Sentence That Restores My Faith In “The Public”

From today’s Wall Street Journal.

Investors pulled $12.7 billion from actively managed U.S. stock funds in 2014 through November, and put $244 billion into passive index funds from Vanguard and others, according to Morningstar.

Related factoid:

Vanguard is undercutting many rivals on fees. Investors pay 18 cents for every hundred dollars they invest with Vanguard, compared with $1.24 for the average actively managed mutual fund, Morningstar said. The company also is beating its passive rivals, which charge an average of 77 cents for every hundred dollars.

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Bet You Can’t Read This and Still Believe There’s “Justice For All”

From the LA Times. Knives, Death, a Famous Name.

Odd isn’t it that in the U.S. we require schoolchildren to say a Pledge of Allegiance, but we don’t help them think through its contents to decide if in fact they believe some or all of what they mindlessly word. If we’re going to continue that practice, maybe we should update it so that it ends “and justice for well-to-do families with lots of social capital”.

Some day I hope to live in a country where Fred, Kathy, and Brigida Santos are equal to Fabian Nunez, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Antonio Villaraigosa.

Of Coupon Codes and Meaning in Life

Karl Marx believed history was shaped by an overarching dialectic—an enduring conflict between the bourgeoisie who owned the means of production and the proletariat who were stuck selling their labor to the capitalist class. I have my own overarching dialectic that I believe shapes family life, religious communities, municipalities, and even nation-states—an enduring conflict between our material and spiritual selves.

In the simplest terms, it’s a battle between our preoccupation with consumer goods that make our lives more convenient and comfortable versus prioritizing family, friends, those in need, and the ethical stewardship our finite natural resources.

My material self routinely gets the better of my spiritual self. I spend too much time shopping online and I recently I purchased an iPhone 6+ and a new car. But I suspect I’m different than a lot of consumers because I’m keenly aware of the battle that rages inside me. I also live well below my means and know my phone and car, as nice as they are, can’t hold a candle to the joy and meaning my wife, family, friends, students, and writing provide.

How ironic that this time of year is marked by numerous sacred religious traditions and we’re more susceptible than ever to mindless materialism. Consumerism trumps contemplation. This manifests itself in many ways, stampeding store customers have to be the most jarring (the increased popularity of online shopping appears to be dampening that phenomenon).

This weekend in Seattle, The Gap and a few other stores were having a “50% off everything in the store” sale. Which got me thinking about a grand experiment in which all of downtown Seattle businesses had simultaneous “100% off everything in the store” sales. Their motto might be, “This stuff was really ill-conceived and is poorly made, ugly, and of no real use, so please, please take it off our hands.” Tens of thousands would jump in their cars and speed downtown, park haphazardly, and run towards the stores with eyes ablaze.

Free man, free! Nevermind that they’d have no real need for the stuff falling out of their overfilled shopping carts. Free man! Nevermind that they wouldn’t have enough room in their dresser drawers, closets, or garages for the stuff. Free! Nevermind that the stuff wouldn’t fill those empty spaces in their lives created by superficial or strained relationships with others.

My spiritual self has convinced my material self to sit out the mania this December. Join me. Help me tilt the balance from the material to the spiritual.

Paragraph to Ponder

Imagine two well-off households, each with $100,000 in the stock market in 2007. A family that sold in 2009 after losing half its portfolio’s value may now have $50,000 in a savings account. A family that held on would now have about $130,000 in stocks. The inequality has yawned merely because of the investing decisions. In the long run, those savings accounts have a vanishingly small chance of outperforming stocks.

From Bad Stock Market Timing Fueled Wealth Disparity

Reader Beware

From today’s inbox.

Hi Ron,

We are interested in sending over a quality and relevant article to your site (pressingpause.com) as a contribution. Is this something you might consider? If yes, please email me back and I’ll be happy to send over the article for your review asap.

Note that the copy will include a few references to our client. We’ll also pay you $100 per post through PayPal, for your time and effort. I look forward to hearing from you, Ron.

Have a good day!

[name]
Marketing Manager
[email address]
http://www.letsgetwise.com

You’re probably hip to product placement in television and film, but what about in on-line and traditional print? When reading, do you ever ask, “What am I being sold?” If not, it’s time to start.

