Saturday, April 30, 2016

Golden Move

Now did you read the news today?
They say the danger's gone away
But I can see the fire's still alight
They're burning into the night
--Genesis

Nice move by gold on Fri out of the cup-and-handle set up. The yellow metal is now knock-knock-knockin' on 1300.


When did the metals start perking up? When extreme central bank policies such as NIRP began sparking serious thought about where and how to save cash.

Remember that gold is a bet on disorder, whether that disorder be financial, social, etc. Those bets are increasing.

position in gold

Friday, April 29, 2016

Intel the Tell

Well lately when I look into your eyes
I'm going down
--Bruce Springsteen

Am watching Intel (INTC) as a downside tell. After shrugging off bad earnings news last week, the stock has been leaking. This am it opened below both its 50 and 200 day moving averages.


If it gets moving lower from here, 28 seems the level of lore.

And the tape will likely move in lockstep.

position in INTC, SPX

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Fly in the Ointment

Hans Gruber: Who are you then?
John McClane: Just the fly in the ointment, Hans. The monkey in the wrench. The pain in the ass.
--Die Hard

John Boehner's criticism of Ted Cruz and thumbs up for Donald Trump should send a signal to 'anti-establishment' Republican types. Cruz is disliked because he has been a fly in the ointment of the mainstream Republican agenda. Ideologically, Trump philosophically operates far closer to the GOP's position than the establishment cares to admit.

To the extent that Boehner can be viewed as a symbol of what's wrong with the Republican Party, then his criticism can be seen as an endorsement of Cruz's approach for those voters looking for real change.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Biting the Apple

It's not in the way you say you hold me
It's not in the way you say you care
--Toto

Apple reports its first revenue decline in more than a decade and the stock is down 'only' 7%. This on the heels of many other bellwethers reporting disappointing results only to see their stock prices shrug off the bad news.


Bulls will argue that this is a sign of strength and higher prices are imminent. Bears will counter that market participants are in fantasyland and that it's only a matter of time before the tape cracks.

I might add that we also have non-economic buyers in the market seeking to prop up the tape.

position in SPX

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Victimhood Culture

"John Spartan, you are fined five credits for repeated violations of the Verbal Morality Statute."
--Moral Statute Machine (Demolition Man)

In the context of recent 'microaggression' claims and 'trigger warning' responses observed on college campuses, NYU prof Jon Haidt reviews a recent article by two sociologists that lends explanatory power to the phenomena.

Campbell and Manning (2014) propose that moral culture is once again transitioning. In the 18th century, Western societies moved from cultures of honor, where people must earn honor and avenge insults on their own (e.g., let's duel), to cultures of dignity, where people don't traditionally engage in violence to settle transgressions between people. In dignity cultures, major transgressions are left to administrative or judicial bodies and minor transgressions are either ignored or settled by social means.

Dignity culture, the authors posit, is now giving way to a culture of victimhood. Victimhood culture encourages people to respond to even the slightest perceived offense against them. But instead of obtaining redress on their own, people must appeal to powerful others, such as administrative bodies, for help. People must make their case before these powerful bodies that they have been victimized. The very presence of these administrative bodies gives rise to intense efforts to identify oneself as a fragile and aggrieved victim.

From where I sit, this can be seen as an extension of resource dependence theory. Administrative bodies seen as having the power to settle transgressions offer a resource that people want. As such, people engage in behavior that keeps resources flowing in their direction. In this case, a new moral culture of victimhood is being created that fosters, as Haidt observes, 'moral dependence' and reduces capacity among individuals for handling interpersonal matters on one's own. As it weakens individuals, victimhood culture creates a society of intense moral conflict as people compete for status as victims or as defenders of victims.

While Haidt's analysis focuses on recent phenomena observed in higher ed, it takes no genius to see how this theory applies much more broadly.

Reference

Campbell, B. & Manning, J. (2014). Microaggression and moral cultures. Comparative sociology, 13(6): 692-726.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Rogue Rage

"So you're the little lady that started this great brouhaha."
--FBI Director Denton Voyles

Judge Nap also suspects that, should the DOJ decide not to indict Hillary Clinton for espionage, FBI employees will go rogue and release the information against Clinton in its entirety. Some agents and perhaps even the FBI director would resign.

