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Why technology? The dumbest investment decision I ever did. Dumb. Major dumb.

Apple has set September 12 to make a big announcement. Probably the iPhone 8.

I have an iPhone 6. I’m the perfect candidate to buy an iPhone 8. I probably will.

Which means Apple is probably still a good buy, though it’s had a magnificent run this year:

AppleYTD

I agree with gurus from Warren Buffett to Jim Cramer that Apple is a cheap consumer goods company.  Today its P/E is 18.59 and its yield is 1.54%. Substantially better than a slap in the belly with a cold fish. It has oodles of money overseas. Maybe Trump will allow the money into the U.S. at a low tax rate? Maybe Apple will then declare a handsome dividend for us all?

Our technology stocks have been doing well. They should continue to. Items:

+ The locals meet each morning for breakfast in the Spencertown Country Store. This morning, I caught all of them–young and old — engrossed in this iPhones. No one talks to anyone. They dine out with their iPhones. Susan finds her iPhone 7 more interesting than her super-interesting husband of 41 years, i.e. me. My ego is destroyed daily.

+ The town’s local dealer, now aged 73, said no one is interested in antiques — furniture, books or collectibles. “All everyone wants is technology. No one is interested in my collection of 5,000 old valuable (?) books, many of which are reference books, on paintings, furniture, collectibles. Now, you want to find something? Google it. End of story.” His erstwhile thriving business collapsed. But his son is doing super-well in the entertainment/ experience business.

So?

My unfavorite commodities fund is down 2.3% this year.

Which brings me to a question I had this morning: What’s the dumbest investment decision you ever made?

Simple: Listening to others. The worst are investment “professionals.” Brokers. Investment bankers. Hedge fund managers. Real estate syndicate managers…. In short, anyone who wants to “manage” my money.

Their salespitch is they know something I don’t — like how to cure cancer.

But they don’t. They only thing they know is how to make a great pitch and get me to send them money.

The only person who knows how to manage my money is the person who earned the money in the first place.

Me.

If the experts were so smart, why do they need my money to get rich?

More about this another day.

By the way, don’t send me your money to manage.

Just send it to me to spend. I need a new pair of tennis sneakers.

Houston is a disaster we all helped make

My friends tell me global warming is a hoax. It did not cause Harvey.

Correct, it didn’t cause Hurricane Harvey. But it sure helped.

Of all I’ve read on Harvey, this is the best piece:

Houston: A Global Warning
The devastation of Hurricane Harvey marks a turning point and raises the terrible possibility that we’ve entered the age of climate chaos

FloodedHouston
People walk down a flooded street as they evacuate their homes after the area was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 28th, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty

Let there be no doubt: the horrific damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey was an almost entirely man-made catastrophe, one fingerprinted by all-too-human neglect, corruption and denial. If we needed a reminder of the power of water to destroy an American city, Hurricane Harvey provided it. In Houston, a fast-growing metropolis of more than 2 million people, it wasn’t the wind that was so damaging, or a storm surge pushing in – it was just water everywhere, falling for days in biblical torrents and transforming highways into rivers, flowing into homes, killing dozens, sending tens of thousands of people fleeing for higher ground. It was a terrifying and deadly display of what happens when nature collides with urban life on a planet radically altered by climate change.

Harvey is the worst rainfall event ever in the continental U.S. More than 50 inches of rain deluged parts of Houston. The amount of water that poured from the sky is difficult to conceptualize. By some estimates, 19 trillion gallons of water fell in five days. That’s roughly a million gallons of water for every person in southeastern Texas. Harvey’s economic toll will likely exceed Katrina as the most expensive disaster in American history.

Hurricanes are nothing new in Texas. In 1900, a hurricane hit Galveston, causing 15-foot storm surges, killing an estimated 8,000 people. But given what scientists know now about how rising CO2 levels impact the climate, it’s wrong to dismiss Harvey as a purely “natural” event.