Please help me refine my reply to Ms. Marketing Manager. Here’s what I have so far.

Dear Ms. Marketing Manager,

Hell no.

Sincerely,

Ronald S. Byrnes

The Parable of the Clueless Professor

Tacoma, Washington, Thursday morn, Administration Room 213. A few minutes before the first year writing seminar begins.

McKall, who started the semester with a ton of extra credit because she has a great name and personality; and she’s from Boise, Idaho, my birthplace; asks whether I like my new phone.

That’s right, last week an iPhone 6+ bounced from China; to Louisville, Kentucky; to my front door. And sure enough, the box had my name on it. That means I have to find some other way to distinguish myself from the masses.

Students smiled when I told them my daughter made fun of me for texting with one finger. “You can use both thumbs,” she said. I tell my students I like it. Too big? Be serious. I can palm a basketball and my frame of reference is my iPad. I love how compact my new pocket computer is. They also got a kick out of my temporary case, a wool sock.

Alex is to the left of me. “And you have a Garmin watch too.”

Alex started the semester with even more extra credit than McKall because she’s from California, she’s on the cross country team, and she’s a first generation college student who came to office hours last week. Her parents are from Mexico and have sacrificed mightily to provide her a better life. She hit her head on something while lifting weights right before classes began. She refuses to use her serious concussion “as an excuse” and may be too tough for her own good since she’s pushing harder than her doctors probably realize.

“Yeah, but it’s the cheapest Garmin they make, they go from $150-$450,” said the clueless professor. Alex’s audible exhale conveyed disgust. Understandably. To her that might be textbooks for a year. Statistics tell us most first generation college students drop out at some point because they can’t afford to continue. Out of touch professors can’t help.

Inadvertently losing touch with low income people is one inevitable consequence of wealth that’s rarely talked about. When I was Alex’s age, one of my college roommates and I became friends. That is until he learned my parents were paying my tuition. He was busting his hump to pay his way and he resented my privilege. Our friendship was never the same.

Should I have declined my parents’ generosity for the sake of my roommate’s friendship? Should I not wear my Garmin watch to class? Of course not, but I should be sensitive to other people’s circumstances. Thursday, a few minutes before class began, I wasn’t.

Paragraphs to Ponder

Can’t get enough of the Pimco soap opera:

“Sources also told the Journal that Gross referred to himself as “Secretariat,” the legendary racehorse. The article also said that Gross doesn’t like his traders making eye contact or speaking with him.”

Make like Gross and peruse the following list of Derby winners back to my birth year and choose a new name to use at your workplace. I’m torn between Charismatic, Majestic Prince, and Decidedly.