Should this come to pass, then the Obama administration would face a political crisis not unlike the Saturday Night Massacre that surrounded the Watergate scandal and the Nixon administration.

Judge Nap believes that should this come to pass, Clinton will likely be replaced as the candidate for president for the Democratic Party.

As noted previously, one way or another, the people are likely to have the information.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Obama's Fiction

"This is a pleasant fiction."
--Lucilla (Gladiator)

Leftists love to tell fictions that place their policies at the center of economic turnarounds. Perhaps none of these false narratives is more popular than the story of FDR and his New Deal policies pulling the economy out of the depths of the Great Depression.

Recent comments by President Obama suggest that he would like to spin a yarn of his own. When citing which actions during is tenure that he was most proud of, the president said, "Saving the world economy from a great depression--that was pretty good."


Indeed, Mr President. Perhaps that feat will earn you a picture on the first ever $20 trillion debt note written by the US Treasury under your watch.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Leaking Hillarygate

"Now if your brief is right and it ever sees the light of day, then the president loses any chance of re-election. The men around the president won't let that happen."
--Gray Grantham (The Pelican Brief)

As DOJ stonewalling continues into the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton, suggestions (perhaps even invitations) are increasing that FBI officials go rogue and leak evidence being amassed by the Feds. Most mainstream media would be prone to hide or discount it.

Fortunately, the MSM does not control the market for information as it once did, and such leaks will be difficult to suppress.

If some in the FBI have the will to leak the info, then the public will have it.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Rights vs Privileges

Whoa, we're half way there
Whoa, living' on a prayer
--Bon Jovi

Prof Williams once again reminds us what a 'right' is. A right is something that exists between people that imposes no obligation on others except non-interference. Free speech, for example, is a natural right.

Claims that health care, housing, education, et al are rights are mistaken. In order for some people to consume health care services that they did not earn, others must be obligated to provide those services. Health care in such an instance is a privilege, i.e., an exception to the right of property, for those receiving the services. Those providing the services are enslaved to provide the privileges.

Obligatory health care intrudes on the rights of others.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Manipulation Suspicion

Johnnie Aysgarth: Well, if the worst comes to the worst and there's no other way out, I'll have to...
Lina McLaidlaw Aysgarth: What?
Johnnie Aysgarth: Borrow some more.
--Suspicion

A trader increasingly suspects central bank-led manipulation in commodity markets. There is no doubt in my mind that central banks, including the Fed, are buying financial assets around the world. They need prices higher to instill confidence, encourage 'wealth effect' spending, and prop up asset prices so that large scale deleveraging does not deliver a margin call to the world.

The hubris of central planners leads them to believe that their manipulation will be successful. Natural market forces promise to put their beliefs to the ultimate test.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cash and Uncertainty

"Machines will stop spitting cash. It's gonna be the end of the world, Bill."
--Julie Steinhardt (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps)

Interesting points made here by Gary North on the subject of monetary liberty, several of which I hope to return to in future posts. The one I wanted to reflect on briefly is this: "Cash is a substitute for knowledge about the future."

Stated differently, the higher the perceived uncertainty about the future, the greater the desire for cash.

Cash is a proxy for economic resources. When we feel uncomfortable about what lies ahead, we want more economic resources on hand in order to cope with what might transpire. Building cash in this context is the financial equivalent of 'prepping.'

Problematically, modern monetary systems, because of their inherent leverage, are incapable of satisfying large desires for cash without the system freezing solid and causing what North calls a 'break in the payments system.'

Governments know this. As such, much state action must be oriented toward trying to instill a sense of stability and confidence among the masses. The minute (or in the case of biblical Jerusalem, the hour) this perception of stability is lost, then the charade is over.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Pay Productivity Gap

Welcome to the grand illusion
Come on in and see what's happening
--Styx

Bureaucrats including those in the Obama administration have been touting the so called 'pay productivity gap' portrayed by the difference between the red and green lines below as justification for various interventions (e.g., minimum wage laws, overtime pay rules) in the labor market. Because worker incomes have not been capturing productivity increases in their incomes, so the argument goes, then force must be used to more closely align compensation with productivity.