First, thanks to increasing carbon pollution, the waters in the Gulf of Mexico, over which Harvey formed, were about five degrees higher than average. “As the world warms, evaporation speeds up,” explained climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe. So on average, there is more water vapor in the air now to sweep up and later dump over land. Also, because hurricane winds are generated by the difference in temperature between the atmosphere and oceans, the warmer waters tend to intensify a hurricane’s gales.

Second, a warming climate fuels sea-level rise, which is the result of the thermal expansion of the oceans and the melting of glaciers. Higher seas mean bigger storm surges, which can be devastating (recall the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy). But when the seas are higher, it also means that it is more difficult to drain rainwater into the ocean. And that is what happened in Houston: The water had nowhere to go.

This was a disaster foretold. In the 1990s, climate scientist Wallace Broecker said that the Earth’s climate was “an angry beast” and that by dumping massive quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere, we were “poking it with sticks” – and nobody could say how the beast would react. That’s where we are today. Harvey is the third 500-year flood to hit the Houston area in the past three years. Ten years ago, most scientists thought we might see three feet of sea-level rise by 2100. Now, estimates by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the worst-case might be eight feet by 2100, while former NASA scientist James Hansen argues that it could be 10 feet or more. The larger reality is, we’re moving into an era of unknown impacts, where it is impossible to say how fast our world will change, or how bad it will get. “We are dealing with an event that no human has ever witnessed,” Penn State scientist Richard Alley recently told me as we discussed the collapsing Antarctic ice sheets. “We have no analog for this.”

At the same time, we’ve allowed cities like Houston to become empires of denial. If you set out to design a metropolis that is poorly adapted to the future, you couldn’t do much better than Houston. Consider the rate at which it’s paved over the wetlands, nature’s sponges for absorbing water. Thirty percent of the surrounding coastal prairie wetlands was developed between 1992 and 2010, creating what amount to concrete catch basins that capture the water and funnel it toward destruction. In Houston, the bayou is just a place to drive your Lexus – this is a city that’s said to have 30 parking spots for every resident.

Houston proudly touts itself as “the City With No Limits,” playing up its Wild West heritage of endless land and opportunity. But it is also the largest U.S. city to have no zoning laws, meaning you can build whatever you want, wherever you want. While that makes developers happy, it’s not how you build a climate-resilient city. According to a Washington Post investigation, more than 7,000 residential buildings have been constructed in 100-year FEMA-designated flood plains since 2010. But given that FEMA’s flood maps haven’t been updated to reflect sea-level rise and other factors, the actual number of new buildings constructed in high-risk places is likely much larger. And this is true not just in Houston but in Miami, South Carolina and every other flood-prone region. Ten years ago, Houston officials banned development in areas with high risk of flooding. But developers sued, until the policy was weakened by the City Council. Government officials tried putting up flood gauges in low-lying areas to show how high the water could get during a hurricane, but pressure from real-estate agents got the signposts removed.

The feds bear some responsibility for the disaster-friendly design of Houston, too. Virtually all flood insurance in America is administered through the National Flood Insurance Program, which is supposed to prevent risky development by requiring better building standards and relocation of buildings that flood repeatedly. But since it was founded in 1968, the program has been contorted by developers, real-estate agents, and politicians lobbying for special treatment for their constituents. In places like Houston, the program helps enable development in high-risk areas by offering subsidized insurance rates that don’t reflect the real cost of living in flood-prone areas, as well as by offering repeat payouts for often-flooded homes. Even before Harvey, the program was already $25 billion in debt.

As always, it’s poor people and people of color who end up bearing most of the risk. “They not only have to deal with flooding in their homes, but pollution in water that’s contaminated when water floods refineries and plants,” Texas Southern University sociologist Robert Bullard told Huffington Post. “You’re talking about a perfect storm of pollution, environmental racism, and health risks that are probably not going to be measured and assessed until decades later. The fact is that laissez-faire, unrestrained capitalism and lack of zoning mean people with money can put protections up, and people without can’t.”

