How to bake your noodle.

July 29th, 2007 by De Onion

I did some writing over the weekend – but it’s half-baked.

In the interests of greater perspective, have a read about where we (humans) are (hopefully) headed in the very long-run (ie. after I am dead).


The stages of civilizations

Rich. Some questions.

July 26th, 2007 by De Onion

In light of the much appreciated comment by Jstarling on my post about the Premier’s racist proclamation of “Black Entrepreneurship” as the solution to income inequality I’ve decided to write more on this topic, but first some questions:

What is rich?
– High income?
– High cash flow?
– High NAV?
– High control?
– High lifestyle?
– High satisfaction?
Who is rich?
Why?
How can one become rich?
– Inherit?
– Save?
– Create?
– Steal?
What things correlate with rich?
What things cause people to become rich?
What’s the difference?
What can we do to ensure that more people can become rich?

What is equal?
What can we do to make things more equal?
What does not work in other countries?
What does work in other countries?

Some things to keep in mind:

A person’s image does not correlate well with their personal financial status. There are lots people worth many millions of dollars who dress poorly and live humbly. There are lots people who dress and act like millionaires who are essentially flat broke.

Also, it may be fun to play with some of the retirement and savings calculators on Bloomberg.com to get an idea of the power of compound interest (remember that we have no taxes on investments, and there’s no limit to how much each Bermudian can own because we can buy assets in other countries).

Apology/clarification

July 26th, 2007 by De Onion

As JStartling rightly pointed out in his comment, my last post could be seen as a personal attack on the people I alluded to – I would like to clarify that I was absolutely NOT trying to personally attack anyone. I do not know personally or particularly by reputation either of the young politicians I mentioned and certainly cannot comment on their character. My intention was only to call attention to the folly of youth, the path to maturity, and to question the human resources decisions of the senior members of the parties.

Giants and Pygmies.

July 25th, 2007 by De Onion

“Only giants will hire giants. Ordinary men will hire men who are less than they are – and then those will go on to hire men who are less than they are – and then those will go on to hire men of even less stature until the whole organization is replete with pygmies.”

When I see 20 year old candidates, twentysomething Senators who live with their parents… it makes me go “hmm – how, exactly are they supposed to understand life?” (not to mention “how are they representing labour when they have never worked to support themselves?”) That quote by David Olgivy seems especially relevant… I don’t want to name them because in all likelihood I’ll be working with them for the next 50 years, but if there’s one big lesson from the failure of the PLP government to overcome all the baggage it’s that we need to ensure that character, integrity, honesty and competence become more the norm rather than than the exception in Bermuda politics.

The more top calibre people I get to work with the more I realize that I don’t know a damn thing, but if there’s one thing I know it’s that people in their 20s (including myself) probably lack the character development and experience to succeed in positions requiring them – like politics. There are no 30 year old Statesmen for a good reason.

I see this expressed in the internet debates on facebook where people don’t argue on there to get their point across, they do it for entertainment, or worse, to win. For anyone savvy about internet debates the normal flame warriors are becoming apparent with the usual quiver of logical fallacies and poor debating techniques. The risk is of course that if we’re not careful we’ll be developing bad habits in our real life political discussion (see the shouting down of Students Against Independence and Corruption by Progressive Minds), perhaps ultimately resulting to Godwin’s Law making a real life appearance in the House of Assembly somewhere around 2024.

It’s fine to ask young people to begin to step up, but it’s also necessary to offer mentoring, growth, and the lessons of wisdom from mistakes – which is why it’s very refreshing to hear some politicians stepping up and owning their mistakes and consequently sharing the lessons. That is at least one major reason why I won’t consider running in an election and also publish this blog generally anonymously – it’s going to be years before I can be sure that I have the integrity and experience necessary to be the most effective I can be in a world of conflicting opinions, different viewpoints, personality conflicts, and a generally shared long-term aim to do the best for Bermuda (with notable exceptions).

In addition, I see a terrible example being set for young people in terms of dirty politics, bad management, autocratic behaviour, arrogance, etc. Combine those in a private company with poor financial control and the results are predictable. We have every reason to suspect that the same is true in government.

I guess what it comes down to is this: How can we do better?

Image.

July 25th, 2007 by De Onion

Quick post – but one thing I’ve been noticing is the apparent cultural affinity for image – be it the guy with no house, no savings, but a really nice car with all the accessories, a “pastor” who uses his government contract to buy personal luxuries, and now a “Stem Cell” clinic that appears to be something far less ethical.

