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Hedge funds are a scam

Hedge funds and Kate Upton: You're going to lose money.
Josh Brown has a great post on the timeless theme of how hegde funds underperform more normal asset classes that I liked largely for this evocative analogy about why you're not going to make any money in hedge funds even though someone certainly will: Unfortunately, investors have plowed over $2 trillion dollars into the hedge fund complex under the misguided assumption that they'd be able to deliver alpha and absolute returns to juice performance. In actual fact, so-called "alternatives" have done the opposite for the vast majority of their investors. And before you say "But what about what's his name?", bear in mind that the rare few hedge funds that have consistently posted great returns would never in a million years take money from you. And the odds of you identifying an emerging manager from the ground floor who becomes Paul Tudor Jones are about the same as you making out with Kate Upton in an outdoor shower on a Tahitian beach. There are amazing and talented fund managers out there - but even the fund of funds industry has been proven ineffective in terms of being able to sort them out from the rest. To understand this a bit more formally, the issue isn't that "nobody" can beat the market it's that if you could beat the market you'd be in a position to charge handsome fees for your trouble. And at any given time, some fraction of the people who appear to be able to beat the market are in fact just going to be people who made some lucky calls. But those people will be able to charge fees too. So in fee-adjusted terms, you get a negative valuation. The fact that a lot of the money available for investment in hedge funds comes from things like pensions where the guy deciding who to invest with isn't even investing his own money only makes the field more open for ripoffs.

April 19, 2013

Exploding Texas fertilizer plant hadn't been inspected in five years, wouldn't have been inspected for another 65

Unsafe workplaces kill an average of 4,500 Americans every year. Far, far more than terrorists do. And yet we spend huge amounts of time and energy fighting terrorism and cut money from the budget dedicated to keeping workers safe. Priorities. Fertilizer Plant That Started Texas Explosion Hadn't Been Inspected
It’s impossible to know at this point whether unsafe workplace conditions were a direct cause of this disaster, but we do know that it was cited for failing to obtain or qualify for a permit in 2006 after a complaint of a strong ammonia smell, a smell that was reported to be “very bad last night.” The plant hasn’t been inspected in the past five years, and in fact only six Texas fertilizer plants were inspected in that time. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is chronically understaffed, which means that a given plant like West Fertilizer can only expect to get a state inspection once every 67 years on average. With this kind of neglect, worker safety is in serious condition. More than 4,500 people were killed at work in 2010, up three percent from the previous year, meaning that more American workers died on the job in one year than died during the entire Iraq war. This doesn’t even count the others who might suffer from dangerous workplace conditions like those residents of West injured in the blast who didn’t work at the plant. While OSHA has been a good deal more effective than it was during the Bush years, it still suffers from a lack of funding and staff. Worse, it’s slated to take a huge cut under the sequester. The agency will have to cut its $564.8 million budget by 8.2 percent, which the White House predicted would mean 1,200 fewer workplace inspections. And it would be even more hobbled if House Republicans get their way. The party’s 2011 budget, which was little changed in the most recent iteration, sought to reduce OSHA’s budget by $99 million while slashing other workplace protection agencies.