A forthcoming study by labor economist James Sherk suggests that the pay productivity gap has been an illusion--an artifact of measurement error. He shows that methodological choices have created a gap that, in reality, does not exist. Those errors include comparing the pay of only some workers to the productivity of all workers, counting productivity of self-employed workers but excluding their wage growth, and measuring inflation differently to calculate pay and productivity growth.

When Sherk corrects these errors, then wage growth becomes the yellow line above--one that closely tracks productivity growth.

Another lesson in why data should never be accepted at face value. Measurement error is always present. The question is how much.

Also a reminder of how data are subject to manipulation by special interests.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Vivien Kellems

Hey,
Said my name is called disturbance
--The Rolling Stones

Vivien Kellems was a Connecticut entrepreneur who, in 1948, refused to collect withholding taxes from her employees on behalf of the government. "If they wanted me to be their agent, they'd have to pay me, and I want a badge."

In her memoir Toil, taxes, and trouble (1952), Kellems described withholding taxes as a clear cut case of involuntary servitude, as an employer is forced to expend resources to collect taxes from employees without being compensated by the government. She demanded that the federal government indict her for refusing to collect withholding taxes so that the constitutionality of the practice could be put before the courts. The Truman administration refused to do so. Instead, the government confiscated the amount due from her bank account.


Kellems subsequently sued and, in 1951, a jury ordered the return of her funds. But the test of constitutionality never came. Sadly, Kellems subsequently surrendered her case when her continued pursuit of the issue threated to bankrupt her company.

Nevertheless, Vivien Kellems continued to challenge aspects of income tax law for the rest of her life. In an interview before her death in 1975 she said, "Our tax law is a 1,598 [now 10,000] page hyrda-headed monster and I'm going to attack and attack and attack until I have ironed out every fault in it." It is reported that for the last ten years of her life she sent only blank returns to the IRS.

Kellems advised that people carefully examine their paystubs and observe how much of their incomes are removed via the withholding function. Kellems, recently joined by Jim Grant, suggested that people minimize the amount withheld and, instead, hold the whole of their untaxed earnings in their hands. Then let the government pluck its taxes on tax day.

"Such a payroll policy," suggested Kellems, "is entirely legal and if it were universally adopted, in six months we would either have a tax revolution or a startling contraction of the budget!"

Thoughtful idea from a true tax revolutionary.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Property and Decision Rights

Joe Dudley: I take great pleasure in nominating Mr McDonald Walling for the presidency of the Tredway Corporation.
Jesse Grimm: Second
Fred Alderson: I move we make it unanimous.
Erica Martin: All those in favor? Ms Tredway?
Julia Tredway: Yes.
Erica Martin: Mr Caswell? Mr Shaw? So voted.
--Executive Suite

Why is it that only stockholders of a company (or their agents) get to vote on issues material to the firm? The answer, obviously, is that the stockholders own the company's assets. Since they are the property owners, they control the disposition of those assets. With property rights come decision rights. And their decision rights are weighted by the fraction of the company's shares that they own.

It would be absurd to allow non-shareholders to vote on internal issues material to those property and decision rights.

Yet in conventional political elections, votes are permitted by people who don't own the property that is being considered for disposal. When those who don't own property are permitted to vote on its disposition, we can be confident that non-owners will vote in a manner that will favor redistribution toward their interests.

Under such situations, democratic process becomes, as the saying goes, two wolves and a sheep deciding what's for dinner. And make no mistake, voters who are permitted to vote on the disposition of others' property have been granted a privilege.

If voters could only cast votes on the disposition of property that they owned, and those votes were weighted by degree of ownership, then political elections would produce different results--results grounded in more equitable, peaceful outcomes.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Concept Creep

"Where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission."
--V (V for Vendetta)

NYU prof Jon Haidt reviews a recent article on 'concept creep.' Concept creep involves semantic shifts in negative aspects of human behavior (e.g., abuse, bullying, trauma, prejudice) that expand their meanings, thereby encompassing a broader range of phenomena than before.

