Mailvox: you talking to me?

DP doesn’t sweat the details:

For someone who loves to periodically crow about how brilliant he is, and who usually demonstrates the truth of that, today’s column on measuring the stock market based on indices was amazingly naive and stupid. Anyone who would invest in the group of stocks making up the Dow in 1965 and never make any trades, which is what your analysis assumes, would have to be dumber than your column. The same is true for anyone who would invest in the mix of stocks making up the pre-2000 NASDAQ and never make changes. No one ever does that. The way most people invest is through mutual funds. The most common way of tracking performance of any fund is by comparing it to the index which most closely mirrors the fund’s investment objective, and that comparison includes the changes in the appropriate index. Many funds perform better than their comparable index, even with its changes in composition (the composition of the fund is also constantly changing–that’s why there is a fund manager), and when the fund’s performance is significantly less than the index, it experiences a mass exodus of assets.

DP somehow manages to completely miss the point while inserting his foot in his mouth, which is that historical analysis by index is misleading because investors BUY INDIVIDUAL STOCKS, not because they occupy themselves constructing their own little index-matching funds. Furthermore, around 88 percent of mutual funds underperform their index of comparison, and while 12 percent may be “many” it is certainly not “most”.

Theory is a fine place to begin, but one has to learn to abandon it in the face of actual evidence.


Two thumbs up

PS sees a little Fonz action going on:

I think you may have ‘jumped the shark.’ I read everything and agree with the vast majority of what you write, but subverting the private ownership of retirement accounts (something you would be presumably be in favor of ideologically) on the basis of your dislike for its proponent (and his overall political philosophy) does not seem to me to have been done out of a desire on your part to function as a paragon of enlightenment and virtue.

Your argument was set up very nicely rhetorically, but your desire to see such an initiative fail seems a bit petty to me: “But this does not mean that the Bush administration’s plan to allow a modicum of private investment in the stock market is necessarily a winner or even an expansion of individual freedom in America.” How about substantiating this assertion instead of proceeding to do something analogous to a Democratic ‘scare the old people’ scam?

This made me think of a story from an Ann Coulter column a number of years ago . . . with you cast in the role of the Russian, I’m sorry to say: “There’s a joke about a Frenchman, an Englishman and a Russian who are told they have only one day until the end of the world. The Frenchman says he will spend his last day with a bottle of Bordeaux and a beautiful woman. The Englishman says he will take his favorite sheepdog for a walk across the moors. The Russian says he will burn down his neighbor’s house. I’m with the Russian.”

I’ve enjoyed your columns for a long time . . . but think this one appears to me to be going down a new and different road.

Yes, and many people thought NAFTA was actually about free trade too. Not so many believe that now. I have no objection whatsoever to people controlling their financial assets or making money in the market, but the Bush plan is MANIFESTLY not about returning freedom, (not to mention money), to America’s workers, but is intended instead to shore up a failing government program. You’ll notice that the emphasis is on fixing and funding Social Security, not eliminating it so that people can keep their 15 percent and do whatever they want to do with it.

I don’t hope the Bush plan will fail if enacted. I don’t have to. I know it will. My opposition to the plan is not based on it being proposed by Bush – I predicted that Social Security money would be moved into the markets back in 1998 – but because it is a overt measure to use government force to inject more money into the stock markets.

My position is the same as it was when I was on the board of a company being acquired by a public company. The CEO, who was staying on with the new owners and was acting as their sock puppet, argued vociferously for accepting a stock deal, because “the investors want to be invested in industry X”. I won the rest of the board over by pointing out the obvious – that in accepting a cash deal, every single investor who wanted to be invested in industry X could do so by using their cash to buy the publicly traded stock of the new owners.

None of this is to say that the Bush plan is worse than the existing Ponzi scheme. It isn’t. But don’t pretend that it is a massive blow for freedom and the individual investor either. It’s not intended to be.


The dogs of the Dow and NDX

It’s interesting to see how the removal of a company from an index is, counterintuitively, perhaps one of the better ways to anticipate future performance – unless it goes bankrupt, of course. For example, Sears was removed from the Dow in favor of Microsoft in 1999, but whereas one would have lost 39 percent over the last five years by investing in Microsoft, Sears stock is up 81 percent.

I haven’t completed my analyses of dropped vs added stocks yet, but it appears that stocks almost always experience their best run prior to being invited to join an index, which would appear to indicate that either the market makers are investing ahead of time and then cashing in by distributing shares to an unsuspecting public once the stock hits the index, or they’re making the same mistake that most people make in assuming that past performance is an indicator of future performance.

Since the stocks are already tradeable and the whole point of the exercise is to make the index look prettier – in other words, go up – I’m assuming the latter.