In moments like this, it’s always tempting to say that a disaster like Hurricane Harvey is a game-changer, that seeing the devastation and suffering this storm has wrought will help us think differently about the world we live in. In the past, big catastrophes have led to big changes. The fire on Ohio’s Cuyahoga River in the 1960s resulted in the Clean Water Act; after the spill of the Exxon Valdez, Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act. In a rational world, Harvey would lead to (among other things) passage of carbon legislation to reduce emissions, as well as a fundamental restructuring of the National Flood Insurance Program to quit subsidizing development in risky places.

Instead, we are likely to get a lot of rah-rah about rebuilding Houston bigger and better than before, some marginal improvements in building codes, and a lot of fighting in Congress over how much money to spend on recovery. President Trump will tout the heroics of the rescuers and the TV ratings of the storm – he is his own empire of denial. He not only pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate deal, but just weeks before Harvey hit, he rolled back common-sense requirements for flood protection in federal projects.

Beyond the post-storm platitudes, it’s not hard to foresee what is coming. There will be another hurricane – next time it might hit Charleston or Miami or Norfolk, and it will destroy buildings and highways built in harm’s way and it will again cause billions of dollars worth of damage. Eventually, taxpayers in Kansas will get tired of bailing out people who live on the coast, and disaster-relief funds will dry up. As seas rise, mortgage companies will stop writing 30-year loans for homes by the sea. Bond ratings for cities will fall. Coastal roads will be washed away. Airports will be flooded. And the great coastal retreat will begin.

The simple truth is, it’s not just Houston that’s done a poor job of thinking about the future — it’s all of us. We’ve spent 40 years denying the risks of climate change, thinking that if we can just get everyone to buy a Prius and recycle their plastic, everything will be OK. The message of Hurricane Harvey is that it will not be OK. We’re living in a new world now, and we better get ready. Mother Nature is coming for us.

The article is from Rolling Stone. You can read it and other allied pieces here. 

Favorite fake news photo. This purports to be Delta planes at a Houston airport. It’s not a testimony to Delta’s stupidity, but to Photoshop’s brilliance. Hint: buy Adobe.

DeltaPlanesinHouston

Beware of fake charities purporting to help Houston. The fake charities are all over the Internet, like this fake photo. Meantime, don’t go near the Red Cross. They’re not fake, but they sure spend too much of our money on their own salaries.

Finally a solution to mounting a smartphone in a car

maxboost

I have a drawer full of gadgetry to attach cell phones to cars. All junk. They don’t stick to your windshield. They fall out of your CD player. They break.

Except this one. It’s small. It slides nicely into your air vent and holds your phone with a powerful magnet. You get two of them for a bargain $7.99. Best present for you and the spouse. Two cars for under eight bucks. Click here.

Totally wonderful Saturday Night Live spoof on Amazon Echo for Seniors.

OLD’ IS WHEN…

Your sweetie says, ‘Let’s go upstairs and make love,’ and you answer, ‘Pick one; I can’t do both!’

‘OLD’ IS WHEN…
Your friends compliment you on your new alligator shoes and you’re barefoot.

‘OLD’ IS WHEN….
Going bra-less pulls all the wrinkles out of your face.

‘OLD’ IS WHEN….
You are cautioned to slow down by your doctor instead of by the police .

‘OLD’ IS WHEN..
‘Getting a little action’ means you don’t need to take a laxative today.

‘OLD’ IS WHEN……
‘Getting lucky’ means you find your car in the parking lot.

‘OLD’ IS WHEN…
An ‘all nighter’ means not getting up to use the bathroom.

‘OLD’ IS WHEN….
You’re not sure if these are facts or jokes.

HarryNewton
Harry Newton, who won at tennis this morning, despite it being 43 degrees. Cold. Tonight we’re having a frost. Our first.