Concept creep can be conceptualized along horizontal and vertical dimensions. Horizontally, creep occurs when new classes of behavior or new contexts are drawn under the semantic umbrella. Bullying, for example, was originally defined in terms of localized aggression toward a child by one of more people that is intentional, repetitive, and carried out in the context of a power imbalance. The bullying concept has now been horizontally extended to include remote interactions such as cyberbullying and adult interactions such as workplace bullying.

Vertical expansion occurs when a concept's meaning becomes less stringent and extends to milder variants of a phenomenon than originally supposed. Today, bullying has been extended to 'one off' encounters (thereby loosening the repetitiveness criteria) and to situations that merely consider how a 'victim' feels based on an encounter (thereby loosening the intentionality criteria).

Concept creep in the bullying context can help explain the rise of the 'micro-aggression' movement.

One interesting explanation for concept creep is a Darwinian one where successful concepts expand their semantic range (similar to successful species expanding their territories and invading and adapting to new habitats). Thus, success of the bullying concept in the developmental psych literature in the 1970s made it an appealing concept to apply to analogous behaviors over time.

The author (and Haidt) suggests that because psychology has played a role in leftist agendas of sensitivity to harm and to responsiveness to the harmed, then concept creep becomes a useful rhetorical weapon of the left as this group seeks to prosecute its vision of 'social justice.'

It seems straightforward to connect concept creep to political initiatives grounded in propaganda and political correctness.

One risk of concept creep is that it can pathologize everyday experience and promote positions of victimhood.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Tax Day

Should five percent appear too small
Be thankful I don't take it all
--The Beatles

Once again we reach the mid-April deadline for millions of Americans to surrender a portion of their income to the federal government under threat of force. Theft, yes, but its routinized nature makes the taxation of income a form of slavery.


Frank Chodorov wrote of the income tax as the root of all evil. Jeff Tucker reflects:

"We look back to history and are in awe that anyone ever had the full right to earn whatever money he or she wanted to and to never have to tell the government about it. But that was the way it was for the dominant part of American history."

All the way up until 1913.

As unlikely as it seems, it could be that way again.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Gallows Humor

So true
Funny how it seems
Always in time
But never in line for dreams
--Spandau Ballet

Hillary Clinton continues with her dismissive cackle whenever questioned about FBI investigations into her potentially criminal behavior. Recent comments by the president about the investigation, as discussed by Judge Nap, might give her cause for pause. In fact, his remarks that "there's classified and then there's classified" moves himself closer to hot water, as he has also sworn to uphold laws regarding classified information.

Meanwhile, as the FBI investigation proceeds, one has to wonder how federal agents are digesting the persistent public laughter and dismissive attitudes shown by those officials who are under investigation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Regulating Away Competition

"The status quo has changed, son."
--Patrick Gates (National Treasure)

A consistent theme running through the regulation thread of these pages is that government-imposed regulation on industry squelches competition and innovation. Regulation raises barriers to entry, which discourages entrepreneurial action and protect the franchises of incumbent firms prone to maintain the status quo.

Just ran across more empirical evidence that supports the theory. Econ profs find that:

-->A 10% increase in intensity of regulation led to 0.5% decrease in firm births. The effect was more pronounced among small firms, which, of course, is where most entrepreneurial entry comes from.

-->No significant effect of increased regulation on firm deaths. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that firm deaths decrease with more intense regulation.

-->A 10% increase in regulation intensity was associated with a 0.9% decrease in hiring among firms of all sizes.

The greater the regulation imposed by government, the lower the competition and productivity improvement.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Pay Discrimination Myth

Alice Baxter: Um, Miss McGill?
Tess McGill: Yes.
Alice Baxter: That's your desk...in there.
Tess McGill: I don't think so.
Alice Baxter: Oh, yes.
Tess McGill: Sorry, but I thought the secretary would sit out here.
Alice Baxter: That's right. I'm the secretary. If you don't mind, I'd prefer assistant.
--Working Girl

Today is Equal Pay Day--at least according to some special interest groups seeking to highlight differences in wages earned by men and women. On average, women have been found to earn about 75% of what men earn.

Special interests claim that the 25% difference proves discrimination. It proves nothing of the sort, of course, as these pages have noted several times (e.g., here, here, here, here).