The problem with an image is that it doesn’t fool the people who don’t need to fake it.

Increasingly Bermuda is being polarized between those who are swayed by the gift of the gab and those who know better. As someone whose “normal” dress varies from expensive suits to steel toed boots I can certainly say that a great many people in Bermuda are swayed by that fancy suit, probably because they are unfamiliar with the snake oil salesmen of the USA and the whole success culture that sacrifices ethics and competence for the quick bling.

Bermuda is the easiest country in the world to become rich… but more on “How to become a guaranteed millionaire in 50 years or less” in another post.

Question.

July 23rd, 2007 by De Onion

Dear Dr. Brown,

In your speech you said “We need to continue the business of encouraging and facilitating Black entrepreneurship – and I said Black entrepreneurship – not just Bermudian entrepreneurship…

How will you achieve this? Will you be changing the mandate of CURE? or will you be amending the Human Rights Act to allow unequal treatment?

Pray to your church…

July 13th, 2007 by De Onion

Dear readers,

Thank you for reading this blog, I’m not often one to dispense advice, but in the same vein as the classic “Always wear sunscreen” monologue and Chris Rock’s “Champagne Room” followup I’ve decided to dispense some advice of my own, so here goes:

If based on their dress you can’t tell the difference between your investment banker, your charity director, your pastor, your labour leader, and your government consultant then you’re probably getting ripped off, and if your investment banker is the worst dressed of the lot then you’re definitely getting ripped off.

All the best,

DeOnion

Random questions…

July 11th, 2007 by De Onion

Is it possible that a government contractor could give political contributions to a candidate’s personal campaign fund?

Can a candidate pay himself from campaign funds or otherwise use them for lifestyle enhancement?

If yes, then is the audit function the only way we’d know if a politician was using government contracts to funnel himself taxpayer funds?

If yes, then how much of this is happening in our low-audit government?

Some stuff got me thinking…

Reality Gap

July 10th, 2007 by De Onion

Decided I’m going to keep blogging, but irregularly.

…and so it begins. We have a war of the words. Statistics and critical thinking begins to butt heads with partisan outlooks. (if you don’t already then head over to 21square.com and have a read, Denis does excellent analysis that is so often lacking in our policy discussions)

I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to what really defines the differences between political outlooks in Bermuda. For example, in the USA if you thought that Saddam had WMDs and was behind 9/11 then you supported President Bush and the Iraq War and probably watched Fox News. If you believed that Saddam had no operational WMDs and had no links 9/11 then you were probably opposed to the War, and President Bush, and it was also more likely that you read the newspaper and/or listened to NPR. Needless to say, in the long run it has become clear that those who were willing to question the President in favor of what was being said by the underlying experts have been proven right and now Bush has the lowest approval rating of any President since Nixon (who resigned in disgrace).

I’m suspect we are beginning to open up a reality gap in Bermuda, and if you are on the side that thinks that the UBP are the 40 thieves 2.0 and get excited by misleading headline statistics and bold panic policymaking then you will vote PLP. If you think that the government is spending like drunken sailors, corrupt, self-serving, and have totally failed to address issues like poverty, housing, education, etc. with appropriate long-term solutions then you are going to vote UBP or not at all.

Stepping back

July 5th, 2007 by De Onion

People have been saying essentially the same thing for years, if not decades, that Bermuda will destroy itself through its own incompetence… but in all those years there’s one thing that hasn’t changed about Bermuda, or any other financial/human market – there’s always a reason why it’s all going to come crashing down. One of my favorite financial commentary blogs is Financial Reality who has a reliable short bias on the macro front. Thus far, he, Tine, and others who are on the short side have been wrong, and thus far the people who have gone short Bermuda have been wrong and have lost a huge opportunity by leaving, selling property, or walking away from businesses. Sure there are going to be times when things aren’t going as they have in the past, but as Barton Biggs says in his winding commentary on the hedge fund industry “Even stopped clocks are right twice a day.”

One of the most interesting trades one can make is to sell short (bet that prices will decline) of stocks with poor corporate governance, and go long (bet that they will go up) on stocks with strong corporate governance (and to a lesser degree diversity). The IRRC publishes factors of governance that can be used to make an index of the best and worst governed companies and it should come as little surprise that the best governed companies beat the socks off the badly governed ones… one piece of research is here, with plenty more at the Harvard Governance site.

I hope that the actions of myself and other concerned citizens will ensure that going short Bermuda continues to be a bad strategy for decades to come. However, I’m not averse to hedging risk – and in that context I’m going to spend more of my time studying and less writing.