sexual abuser.” What kind of evidence does a woman need to prove that she or her children were abused? “Nothing beyond her word. The judge is able to find that her own testimony is credible. However, there is a trend toward skepticism. Judges can’t help but notice the increase in allegations of physical and sexual abuse.”

All of our [Colorado] interviewees agreed that domestic violence is a common theme when people are trying to get a house, the children, and the cash. “Certainly in contested cases there is almost always an allegation that somebody is abusive,” said Ciancio, “though only very seldom is the abuse provable even to the 51-percent standard.” Are there any penalties for making false allegations? “You can get at least one free abuse allegation if you work through a pediatrician, therapist, or other mandatory reporter,” said Ciancio. “I see some type of abuse or domestic abuse allegation in 3 out of 4 cases that are filed,” said Eckelberry. “Most people alleging abuse back off before trial, but it is an effective tactic. There are attorneys who in every case they file will also file a domestic abuse protection order.” Gushurst pointed out that it is ironic that people file custody lawsuits supposedly because they are so passionate about protecting a child from abuse: “The most damaging aspect of divorce is the litigated conflict. Psychologists have found that it is even more damaging than sexual abuse.”

Regarding the question of whether this is a popular litigation tactic for Massachusetts plaintiffs, a DCF social worker volunteered “Oh, they all do that.” So the greater intensity of custody litigation in Massachusetts compared to other states would tend to increase DCF’s caseload.

It seems hard to argue with Lepore’s statement that “Programs for the poor are poor programs.” DCF has a budget of approximately $ 827 million per year (source). Lepore’s article says that “the number of children in the care of the sate” is 9200. The funding is thus close to $ 90,000 per child in state care. I think that includes foster care, for which the state actually pays out approximately $ 8,500 per year (source; note that the top of the child support guidelines is $ 40,000/year when suing someone earning $ 250,000/year and therefore it is more lucrative to take care of one’s own child than a foster child (judges routinely extrapolate beyond the top of the guidelines when a higher-income defendant can be found)). So maybe they are “poor programs” but this doesn’t seem like “poorly funded,” even if DCF is distracted to some extent by the flurry of reports from cash-motivated child support plaintiffs.

What about a radical change to welfare? Currently Massachusetts gives welfare families a private apartment or house in which they can do whatever they want. According to the article, sometimes “whatever they want” for Massachusetts welfare recipients includes consuming heroin and beating children to death. What about a communal living situation instead? Welfare recipients would get private bedrooms but meals could be cooked and consumed communally, like at an old-style Israeli Kibbutz. This way neighbors would have an opportunity to see children several times per day and perhaps to intervene before abuse turned fatal. What do readers think of this idea?

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

The caring makes all the difference in trading

Trader A is an experienced trader learning futures on a new platform above, as he shared with me with this screenshot.  Trader A is up over 2k in 2 hours of futures trading.  What he cares about makes all the difference.

Here is what Trader A said about his start:

The elite trader is proud of learning a new platform.

The elite trader is excited to learn a new product.

The elite trader develops goals to trade this product incrementally bigger.

The elite trader takes notes on how to trade this new product better.

The lesser trader cares he is up 2k.  He might even start bragging to his trading buddies about.  Read more […]
SMB Capital – Trading Education

Cambridge, Massachusetts housing market makes the WSJ

“Some Families Earn Six Figures and Still Need Help With the Rent” is a December 1 Wall Street Journal article on Americans’ increasing aversion to using markets to allocate resources:

Cambridge, Mass., a hub for prestigious universities and biotechnology companies, is setting aside apartments to help an unexpected group of people find lower rents: families with incomes topping $ 100,000.

The city recently held a lottery for 15 units with below-market rents, in a new building a few subway stops from downtown Boston. A family of four with an income well into the six-figure range—a maximum of $ 118,200—could qualify for some of the apartments.

In Cambridge, home to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, median rents have soared about 36% since late 2010 to $ 2,750 a month, according to Zillow, a real-estate information company. That’s higher than the median rents across the five boroughs of New York City, which run about $ 2,295, though not as steep as the $ 4,128 median rents in Manhattan.

“People who have been able to be here in the past without assistance are now facing challenges,” said Chris Cotter, Cambridge’s housing director, raising concerns “about a hollowing out of that middle.”

I.e., the government will decide who gets to live in Cambridge.


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

If Not Trusting This Market Makes Me An Idiot: Then Call Me Crazy!

I was left slack-jawed as I listened to an interview on financial media between the host and guest. I have always enjoyed as well as respected the host even though many times I may totally disagree. However, as for the guest being interviewed, not only did I disagree: I lost quite a bit of respect […]
Slope of Hope