Saturday, November 29, 2014

Crossfit!...a Challenger approaches!

As a follow up to my somewhat lengthy posting on the business prospects of Crossfit, it appears that yet another manifestation of that "brand" has appeared here in New Orleans.

Iron Tribe Fitness ("ITF") has opened with a "substantially similar" (read: identical) business model to Crossfit about 2 miles away from where I currently reside.  To date, this makes 4 Crossfit or Crossfit related gyms within 2 miles of my location.  This happened in 2 years.  And with respect to my previous post, ITF is right on time:  Imitating a successful (for now) business model with cosmetic changes and attempting to gain market share.

To be sure, there are differences between the two gyms (ITF: "we are cleaner but more expensive"), but those are very minor differentiating points between two businesses in a category that already appears saturated.  Put another way, making minor differentiations will not drive in more customers to the general category of branded fitness.  So its dog eat dog, and devil takes the hindmost.

Crossfit has to either innovate or die now.  This will likely take the form of being a pre-eminant training facility for very serious athletes in all strength and endurance sports, which is a fine niche.  Focusing energy on its competitors will guarantee disaster just as it has with every other business model  The customer does not care about validity claims (which is the "real" crossfit?), he or she cares about the experience.


The wolves are circling now.  I have written previously about Bitcoin and its terrible prospects as a true substitute to the unique monopoly enjoyed by the current cartel of fiat currency issuers.

Now we see all manner of assaults both from a variety of angles that will likely cause bitcoin to remain a fringe or curiosity item in the world's currency general store.

First off, the U.S. is auctioning several million bitcoins to the highest bidder.  These bitcoins were "seized"  from the raid on Silk Road, a provider of all things clandestine and/or contraband.  Suffice to say that the Greeks were far more subtle at the gates of Troy.

As if this action was not imposing enough, the currency itself may be obviated by technology.  If the below is true, the currency lacks any positive differentiator from the existing menue of global currencies and will be relegated to the dustbin of history straight away.  This is a great lesson in risk analysis, and a wonderful demonstration of how quickly a Sovereign reacts to internal threats on its existing monopolies.  From the following article:
 Cryptology and Security of the University of Luxembourg have shown that Bitcoin does not protect user's IP address and that it can be linked to the user's transactions in real-time. To find this out, a hacker would need only a few computers and about €1500 per month for server and traffic costs. Moreover, the popular anonymization network "Tor" can do little to guarantee Bitcoin user's anonymity, since it can be blocked easily."                                                                                                                            

Friday, November 21, 2014

Even Standard & Poors...

...which is the financial rating agency equivalent to sounds of police sirens at the end of an action movie after everyone but the protagonist and his love interest has been thinks something may be amiss in the middle kingdom.

"A new report from credit-rating group Standard & Poor’s is causing a firestorm in China’s media, with reports citing the analysis as saying half of all government debt in the country may deserve a speculative or “junk” rating.

The recent S&P’s note said 15 of 31 provincial governments in China have issued debt instruments that have “speculative-grade credit features” under its criteria. 

“A marked slowdown in economic growth and a sluggish property market” are weighing on the creditworthiness of Chinese provinces, the S&P report said."

Fuel to the fire.

When the CB lowers rates in order to make refinancing conditions more attractive to political cronies (read: keep them in business until a putative recovery takes form in global demand for Chinese goods presumably still sitting in massive wharehouse complexes).

And of course this follows the news that Chinese students in America have hit an all-time high.  This is more than exploring their options.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Press Credentials.

In light of the recent comments regarding the legislative process by Mr. Gruber of MIT, I propose the entire American public be issued press credentials.  Let officials be questioned by some of the more less fortunate Americans on issues...for hours...days perhaps.

I also propose that a case of whiskey (American bourbon or rye) be consumed in any governmental meeting (of non-defense personell) over 5 people.  Less than 5 people will require only 1 bottle.  This will cut down on unecessary personell padding consulting fees and will limit any serious discussion from said meetings.

The comments downplaying his involvement in crafting the bill are silly.  An organization does not pay a man over 6 million dollars in exchange for nothing.  Even our profligate administration would not do that...would they?  And if they did, what would that say about such an organization?