Interestingly enough, the eight stocks dropped from the NDX on December 10, 2004, have significantly outperformed the new additions. The former are up 15 percent on average, the latter are down 3 percent.

It’s too soon to tell and too close to call with the newcomers to the lower-beta Dow Jones industrial average, as the three new additions are up 3 percent in the first three months, while the three dropped are down one percent. But the results of the 1999 “rebalancing” are clearly in favor of those dropped: Sears, Goodyear and Chevron are up 44 percent since being dropped from the Dow 30, (Union Carbide was acquired by Dow in 2001), while 1999 inductees Microsoft, Intel, SBC Communications and Home Depot are down 36 percent since joining the index.

The Law of Unintended Consequences triumphs yet again….


An XP request

For reasons that I will not go into, I am forced to boot into XP on a daily basis. I’m not happy about it, but I have no choice. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of allowing TPAM to use my laptop one day, and he has the execrable habit of copying things to the Desktop.

Hence, I am left with a ghost icon called “fax..” on my desktop. When I try to delete it, I get a “Cannot delete file. Cannot read from the source file or disk.” Going to the DOS shell and running a directory doesn’t even show any file called “fax..” and yes, it has two periods.

Does anyone know how to get rid of this icon? Intelligent suggestions will be appreciated; I already run Fedora Core 2 most of the time and would not even be booting into XP if I had any alternative. Thanks….


‘Ware the newcomers

Paul Hiltemann had already noticed a darkening mood in the Netherlands. He runs an agency for people wanting to emigrate and his client list had surged. But he was still taken aback in November when a Dutch filmmaker was shot and his throat was slit, execution style, on an Amsterdam street. In the weeks that followed, Mr. Hiltemann was inundated by e-mail messages and telephone calls. “There was a big panic,” he said, “a flood of people saying they wanted to leave the country.”

Leave this stable and prosperous corner of Europe? Leave this land with its generous social benefits and ample salaries, a place of fine schools, museums, sports grounds and bicycle paths, all set in a lively democracy?

The answer, increasingly, is yes. This small nation is a magnet for immigrants, but statistics suggest there is a quickening flight of the white middle class. Dutch people pulling up roots said they felt a general pessimism about their small and crowded country and about the social tensions that had grown along with the waves of newcomers, most of them Muslims.

It’s no surprise why emigration from Holland has increased 33 percent in the last five years. Of course, those Dutch folks will probably all move to New Zealand and vote for precisely the same idiotic policies that made them want to leave Holland in the first place. Of all the immigration destinations in the world, only Switzerland seems to grasp this danger. You can move there, you can work there, you can pay taxes there… but you can’t vote.

It’s too bad the Southrons didn’t figure this out before Naples became the Midwest South and Miami became South Manhattan.


I always appreciate a good rant

Skip Bayless whales on Oscar-nominated “Million Dollar Baby”:

I’m probably wrong, but I’ve never heard of a trainer or cut man saving a fight by snapping a fighter’s broken nose back in place so the bleeding would stop.

And I have never, ever heard of a fighter getting sucker punched as he (or she) walks back to her corner after a round, then falling against the stool the trainer has just placed back in the ring and breaking his (or her) neck. That’s what happens to Maggie during her big title fight. I’m not making this up.

Yet in the hospital, Frankie reminds her that, well, she lost. So does her heartless trailer-trash mother. Preposterous. Her opponent would have have been disqualified.

Needless to say, I haven’t seen the movie. Nor did the merest possibility of the thought ever contemplate beginning to cross my mind. But in combination with movies such as “Bull Durham”, another movie I refuse to see, it’s clear that “Million Dollar Baby” confirms a distinct movie genre: the sports-related chick flick.


Heil Sanger!

The HIV infection rate has doubled among blacks in the United States over a decade while holding steady among whites – stark evidence of a widening racial gap in the epidemic, government scientists said Friday…..

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention compared 1988-1994 data with figures from 1999-2002. The surveys look only at young and middle-aged adults who live in households, excluding such groups as soldiers, prisoners and homeless. Thus, health officials believe the numbers probably underestimate true HIV rates in this country.

Still, they show a striking rise in the prevalence of the AIDS virus from 1 percent to 2 percent of blacks. White rates held steady at 0.2 percent. Largely because of the increase among blacks, the overall U.S. rate rose slightly from 0.3 percent to 0.4 percent.

Such progress in only thirty-two years! Between legal, government-funded abortion and the successful derailing of traditional public health measures, we should be able to realize the great Margaret Sanger’s dream of eliminating those filthy, semi-evolved Negroes from sweet white America in time for the start of the 22nd century.

