Notes From the Fieldby Martin Weil

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March 20, 2015

Oil. She Said, He Said

“You know that the President just vetoed the Keystone pipeline,” said the woman.

“Honey, no politics. People from the coast feel differently,” said her husband.

The short exchange took place on the edge of the Yasuni National Park in the Ecuadorean rainforest, where the forces of oil exploration and environmental protection are squarely facing off. I suppose this is what prompted the remarks. The man and woman were from Oklahoma; we are from California.

I was struck by how much was communicated in these two sentences. So much so that I have tried for two weeks to write a longer piece about the underlying issues, from the fundamental importance of oil to our way of life to its environmental impacts. In the end, nothing worth publishing.

But I still think those two sentences speak volumes.

March 20, 2015

The Yield Curve, Visualized

And explained as well. The NY Times (registration required) does a bang up job on this 3D visualiztion. Just great.

March 18, 2015

If the IRS Calls … Hang Up!

I first heard about this scam from my CPA colleague Peter Montgomery who made an amusing tale out of call he received from a woman claiming to be an IRS agent. According to the linked article, this is a very sophisticated operation and thousands of individuals have been duped.

“The IRS doesn’t call people up out of the blue,” says the article and the IRS.

Timothy Camus, a Treasury deputy inspector general for tax administration, explained to the AP, “If someone calls unexpectedly claiming to be from the IRS with aggressive threats if you do not pay immediately, it is a scam artist calling.”

If you do get a call that you suspect to be a scam, hang up the phone right away, and then report the incident at the taxpayer administration hotline (800-366-4484).

March 17, 2015

Hans Rosling Is An Optmist

And he has the data to prove why. See this great interview with the Swedish medical statistician on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS program.

Rosling is best known for his Ignorance Project whose goal is to educate all of us on our misconceptions regarding the state of things.

For example – a quick, multiple choice question:

In the last 20 years, the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has:

  1. Almost doubled
  2. Remained more or less the same
  3. Almost halved

If you answered “doubled,” you have lots of company as 66% of American respondents chose this answer.  Another 29% chose “remained the same.”  The correct answer, chosen by just 5% of US responders, is “almost halved.”

Rosling’s point is that we are gloomy about the state of the world in some large measure due to our utter ignorance of the facts on the ground. While a born pessimist myself, I think he is right.  I would point to our proclivity to obsess over what behaviorists call “headline events” – war, terrorism, natural disasters and the like – those news events that dramatically affect a minuscule share of the world’s population to the exclusion of the actual data.

March 6, 2015

Sooner or Later … All Good Things Must End



Anecdotal signs are starting to accumulate that this bull market cycle may be nearing at least a pause. More than one client has contacted me of late wondering why they can’t make more money in the seemingly unstoppable rise of the US market. I need to have the chart above laminated and hung next to my desk.

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