An intellectually honest effort would first need to consider other factors that could be causing pay differences. Prof Steve Horwitz discusses some of them here:

Educational choices
Career path expectations
Full versus part-time work
Tenure on the job/work experience

What these factors amount to are decisions that influence the development of human capital. And studies indicate that men and women have generally differed in their choices in this regard. These difference influence productivity--the amount of output produced per hour of work.

Axiomatically, in the market for labor, wages are directly related to productivity.

The straightforward way to evaluate the effects of these choices on pay is to develop a multivariate regression model using the above factors as independent variables and wages as the dependent variable. As Prof Horwitz summarizes, empirical study after empirical study using this approach shows that, once wages are controlled by these factors, gender-related pay differences virtually disappear.

Another way to think about it: If women are indeed underpaid versus their productive capacity, then why wouldn't profit-seeking employers hire them at higher wages and compete away the discriminatory effects? The answer, of course, is that's precisely what labor markets will do unless forced to do otherwise (and even then black markets will form to normalize wages toward productive capacity).

Stated differently, unhampered markets temper prejudice of any kind in the name of self interest.

All of this falls on deaf ears to progressives, of course, as the discrimination narrative plays well with the 'war on women' crowd and motivates political energy among the ignorant.

Monday, April 11, 2016

No Savings, No Capitalism

Every summer we can rent a cottage
In the Isle of Wright
If it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
--The Beatles

As noted many times on these pages, capitalism is not possible without capital. Capital is not possible without savings.

The world is drowning in debt. By definition, this means that there are no savings on the net. Such a situation would be impossible under capitalism.

The primary culprit is central bank policy focused on suppressing the natural rate of interest to zero or even negative levels.

Bill Gross is among the investors who are beginning to figure out the catastrophic potential of this policy.

No savings, no capitalism.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

1 Samuel 8

And baby I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule
Let me live that fantasy
--Lorde

Samuel was a prophet who led Israel to a great victory over the nation's oppressors, the Philistines. Subsequently, he became a great judge and conducted annual cross country circuits during which he would administer justice.

As he aged, Samuel appointed his two sons as judges over Israel, but they were corrupt. Consequently, the elders of Israel asked Samuel to appoint a king to govern them so that they would not have to deal with corruption among their peers. God, however, saw this as a rejection of Him, and told Samuel to warn of the consequences of being governed by earthly rulers.

Samuel conveyed these words of the Lord to the people:

"These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you. He will take your sons and appoint them to chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots, and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day."

But the people refused to listen to God's warning.

And it has come to pass.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Political Diversity in Higher Ed

I try so hard to keep it inside
So no one can hear
--Til Tuesday

Georgetown b-school prof questions why universities do not recruit for political and ideological diversity with at least the same priority as cultural or ethnic diversity. After all, a primary objective of higher ed is exposing minds to a variety of ideological perspectives, something can hardly be done when faculty selection processes favor ideological homogeneity.

The author states that he has been involved in searches in which the chair of the search committee stated that no libertarian candidates would be considered, and when candidates were dismissed because of their associations with conservative or libertarian institutions.

He then cites some of the many studies that indicate how lopsided the political ideologies of university faculties tend to be--with some disciplines, such as sociology, almost completely void of conservative or libertarian professors (see for example here, here, here).

I witness the consequences of this bias daily in the classroom. Having been inculcated with singular ideological perspectives, many students are incapable of articulating other possibilities, or of critiquing the opinions that they have come to hold.

I also routinely see it in scholarship, particularly in research that has 'policy' implications. It is rare to read an journal article that considers merits of less rather than more intervention in private affairs.

More balance in political ideology among faculty would certainly heighten learning in higher ed.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Bank Consolidation

"I don't get it. Why get smaller and wrestle a small guy? Why not get bigger and wrestle a big guy?"
--Carla (Vision Quest)

Nice portrayal of consolidation in the banking industry over the past 20 years. Trip down memory lane with some of those names.


Let's be clear. This pattern on consolidation is unnatural and has been facilitated by the State. Sometimes directly, such as the forced mergers in the wake of the credit market meltdown. Sometimes indirectly, such as low interest rate financing available to institutions courtesy of the Fed.

