And... We're back. Did you miss me? Of course not, because we posted a few things while we were supposed to be off. The family and I went to the Grand Canyon, and stopped at every tourist trap along the way. Then we went and stayed a week in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Grand Canyon: Indescribable in its enormity. Pictures cannot fully capture how deep, how wide, and just how beautiful this part of the Earth is. We took the train in and only spent a few hours, but I want to go back some day and do the mule ride to the bottom. How a person could behold something like this, and still insist that the Earth is an infant 10,000 years old is beyond me. They have rocks there about 1.8 billion years old. The tiniest spec, the size of a pixel in the full image, could be a building at the bottom of the canyon. But more about my trip later. Here are today's links:
This article in Wired Magazine goes into a lot of detail on how the professional gamblers on Wall Street use computers and high-speed networks to make money off your trades:
"High-frequency trading raises an existential question for capitalism, one that most traders try to avoid confronting: Why do we have stock markets? To promote business investment, is the textbook answer, by assuring investors that they can always sell their shares at a published price—the guarantee of liquidity. From 1792 until 2006, the New York Stock Exchange was a nonprofit quasi utility owned by its members, the brokers who traded there. Today it is an arm of NYSE Euronext, whose own profits and stock price depend on getting high-frequency traders in the door. Trading increasingly is an end in itself, operating at a remove from the goods-and-services-producing part of the economy and taking a growing share of GDP—twice what it did a century ago, when Wall Street was financing the enormous industrial expansion of the economy. “This is counterintuitive, to say the least,” wrote New York University economist Thomas Philippon in an article for the Russell Sage Foundation. “How is it possible for today’s finance industry not to be significantly more efficient than the finance industry of John Pierpont Morgan?”
At a press briefing a few months ago, Mary Schapiro, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said she was concerned about the volume of trading “unrelated to the fundamentals of the company that’s being traded.” Proposals have been floated for ways to rein it all in, such as penalizing traders for canceling too many orders. Most of them are stranded in the proposal stage. “Circuit breakers” arrest a spiraling market, but right now high-frequency trading is essentially unregulated. (The SEC now says it will at last audit microsecond-scale trading—by buying access to Tradeworx’s data.)"
I think we need to institute a penny-per-share tax on each trade, and a 75% tax penalty on all capital gains made on equity securities held less than 30 days. That would keep plenty of liquidity, while ridding the financial market of these parasites who siphon off the value that real investors like you and me should be earning on our stocks. These gamblers add nothing to the system, and liquidity would be just fine without them. People might actually start looking to the market to actually invest in companies that do things and sell things, and we might even get some hiring going on and get our economy back. Yes, I damned well do blame Wall Street.
The idea of letting Texas cities levy a gas tax to pay for roads has been floated. I think the State of Texas needs to raise the tax per gallon, and index it to both inflation and average MPG, so that we will always have enough money available to pay for maintenance and improvements of our highway infrastructure. You can pay now in the form of increased taxes, or you can pay later with wear and tear on your car, and danger to yourself and your family. I'd rather pay now.
"Obamacare" is meant to be an epithet, but whatever you call it, the changes are for the better. Here's a summary of what to expect in the coming months and years. (Tell me which part of this you want to repeal.)
Are you prepared for the zombie apocalypse? This guy is trying to be:
Here's the latest update. A highway had to be closed nearby because gas pipelines running beneath it and near the sinkhole had to be depressurized. A 36" pipeline was bending. That could have been a major disaster.