I’m playing again tomorrow, Sunday and Monday.

The U.S. Tennis Open continues this weekend. Mostly on ESPN. DirecTV is doing a good job, sometimes broadcasting as many as six matches simultaneously.

Federer plays again tomorrow (Saturday) at 7 PM. It should be on ESPN. He may win the U.S. Open this year. Make sure you watch this great video of

Roger Federer – Greatest Backhands EVER!. 

Watch it full-screen. It’s awesome. Click here.

  • JimBobToo

    Harry, a couple thoughts for you on worst investments and Harvey:
    I thought, in 2009, that investing in Tungsten could not miss. It is a strategic military metal; the US and Russia had drawn down their stocks; and there was a paucity of North American sources. It couldn’t possibly go down: oops! Then commodities fell out of bed in that next year and they can’t get up. It hurt me but fortunately I didn’t go all in on that “sure thing”.
    With regard to Harvey and Climate change, one doesn’t need to get drawn into the “what caused it” argument. The simple fact is that overall atmospheric temps are rising. With that, there are lessening differences in temps between areas. Wind is caused by temp differences in adjacent regions. Hence, average precipitation events become slower moving so when a precipitation event happens, it tends to be more intense for a given location. Same with areas in a lack of precipitation: droughts will tend to be more intense. Ciao!

  • Scooter

    <<>>

    Harry, I’ve commented on this before. If you quoted her correctly, then this so-called climate scientist (above) doesn’t get it right. As more C02 is in the air, the amount of water vapor decreases to compensate. The eco system of the earth is a closed loop system and the temperature has been going up since the little ice age in the mid 1850’s, but mostly due to the increased activity in the Sun’s output peaking in the late 1950’s. What you don’t hear is that CO2 levels lag temperature. Yes you heard right. If you look at the raw data, which is hard to find since Michael Mann won’t release his raw data even under a court order, that you amd I paid for through our taxes. But the rise in temperature has only been in the tenth’s of a percent. This isn’t really unprecedented, what is unprecidented
    in the case of Harvey is that this time because of the wind currents the hurricane stalled, turned around and circled the area – hence the massive amount of rain. Warm water always comes up from the equator area depending on where the wind and ocean currents are. However, water vapor provides a cooling effect for us earth dwellers. It blocks the sun’s warming effect (recall the closed loop eco system) and expels the extra heat in the atmosphere and out into space via radiation. Water vapor is a green house gas by the way. So an increased in water temperature, relative to CO2 is a good thing that helps the earth maintain it’s temperature. Not all but most water vapor is in the form of clouds, which the climate scientists can’t simulate in their models that tell them we are all gonna die, is that clouds just can’t be modeled due to the other factors in the atmosphere that are so dynamic that before you input the data, it has already changed. This is one reason, that climate models do not work, in that they cannot predict even past temperature events. If anyone tells you that they can, to date they are lying, as there is absolutely no proof that an increase of CO2 will cause the earth to warm.

    Harry, if you post this stuff again about man made global warming, please put a caveat on it to say that it has yet to be proven. I am open to any questions you might want answered about this.

    Best,

    If you look at the history of hurricanes vs. time from the middle 1800’s to now, hurricane activity has dropped.

    • Lowell Rapaport

      whenever i read one of your posts, i never know if i should be annoyed or angry at your ignorance.

      the amount of water vapor in the air does not increase or decrease to compensate for the amount of CO2 in the air.

      from the bad meteorology website https://www.ems.psu.edu/~fraser/Bad/BadClouds.html

