Monday assorted links

1. What kind of vacation can the wealthy buy for 150k?

2. Let’s scrape MR.

3. Thomas Friedman on Iran and Syria (NYT).

4. Retail job openings.

5. Subprime mattered less than you thought.

6. “China’s yuan has appreciated vs. US dollar by +3.7% so far this year, and has risen +10.7% since Trump took office. – US dollar has fallen by about -1% so far this year, on a broad trade-weighted basis.” Link here.


1. That sounds like a blast. Cycling through Patagonia even presumably means you'll get a mix of warm- and cold-weather destinations on route.

4. People overrate e-commerce. It's very important, but it's still less than 10% of overall retail IIRC, and that shows up in retail employment statistics. And of course particular business failures hit the news hard, even if they're not representative of broader trends.

"Cycling" as in passing through, not riding a bicycle.

Also it's en route, not on route.

Even if e-commerce is 10% of retail, that doesn't mean that it hasn't drastically reshaped the nature of retail more than that 10% would indicate. If online retail prevents people from having to go from store to store to look for particular items it's possible that incidental retail ("just going shopping") has declined as well, or at least has shifted from malls, department stores, and strip malls to retail "districts". Malls are dying like flies and hip new urban spaces are thriving. Shopping is shifting from item-oriented to experience-oriented, and many big names retailers are failing to adapt apace.

You're right, and e-commerce's share of retail is also growing rapidly. Additionally, it is easy to forget that retail includes automobiles, food, and restaurants - things that we typically think of as being separate from retail.

I've actually gotten mail-ads for this vacation package. I think it's intended for people with a combination of not much time (working rich, makes sense), but also bad judgement. Why do you want to travel 7 different places around the world in 24 days? So you can spend half your time on a luxury jet? Just take a two week trip to each of these places once a year for the next 7 years. You can spend just as much if that's what really matters to you.

2. Is Alex going to share data that isn't ours? That would certainly help the analysis.

More interesting is who will fund future work? The Mercers, Kochs, Soros?

Bloomberg got rich brokering other people's scarped data already, so he is unlikely to pay others.

#2 - At first I thought it read "Let's SCRAP MR" not "scrape". What a difference an "e" makes in the enter-net!

Bonus trivia: here in metro Manila there's a city where the major, who's name starts with an "E", and part of a political dynasty/machine, put the Microsoft Internet Explorer "E" logo on every lamppost (with city funds, technically illegal but who's counting?), but with the mayor's name associated with it. Pretty cheesy, but that's southeast Asia, where I've heard Psy's "Gangnam Style" song used as a campaign jingle (with lyrics changed of course to promote the candidate). That's entertainment! Time to hit the Enter key...

#1. If I was dying of a terminal illness, this would be a great thing to put on the bucket list. Very efficient well planned adventure, and at $150K, if you've got that much in your retirement account, seems like a bargain to me.

The reviews appear to be terrible.

I had this funny visual of a wealthy 1%-er having a bad time on their month-long $150,000 tour, and then typing out an angry review on Yelp.

It's so hard to get good help these days.

good yelp too, sometimes.

You can do things like this for a hell of a lot less. Part of the cost is the packaging and 1st class accommodations and part is for the unique one of a kind show off "bucket list" experiences. If you want to go to Patagonia or the Swiss Alps then just go. The first trip will be a learning experience. The second and subsequent trips will be easier but each trip will bring new experiences. For 2% of what these trips cost you can have similar experiences.

3. lol, Friedman says a taxi driver told him that the Syria thing would be wrapped up in six months.

If Thomas Friedman didn't ask a taxi driver, is it even analysis?

I was just going to say -- didn't Friedman have a wise but fatalistic cab driver on the way out to that "lookout post?"

Peggy Noonan is the distaff champion in alleged cab-driver wisdom. They remind of those Police Squad! scenes where the corner shoe-shine guy explains the entire plot to Leslie Nielsen

Outstanding reference!

1. In New Zealand they got a personal meeting with the bug out bunker immigration office.

5. They compared the ratings at issuance on Planet Apple with the subsequent post-bail-out performance on Planet Orange?

3. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Until the enemy is vanquished. Friedman emphasizes the conflict between Israel and Iran, and interprets the war in Syria as a precursor of a war between Israel and Iran; it's true that the war in Syria is a proxy, but not a proxy for war between Iran and Israel but rather a sectarian war between Sunni Muslims, led by Saudi Arabia, and Shiite Muslims, led by Iran. What's happened is that the Israeli government has allowed Saudi Arabia to con Israel into putting Israel in the middle of the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran (i.e., between Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims). If Saudi Arabia's strategy is successful and Israel goes to war with and defeats Iran, Saudi Arabia can turn its vengeance against its "friend" Israel. And if sheer numbers are important, Sunni Muslims will be a much more formidable foe than Shiite Muslims: Sunni Muslims constitute more than 85% of Muslims worldwide, Shiite Muslims less than 15%.

Question for us, how is any of that a US vital interest? Answer, it ain't.

If you know a family or a workplace like that, the best answer is get away and stay away

@#5 - subprime was not responsible for the housing crash of 2008 and did rather well, argues for buying FNMA (Fannie Mae) for about a buck fifty a share. Wall Street mogul Bill Ackman has.

Subprime was 100% responsible. And mortgage without 20% original cash equity is subprime.

Two sins of subprime caused the crash of 2008.

First, eliminating the cash for the 20% from either the borrower or the borrowers backer, the credit insurer.