When an organization can spend Trillions, but does not have to provide the same in value, and does not need to "get money" from anywhere but across the street at the Treasury, what kind of "opoly" is that?

Polite conversation...

There is a good reason politics and religion are not discussed in polite coversation.  It is the tacit recognition that these sujbects illicit emotional responses rather than rational ones and the understanding that interlocutors in these discussions are basically mirroring their childhood conditioning.

It would be interesting to know if atheists are, on average, less politically inclined than true beleivers since the engine that drives both belief systems are generally the same - an understandable order based on some value set.  Both religion and politics are palliatives for the grind of reality.

This is of course why economics is so useful in polite conversation.  It can offer a somewhat "safe" proxy for more ingrained and cherished beliefs.  Economic camps are bad costumes that barely disguise more emotional arguments with a few theories and perhaps some quantification.  The foundation is the same - From Marx, to Adam Smith, to Keynes to Hayek, and to more modern economic theorists.  It starts with a value system.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Quote of the day...

...The monopoly price setter claims they do not set the price.

As a student of opacity in language the below quote from Mr. Ali al-Naimi is a gem, and when someone states "talk" has "no basis in reality", that kind of excess is an excellent indicator for deception.

Saudi Arabia's oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, yesterday broke months of silence to speak publicly about the Gulf nation's stance on the oil market. He dismissed claims that the country had triggered a "price war" to outcompete rival energy sources like US shale
"Talk of a price war is a sign of misunderstanding, deliberate or otherwise, and has no basis in reality," Mr Naimi said, according to Reuters. "We do not set the oil price. The market sets the prices."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book review of the year... the great Eric Falkenstein.


Piketty is a modern progressive, best defined as someone who thinks intellectuals should run everything as the vanguard of the people, which is why academics, journalists, and writers are predominantly progressive.  Hayek noted that scribes have always been egalitarian, probably always lamenting the fact that the idiots in power don't write nearly as well as them, and thus, are objectively less qualified but via some tragic flaw in the universe, end up in power. It forms the common reverse dominance hierarchy so common today, where obsequious, hypocritical yet articulate and confident leaders pander to the masses and rule via democracy, focusing their envious eyes on those who aren't interested in that game, such as those concerned with business, religion, or their own family.  As Piketty notes, "if we are to regain control of capitalism we must bet everything on democracy” (p. 573), he says from his inegalitarian and very undemocratic position at the Paris School of Economics.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Headline of the day...


Public speeches by leaders of State...

...are typically the repository of someone's polticial aspirations combined with empty promises and spiritual references to some amorphous cultural impetus that inevitably "wants" the speaker to continue his or her quest "for the people".

Vladimir Putin's speech at the recent Valdai conference was something else.

Once again he proves his bona fides as man who thinks history is watching him. (a luxury afforded to dicatorial states as there are no checks and/or balances to undermine his will)

He senses weakness in political will and continues to exploit this vacuum by providing a rational, open, caring, and eminently civilized voice of international cooperation.  An interesting tact.  But let us not avert our eyes from his goal, which is of course a neo Russian empire.

The speech itself and exerpts.

At the same time, the formation of a so-called polycentric world (I would also like to draw attention to this, colleagues) in and of itself does not improve stability; in fact, it is more likely to be the opposite. The goal of reaching global equilibrium is turning into a fairly difficult puzzle, an equation with many unknowns.
So, what is in store for us if we choose not to live by the rules – even if they may be strict and inconvenient – but rather live without any rules at all? And that scenario is entirely possible; we cannot rule it out, given the tensions in the global situation. Many predictions can already be made, taking into account current trends, and unfortunately, they are not optimistic. If we do not create a clear system of mutual commitments and agreements, if we do not build the mechanisms for managing and resolving crisis situations, the symptoms of global anarchy will inevitably grow.

Today, we already see a sharp increase in the likelihood of a whole set of violent conflicts with either direct or indirect participation by the world’s major powers. And the risk factors include not just traditional multinational conflicts, but also the internal instability in separate states, especially when we talk about nations located at the intersections of major states’ geopolitical interests, or on the border of cultural, historical, and economic civilizational continents.