      [quote]The rate at which vapor molecules leave the surface depends upon the characteristics of the surface. The number escaping varies with:

      the phases involved — molecules can escape from liquid more readily than from the solid (ice);

      the shape of the boundary — molecules escape more readily from highly curved (small) drops or ice crystals (convex);

      the purity of the boundary — foreign substances dissolved in the liquid or ice diminish the number of water molecules which can escape;

      the temperature of the boundary — at higher temperatures the molecules have more energy and can more readily escape.[/quote]

      basically, the warmer the water, the more water vapor there will be. for a given set of air pressure and temperature conditions the amount of water in the air will be the same, even if the air is 100% CO2.

      so a warmer gulf of mexico will put more moisture in the air, period. the amount of CO2 is irrelevant, except in that more CO2 in the atmosphere will result in warmer temperatures overall.

      moreover, water vapor comprises about 0.25% of the atmosphere by mass (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Earth#Composition). carbon dioxide is just 0.04% (less then one sixth) by mass. so changes in the amount of CO2 are just not going to have very much effect on the amount of water vapor.

      • Scooter

        Lowell said, ///the amount of water vapor in the air does not increase or decrease to compensate for the amount of CO2 in the air.///

        My comment is from a paper by Miskolczi where he shows by actual data that this is how the atmosphere operates. I’ll explain what is happening if you will follow and basically start from zero to set the stage.

        Imagine rebooting the Earth from near absolute zero. Turn off the Sun and watch as the Earth cools to a series of concentric solid shells, arranged by condensation temperature. Starting from the bottom, we’ll see the current surface of rock and ice, a layer of frozen CO2, the frozen Ar, N2 and O2 of the atmosphere, and perhaps a dew of liquid He.

        If we then turn the Sun back on, at the current solar constant, the frozen surface of the Earth will absorb the incoming radiation and begin to liquefy the atmospheric gases.

        In the tropics, more heat will be absorbed than at the poles, so some of the liquid air will vaporize into gas, which will form a shallow atmosphere with a vapor pressure which drives the gas by convection toward the colder poles, where it condenses, spreading heat away from the equator by conduction and convection. As the temperature rises, the vapor pressure increases, as well as the density and height of the atmosphere. Eventually, all the liquid air will evaporate, and the atmosphere will be similar to today, except much colder, with CO2 and H2O still frozen solid. The dry lapse rate (decrease in temperature of ~10C/km) will be in effect, enforced by convection. Up to this point, no greenhouse effect has come into play, as radiation has been absorbed only by solids and liquids.

        The Earth is being heated by the Sun, and is emitting LWIR (long wave infrared) to space, but the net incoming energy is greater than that lost, so it continues to warm. Given the incoming solar energy, the effective emission temperature required for the Earth to be in balance is about 255K.

        When the temperature increases enough to start vaporizing CO2, the situation changes. CO2 absorbs some of the outbound energy (LWIR), converting it to heat in the atmosphere. CO2’s actual effect as a percentage of the atmosphere is much less due to the very narrow IR absorption band. As the CO2 accumulates, it absorbs still more heat, eventually absorbing nearly all the surface radiation in its 15u band, convecting the heat upwards until it can again “see” and radiate to space. This is indeed a positive feedback loop, since the cooler radiating temperature radiates less energy than was being radiated by the surface. More CO2 means a higher, colder radiating temperature, which means less LWIR radiated, which means warmer temperatures, which means more CO2…. That’s the “runaway greenhouse” effect we are being told by so called climate scientists will eventually happen if we ignore carbon credits, (not that anyone would make untold amounts of money trading them of course).

        So far, this is pretty standard, a presumably uncontroversial background, because
        the physics involved are easy to model and explain. When we start to evaporate water, the situation changes radically. Water has three major differences from CO2. First,
        it absorbs a wide band of LWIR, not just the relatively narrow 15u band of CO2. Second, it changes state easily in the climate system, carrying a large latent heat, while CO2 stays gaseous. Last but not least, there’s a LOT more of it.