Second, allowing inflated asset price to be converted to equity. Ie, cash out refi converting 10% equity on $100k price asset, $90k debt plus $10k credit insurance, to 20% equity on $125k, $100k debt and no credit insurance plus $5k cash to pay off car loan. The equity was not 20%, but was now more like 7%, with evidence of living beyond what income allows.

The price falling back to $100k means selling won't repay costs of selling to repay debt.

But free lunch economists assume that prices going up $25k is completely valid free market action, while prices falling by $25k is caused by government interference in markets. Free lunch economists consider capital gains to be normal, god given, and capital prices and value falling, losses, to be some evil force of government, or an evil externality like nature, entropy.

If lenders operated on the basis of asset prices because asset always going down steadily, like they did before the 80s, then there would have been few refis, and prices of old houses going up in just two years questioned harshly, there would have been no 80s mortgage crisis, nor 2007+ mortgage crisis.

FASB rules also created a huge debacle in banks' capital sufficiency when markets seized up and banks had to mark to market HFS securities. But the subprime loans and derivatives falsely labeled AAA by the rating agencies helped fuel the fire.

+1 re FASB. When FASB fixed the problem (thanks to Barney Frank) on March 9, 2009 and went back to the old mark-to-market rules that had worked for 70 years, the stock market literally bottomed that exact day and never looked back.

Ray, For once, you are not entirely correct.

Re: the writers of that research, Who paid for it?

That was 2013, in September 2008, so many of the underlying subprime loans were in default that the RMBS were in default - like 23% not 2.3% . . .

PS - a 2.3% overall loss in 2013 is likely not useful due to over-aggregation.

And, the write-down of principal, if a loan went delinquent in 2009, but wasn't written down until 2013, the loss isn't simply the principal write-down but add in the what? four years of interest that was not accrued or collected. Meanwhile, the entities that owned or financed the MBS were not being paid, but needed to pay their creditors.

Thanks Dick, but I think in fall of 2008 a lot of institutions were technically insolvent, that's the nature of bank runs. After a calming period, it's business as usual (the point of the paper). That's one reason I was against the bailouts in 2008, and even called my congressperson to say so. Technical default is not the end of the world. Just suspend payments for a while (done all the time in the 19th century).

#3 The Middle East is going from a proxy battleground between superpowers to a proxy battleground between regional powers as its relative geostrategic diminishes.

Even though you left out the word "value," you have still contributed more to the topic in one sentence than Tom Friedman has in 12 years.

3: Christ, Friedman is such a child.

If there is open war between Iran and Israel, he sagely advises, "Fasten your seatbelt."

Wow Tom. Thanks. Now sod off, swampy.

It's the seat belt in his taxi!

6. Considering the PPP of the yuan is 3.6 to the dollar and it's quoted at 6.3 I guess it still has plenty of room to rise against the dollar. Usually, densely populated developed countries like Japan and UK have their currencies on average slightly above the PPP so as China develops it's currency will tend to appreciate more and more, I expect a exchange rate around 3.3-3.2 to the dollar in like 20 years.

"kayaking among the giant tortoises in the Galápagos Islands"

That would be a unique activity. Does $150K buy kayaks that can be paddled overland? Or does it pay for all the training required to get the giant tortoises to swim?

6. Neither a borrower nor a lender be. Is a rising yuan a good thing or a bad thing? Is China undervaluing its currency? Or is China overvaluing its currency? I suppose it depends on whether it's a day tweet or a night tweet. What's great about currencies is that up is down and down is up. Or is it down is up and up is down? Trump, if anybody, understands the complexity.

Another challenge of the standard subprime narrative:

2...."the time of the post"

Aren't some of these auto-scheduled?

2: interesting but I think it would be even more interesting (but perhaps discouraging) to scrape and analyze the comments to MR in addition to the posts.

The wave of scraping and analyzing the text of posts on social media and in blogs has even hit higher education: development offices are starting to do this.

2. I've sometimes wished I could search the text body of your posts as well as the title. You can use Google, but it is not chronological.

The greasyfork script has been updated to 0.61.3. This makes it easier to see who you are replying to in long comment threads.

#1. You can do the "premium economy" version of all that for about 50k. Base it around Crystal or one of the other premium cruise lines. Add a few days before and after. Couple more dollars for first class over business. Not hard.

Now I'm curious about "ramez naam" and how he has such a low post rate but a spectacular response. Clearly he had one big post that went viral on MR.

6) Making Red China great again.

Europe is dependent on Middle East oil. Russia and Iran are a threat to that oil. Without that source of oil, the only alternative supplier is Russia.

In response to 3.

Ummmm, that's not "super rich". Super rich is a vacation off Monaco on an 80+ meter yacht for $400,000/week. $150,000 gets you a crappy "ocean view" or "ocean access" house in the Hamptons these days.

Indeed, the super rich already have their own staff to organize such things, they don't have to go to an external broker. Thus since more like a comfortably well off option to me.

No. 3 Friedman:

"Syria is going to explode. (...) this time I mean really explode."

"this quiet phase may be about to end"

"U.S. and Russia may find it difficult to stay out"

"because it may be about to enter round two"

"Israel may use the opportunity"

May may may. Tetlock is right. This sort of punditry is the biggest racket in journalism.

Reminds me of the '60% trick' in punditry (which I can't recall but may have been discussed here at MR). Just declare something has a 60% chance of happening, and you're never wrong, but it sounds better than saying 50/50.

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