When certain presidential candidates claim that they want to break up the 'big banks,' they claim to want to undo their own creation--a dubious claim. Why?  Because statists seek (and require) ever more concentrated control over banking functions.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Student Loan Delinquencies

All over the country I've seen it the same
Nobody's winning at this kind of game
--Edgar Winter Group

WSJ reports that 40% of borrowers from the federal government's main student loan program aren't making payments or are behind on their loan payments. This should not be surprising, given the mountain of student loan debt accumulated and actions to relieve or even forgive student loan debt.

Perhaps others have been emboldened by proposals of some presidential candidates for 'free' college.

Delinquencies promise to go higher as another bubble ready to pop.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Free Trade

"Everything will change. Everything has changed."
--General Charles Cornwallis (The Patriot)

Two hundred and forty years ago today the Continental Congress opens all US ports to international trade. Prior to that, port access was regulated by England.


Today, few understand that primary motivation behind the Boston Tea Party was trade restriction.

It is appropriate here to insert a friendly reminder that trade agreements such as North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) are not free trade agreements at all because they are restricted to a particular bloc of countries and by what can be traded and how.

Free trade agreements are oxymorons. True free trade needs no 'agreement.' It is the natural tendency of individuals to trade with each other to better their circumstances. No document signed by bureaucrats is necessary.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Smart Money Sales

"If you're the first out the door, that's not called panicking."
--John Tuld (Margin Call)

Data continue to suggest that 'smart money' types such as institutional clients of big banks have been net sellers of the most recent rally.


Plausibly, recent central bank attempts to restore market confidence have only resonated with fools.

position in SPX

Monday, April 4, 2016

Opening Day 2016

"They'll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game. And it will be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters."
--Terence Mann (Field of Dreams)

You don't have to be a baseball fan to feel the buzz in Cincy today. Opening Day.


The magic of Spring is once again unstoppable.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Louisville Slugger Model Numbers

"Pick me out a winner, Bobby."
--Roy Hobbs (The Natural)

My formative baseball years were spent swinging wood bats. Aluminum bats were still in their infancy, and I didn't like the feel of early gen models. It was not until my sophomore year in high school that I seriously experimented with metal.

The dominant wood bat maker by far in those days was Hillerich & Bradsby, a Louisville-based company (H&B recently sold its bat division to Wilson). Figures estimate H&B's market share at about 90% back then--primarily via their popular Louisville Slugger models. One of the things that made Louisville Sluggers cool for young players is that you could get bats that were turned to similar specifications as major league players. Those bats came complete with the signature of the player stamped into the barrel end trademark.

I remember sifting thru the inventory at our local sporting goods store. Thin handles, fat handles, big barrels, small barrels, big knobs, no knobs, blonde wood, flame treated wood. After a while, you would associate different models with different players. Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose, Al Kaline.

At some point, H&B included the bat model numbers on the barrel end trademark above the autograph. I personally owned Aaron and Bench 34 inch R43's, and I used a Pete Rose 33 inch S2 model with great success during my freshman summer season.


It turns out that the letter at the front of the model number corresponds to the initial of the last name of the player for which that particular bat model was first turned. Interestingly, many well known major league players have used models originally turned for players from earlier eras, and many of those early players were not exactly stars.

That S2 model that I used? While Pete Rose and Al Kaline may have elevated its status, it was originally produced for a lesser known shortstop of the 1940s and 1950s named Vern Stephens. The most popular Louisville Slugger today is the C271 model used by such greats as Ken Griffey Jr and Alex Rodriguez. The bat was first turned for 1970s journeyman Jose Cardenal.

While many modern players experiment with bat brands and models, recently retired Yankee great Derek Jeter used one brand and model for his entire career: a Louisville Slugger P72, (also preferred by Hall of Famers Robin Yount and Cal Ripken Jr). The model was first turned for an unknown named Leslie Wayne Pinkham in the 1950s.

Today, Louisville Slugger's share of the pro bat market is much lower (~30%) and the number of competing brands has proliferated to 40 or more. However, Louisville Slugger is still the standard in many ways. Not only is it still known as 'the official bat of Major League Baseball,' but rival bat makers commonly turn Slugger model numbers and often stamp them on their bats.