Kentucky Derby winners
Year Winner Jockey Trainer Owner Time*
2014 California Chrome Victor Espinoza Art Sherman Steve Coburn & Perry Martin 2:03.66
2013 Orb Joel Rosario Claude McGaughey III Stuart S. Janney III & Phipps Stable 2:02.89
2012 I’ll Have Another Mario Gutierrez Doug O’Neill J. Paul Reddam 2:01.83
2011 Animal Kingdom John Velazquez H. Graham Motion Team Valor 2:02.04
2010 Super Saver Calvin Borel Todd Pletcher WinStar Farm 2:04.45
2009 Mine That Bird Calvin Borel Bennie L. Woolley, Jr. Double Eagle Ranch et al. 2:02.66
2008 Big Brown Kent Desormeaux Richard E. Dutrow, Jr. IEAH Stables / P. Pompa 2:01.82
2007 Street Sense Calvin Borel Carl Nafzger James B. Tafel 2:02.17
2006 Barbaro Edgar Prado Michael R. Matz Lael Stables 2:01.36
2005 Giacomo Mike E. Smith John Shirreffs Jerry & Ann Moss 2:02.75
2004 Smarty Jones Stewart Elliott John Servis Someday Farm 2:04.06
2003 Funny Cide Jose Santos Barclay Tagg Sackatoga Stable 2:01.19
2002 War Emblem Victor Espinoza Bob Baffert Thoroughbred Corp. 2:01.13
2001 Monarchos Jorge F. Chavez John T. Ward, Jr. John C. Oxley 1:59.97
2000 Fusaichi Pegasus Kent Desormeaux Neil Drysdale Fusao Sekiguchi 2:01.00
1999 Charismatic Chris Antley D. Wayne Lukas Bob & Beverly Lewis 2:03.20
1998 Real Quiet Kent Desormeaux Bob Baffert Michael E. Pegram 2:02.20
1997 Silver Charm Gary Stevens Bob Baffert Bob & Beverly Lewis 2:02.40
1996 Grindstone Jerry Bailey D. Wayne Lukas Overbrook Farm 2:01.00
1995 Thunder Gulch Gary Stevens D. Wayne Lukas Michael Tabor 2:01.20
1994 Go for Gin Chris McCarron Nick Zito Condren & Cornacchia 2:03.60
1993 Sea Hero Jerry Bailey MacKenzie Miller Rokeby Stables 2:02.40
1992 Lil E. Tee Pat Day Lynn S. Whiting W. Cal Partee 2:03.00
1991 Strike the Gold Chris Antley Nick Zito BCC Stable 2:03.00
1990 Unbridled Craig Perret Carl Nafzger Frances A. Genter 2:02.00
1989 Sunday Silence Pat Valenzuela Charlie Whittingham H-G-W Partners 2:05.00
1988 Winning Colors Gary Stevens D. Wayne Lukas Eugene V. Klein 2:02.20
1987 Alysheba Chris McCarron Jack Van Berg D. & P. Scharbauer 2:03.40
1986 Ferdinand Bill Shoemaker Charlie Whittingham Elizabeth A. Keck 2:02.80
1985 Spend A Buck Angel Cordero, Jr. Cam Gambolati Dennis Diaz 2:00.20
1984 Swale Laffit Pincay, Jr. Woody Stephens Claiborne Farm 2:02.40
1983 Sunny’s Halo Eddie Delahoussaye David C. Cross, Jr. D. J. Foster Stable 2:02.20
1982 Gato Del Sol Eddie Delahoussaye Edwin J. Gregson Hancock & Peters 2:02.40
1981 Pleasant Colony Jorge Velasquez John P. Campo Buckland Farm 2:02.00
1980 Genuine Risk Jacinto Vasquez LeRoy Jolley Diana M. Firestone 2:02.00
1979 Spectacular Bid Ronnie Franklin Bud Delp Hawksworth Farm 2:02.40
1978 Affirmed Steve Cauthen Laz Barrera Harbor View Farm 2:01.20
1977 Seattle Slew Jean Cruguet William H. Turner, Jr. Karen L. Taylor 2:02.20
1976 Bold Forbes Angel Cordero, Jr. Laz Barrera E. Rodriguez Tizol 2:01.60
1975 Foolish Pleasure Jacinto Vasquez LeRoy Jolley John L. Greer 2:02.00
1974 Cannonade Angel Cordero, Jr. Woody Stephens John M. Olin 2:04.00
1973 Secretariat Ron Turcotte Lucien Laurin Meadow Stable 1:59.40
1972 Riva Ridge Ron Turcotte Lucien Laurin Meadow Stud 2:01.80
1971 Canonero II Gustavo Avila Juan Arias Edgar Caibett 2:03.20
1970 Dust Commander Mike Manganello Don Combs Robert E. Lehmann 2:03.40
1969 Majestic Prince Bill Hartack Johnny Longden Frank M. McMahon 2:01.80
1968* Forward Pass Ismael Valenzuela Henry Forrest Calumet Farm 2:02.20
1967 Proud Clarion Bobby Ussery Loyd Gentry, Jr. Darby Dan Farm 2:00.60
1966 Kauai King Don Brumfield Henry Forrest Ford Stable 2:02.00
1965 Lucky Debonair Bill Shoemaker Frank Catrone Ada L. Rice 2:01.20
1964 Northern Dancer Bill Hartack Horatio Luro Windfields Farm 2:00.00
1963 Chateaugay Braulio Baeza James P. Conway Darby Dan Farm 2:01.80
1962 Decidedly Bill Hartack Horatio Luro El Peco Ranch 2:00.40