        As the temperature increases, ice will start to sublime, the resulting WV will do broadband what the CO2 was doing narrowband, and the temperature increase will accelerate, raising the surface temperature to the 255K equilibrium point. But the
        radiation is not originating from the surface, because of the greenhouse effect. Thus the surface temperature continues to climb, in the “runaway” positive feedback mentioned above, now from both weak CO2 and strong H2O.

        When the surface temperature reaches 0C, the ice melts, we get oceans, and an excess of WV available for the runaway greenhouse. We’re obviously doomed.

        But wait! There’s more!
        The increasing WV begins to condense, rather than mixing throughout the atmosphere like CO2. It forms low altitude clouds, which reflect the incoming solar radiation, and efficiently radiate their latent heat to space from lower altitudes than CO2, increasing
        the outgoing, cooling, radiation. So more WV means more clouds, less surface heating, more cooling radiation, and strong negative feedback. This is why an increase in CO2 can cause water vapor to increase.

        From your reply: /// so a warmer gulf of mexico will put more moisture in the air, period. the amount of CO2 is irrelevant, except in that more CO2 in the
        atmosphere will result in warmer temperatures overall ///

        There’s no way for the Sun to heat the surface without increasing WV by evaporation, and there’s no way WV can increase without both increasing clouds and lowering the emission altitude. Clouds and WV put a lid on the surface temperature.
        There’s an essentially unlimited amount of water in the oceans, so if the climate were able to run away, it would have already done so. Instead, it stopped at about 30% cloud cover. If the surface temperature started to go up, the WV and cloud cover would increase to correct it, and vice versa. CO2 has very little to do with warming the surface temperature of the earth.

        We have about 60 years of radiosonde data. Since the data confirms this published theory, it seems to me the burden of proof is on the critics to come up with something more convincing than their inability to understand how the climate works.

        I realize this is late, but I’ve been busy and I got carried away thinking that without more background, the explanation would not be understood. I appreciate your effort, but climate science has been over-run by glory seekers, universities seeking grant money that flows so well as continued funding will happen if the outcome is what is desired.

        For instance, take the ongoing case against Michael Mann. Here is someone who has been shown to have cherry picked and manipulated data and refuses to release his raw data to the court system. One can only conclude that by releasing the data, the outcome will be worse for him than not. That data by the way, was obtained by tax payer expense through grants. If you research the “hockey stick” you will find that anyone who has studied statistics can see how the hockey stick was created out of the raw data that looks nothing like it. In fact there is a book on how extensive the statistical manipulation was to get to the end result. McIntyre is the author as I recall.

        Science has been corrupted by politics and greed as are other things these days. Be careful of using websites and IPCC data (Michael Mann) , while critiquing others but conveniently leave out critical information or they are ignorant of it. This subject has created so much false information that it is near impossible to sift through it and know what is true and what is not. A good background, starting from the basics is needed to sort it out. Unfortunately scientists who make up the “consensus” are only taking the work of the few to throw in their vote as it isn’t nice to be critical of a fellow scientist.

        References:
        https://friendsofscience.org/assets/documents/E&E_21_4_2010_08-miskolczi.pdf
        http://ruby.fgcu.edu/courses/twimberley/EnviroPhilo/Clear.pdf

      • Scooter

        <<>>

        It appears the name of the site fits it very well. Just enough information to get you on-board, but not enough that you understand the rest of the story: other wise you wouldn’t believe it. And these people are teaching?

  • bruuno

    Harry, Americans who are ideologically opposed to believing the science of global warming are a minority. From my point of view, a head in the sand minority.
    It will be difficult if not impossible to change their minds or enlighten them, at best we may be able to reach a small percentage of that group.
    Our best hope for salvation is not the thankless task of reaching the deniers.
    Our best hope is to institute in America something much of the rest of the civilized world has: majority rule.

    • Dman

      The definition of Man Made Climate Change: “If you believe in nothing, then you’ll believe in anything.”

      ……simple as that.

    • Scooter

      Bruno,

      I urge you to carefully read by response to Lowell on this subject.

      Scooter