Now, what to do about those Mexicans….


Nailing the Three Monkeys

Matt Yglesias points out the modern right’s dirty secret:

I think Jonah Goldberg introduced a good way of thinking about the more important division in a column several years ago, though I would characterize it somewhat differently. Jonah asks us to think of the movement as divided between “anti-state conservatives” and “anti-Left conservatives.” I’d like to strike the “conservatives” so we can encompass libertarians and conservatives alike. The point, at any rate, is that some folks on the right are motivated primarily by a distrust of the state while others are motivated more by a distrust of leftwingers. For a long, long, long time between the 1930s and the end of the 1970s these two brands of distrust were almost perfectly aligned. Liberals gave birth to the vast majority of the federal apparatus, and the government was usually controlled by — and always populated by — leftwingers. If you were concerned about the state, you had to be concerned about the left, because the state was full of leftwingers. If you were concerned about the left, you had to be concerned about the state, because the state was the most important institution the left controlled….

Now I think what we’ve seen over the past few years is that the anti-left brand of rightwingery has a lot more popular appeal than does the anti-state brand. And, in retrospect, I think you can see that ’twas ever thus. Most rightwingers were never very interested in applying the same standard of suspicion to the military and the police that they displayed with regard to “bureacrats” or public school teachers. Not coincidentally, the security establishment was the exception, even during the high tide of New Deal/Great Society liberalism, to the general rule that the state was run by and for leftwingers. With conservatives running the show everywhere, that same sort of attitude is extended by most of the right’s constituents to the whole project.

It seems some people – most people – never learn. History teaches that the government you control today is the government that those you fear most will control tomorrow. Every muscle that you enjoy flexing today is one that will eventually used to punch you in the face. Far too many elements of the right have forgotten this, even as many leftists conveniently forget that the abuses they decry are the same sort of things they were perpetrating and cheering not so very long ago. No doubt Salon and The New York Times will suddenly find White House-driven IRS audits to be eminently newsworthy when they are the target, instead of WorldNetDaily.

This vicious circle is where pragmatism over principle inevitably leads. One can only make so many compromises before there is very little left to compromise. If your only distrust is for the Left instead of the State, it will not take long before your behavior will become indistinguishable from that of a leftist, as George Bush and company have been proving for the last four years.

It’s both interesting and disappointing to see how a Three Monkey like Jonah Goldberg could properly diagnose the situation and still wind up demonstrating the process at work himself. It will be even more interesting to see who stays within the party and who leaves it in disgust if the left-wing of the Republican party remains ascendant. Then again, one can already hear the 2008 battle cry: “A vote for [insert Libertarian or Constitution candidate’s name here] instead of [Giuliani, Bush, Rice] is a vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton!”


A vote for Oxford

It’s not a subject particularly close to my heart, but I’ve tended to be a de Vere man myself. Here’s some thoughts from someone who has given the matter considerably more thought:

The theater, and even public writing in general, was discouraged amongst Noblemen and Gentlemen within Her Majesty’s service – the Globe Theater was viewed as slumming. Pseudonyms were common, and references to brilliant men suppressing or hiding their works to avoid retribution are common amongst observers of the time. With Oxford, I believe it was well known within the inner circle of the court who and what he was; but for the public at large his authorship required a mask….

Oxford was praised in a written speech during one court appearance with the interesting metaphor “thy countenance shakes spears. . . ” and his crest features a roaring lion brandishing a spear. In Sonnet 76, the author notes “That every word doth almost tell my name, Showing their birth, and where they did proceed.” I think it’s time that the words are married to the man.

I think identifying the correct authorship matters too, because it’s very clear to almost everyone who knows an author how their personality and experiences often shine through their words. Big Chilly has told me that he finds it very hard to read my novels – he’s the only person on the planet who has read THE WRATH OF ANGELS as of this moment – because his recognition of certain events and characters tends to throw him out of the story from time to time.

Writers in general, and Shakespeare in particular, love to hide things within the text. My name is an example of that, and in fact, there is a subtextual political commentary lying underneath the text of my next novel. The fact that Oxford’s crest features a shaking spear is, to me, a dead giveaway of William Shakespeare’s true identity.


Visit and learn, grasshopper

The Original Cyberpunk has created a new blog for those interested in writing, publishing or other aspects of the literary arts. All questions about getting published or other aspects of getting into the business will henceforth be directed to: The Ranting Room.

Not only is the OC chock full of advice it would behoove one to at least consider, but he is not the only bona fide published award-winning fiction author who is lurking about the premises.

This public service announcement brought to you by a bona fide published non-award winning fiction author.