Below is a list of Louisville Slugger model numbers and associated players that I've been able to compile so far, as well as sources that have been helpful in that regard. I will update the list as I learn more.

A99 Hank Aaron
A132 Garret Anderson
B367 Jeremy Burnitz
C243 Jim Campanis
C253 Jeff Conine
C271 Jose Cardenal
C331 Carl Crawford
C352 Rico Carty
G174 Jason Giambi
G175 Jeremy Giambi
I13 Mike Ivie
K55 Chuck Klein
M110 Mickey Mantle
M159 Stan Musial
M272 Eddie Murray
M343 Edgar Martinez
M356 Edgar Martinez
O69 Spike Owen
O78 David Ortiz
P72 Leslie Wayne Pinkham
R17 Jackie Robinson
R43 Babe Ruth
R161 Frank Robinson
R226 Ivan Rodriguez
R237 Manny Ramirez
S1 Wes Schulmerick
S2  Vern Stephens
S44 Mel Butch Simon
S318 Reggie Smith
T85 Marv Throneberry
T141 Gene Tenace
W215 Ted Williams

Sources:
Smithsonian article
Baseball Fever thread: Louisville Slugger Bat Models
Baseball Fever thread: Discussion on Wood Bats
Game Used Universe thread: Louisville Slugger Model Reference?

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Confidence and Optimism

Balian of Ibelin: You go to certain death.
Hospitaller: All death is certain. I shall tell your father what I've seen you become.
--Kingdom of Heaven

Although confidence and optimism are sometimes defined similarly, it can be useful to view them as unique constructs. Confidence is the extent to which individuals think they know outcomes with certainty.

High levels of confidence are associated with strong belief that particular behavior or events will result in a particular outcome. Across the probability spectrum associated with various possible outcomes, a highly confident person assigns high probability to a narrow set of outcomes. Thus, a person who is highly confident that it will rain today sees little chance of other possible outcomes. A person who is less confident would spread probability of other outcomes (sunny, partly cloudy) in a more balanced fashion.

In this sense, confidence shares much in common with expectation, prediction, and conviction. The opposite of confidence in this sense can be seen as humility, i.e., the admission the one does not know how things will turn out with any great certainty.

It is, of course, possible that confidence can be misplaced. In fact, there is a burgeoning literature suggesting that people tend to be "overconfident"--i.e., they mistakenly assign higher probabilities to outcomes than they should. This is particularly true in the case of extreme events such as winning the lottery or managing catastrophes.

Optimism, on the other hand, is the extent to which individuals desire that events will unfold in a particularly way. While it may seem similar at first glance, optimism differs from confidence. An individual may be confident about a negative outcome such as death from a disease but optimistic about the process along the way such as living life more fully during that period than otherwise.

Degree of optimism might also influence a person's chances for 'beating the odds.' Optimistic people are more capable to recognizing opportunities and experimenting with ways that might alter their condition--even conditions deemed to have a high likelihood of occurring. People with less optimistic stances are less likely to recognize or pursue such courses of action.

It is possible, then, for a person to be both 'realistic' (recognizing high likelihoods associated with particular outcomes) and 'optimistic' (searching for ways to positively influence the probability spectrum).

In this sense, optimism shares much in common with hope. The opposite of optimism in this sense is pessimism or fatalism.

While confidence can be misplaced as discussed above, is the same true for optimism? We'll consider in a future post.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Windfalls

"This is like a gift! Hey, the Kuch never forgets a gift, man."
--Kuch (Vision Quest)

Good observation here. Once legalized theft is institutionalized, then social reference points are turned upside down. The comment that a top bracket tax cut would create a 'windfall' for the wealthy is a good example.

There is no windfall when individuals keep their property.

His follow-up example is a good one. You walk ten city blocks. Upon your safe return, are you likely to exclaim, "Whew, glad I wasn't mugged on that trip. What a windfall!"

Keeping your property and not getting robbed (or enslaved) does not create a windfall.

The recipients of resources forcibly taken by the State, on the other hand, they are the ones who realize windfalls.