The problems date to 1995, when Mayor Richard Daley, eager to avoid another strike, like the one that emptied schools for 19 days in 1987, took over control of the school district. To give him wiggle room, the state legislature passed a law allowing the city to pay just part of its pension obligation. Chicago took that windfall and increased teacher salaries, which in turn increased pension obligations. From 2002 to 2011, the district’s yearly expenses increased by 41%, while total enrollment fell by about 8%. — http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443890304578006800843169278.html
Wrecks, Inc. (Taken with Instagram)
Rolling Thunder (Taken with Instagram)
I had a great weekend - Lindsey and I came across Bob the Bubble Man in Lincoln Park on Saturday morning, and I got some decent photos of the kids running around and chasing bubbles. I also got a couple in the face - luckily my camera protected me. On Saturday night I confessed to Lindsey that despite taking some nice shots on our recent trip to Europe, I was unhappy with my photography. Lots of missed shots, technical missteps, and a failure to step back and develop a message. After some thinking however, I’ve realized that I’m trying to do a lot of things at once: I’ve started experimenting with off-camera flash, and in order to get myself to study light more I’ve started shooting all-manual for the first time in a few years. Simultaneously, I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself to develop artistically and communicate through my photos. This is a lot of mental bandwidth, and I think I need to be more organized in my approach!
On Sunday I attended a photography class with Levi Sim, and it was great for a lot of reasons. I learned how to use a reflector, which is technically not that challenging but can produce very rewarding results. More than anything though, it was an opportunity to commiserate with other photographers and realize I’m not alone in these challenges. I also had the opportunity to sit in a session with Scott Bourne, who is a fantastic presenter. Scott left me with a great question that I want to consider over the next few days: why do I take photos? I’m about 15,000 images deep at this point in my life, so now would be a good time to figure that out.
Seems official (Taken with Instagram)
In a recent Bloomberg column, Chicago Booth professor Luigi Zingales proposes that business schools teach a more robust set of ethics. This sentiment has been mirrored by Felix Salmon, Matt Yglesias and several other prominent bloggers. I recently graduated from the Kellogg School of Management, and was both a participant in a values-based leadership (read: ethics) class and the student leader responsible for investigating violations of the school’s Honor Code during my time there.
Zingales fails to address a key point by considering the impact of globalization on the study of ethics in business. Kellogg, like many other top business school, has a global footprint - 36% of my class held non-U.S. citizenship. These students come from many different cultures, and share many different value systems. And thus it is highly unlikely that they will share, hew to, or find themselves working in, a system of universal ethics. In my own experience at Kellogg, a disproportionate number of ethics investigations involved students from non-Western value systems, which suggests to me that these lapses stemmed as much from misunderstanding or misalignment as they did willful and deliberate violations of the rules.
Unless business schools are prepared to take a stand and insist on Western values as the “right” system, it will be tremendously challenging to extract a set of universal ethics and teach them coherently. This is not to say that we shouldn’t expect the very highest ethical and moral values from our leaders, but that the modern geopolitical and business climate is rife with very real disagreements about what is right and what is wrong.
At the very least, it seems that business schools could provide students with frameworks for making decisions based on their own values. This is more or less exactly what students at Kellogg learned to do in the values-based leadership course, and exactly what Zingales is critical of when he speaks about courses that illustrate various ethical situations, and don’t instruct students on how to act. While this has a certain appeal in obvious cases (Zingales mentions the LIBOR rate-fixing scandal), as we all know there are many, many cases in life that don’t have obvious right and wrong answers even under a shared set of values. When teaching in a global business school environment, this discussion becomes infinitely more complex.
While I disagree somewhat with the approach Zingales suggests, I do believe there is an interesting opportunity to educate global business leaders not only on how to think about ethical decisions, but how their decisions will be perceived in cultures around the world. Given the global makeup of the classroom, this could be a tremendously insightful conversation for everyone in the room. Fostering this conversation, I believe, is the real challenge that faces business schools in the 21st century.
Beginning in June of 2008, I set out to invest money in portfolio of value stocks that I would pick myself. I got started with Joel Greenblatt’s The Little Book That Beats The Market, moved on to The Intelligent Investor and Security Analysis… and then got my hands dirty. I set up a portfolio called JEM (the name is a historical artifact I won’t get into here) and began investing.
Almost from the beginning, I outperformed the market significantly. At the end of April of this year, I outperformed the fund’s benchmarks (the Russell 3000 and the S&P 500) by 20% on a cumulative basis since inception. I was feeling good. May and June of this year were terribly unkind, and I gave back nearly every dollar of outperformance. This has led me to some introspection - was my underperformance a function of changes in the portfolio? Market shifts? Or other factors (explainable or not)?
Here are some brief thoughts on the portfolio’s performance at its four-year anniversary.
Please note that JEM is not currently open to new investors, and this does represent a solicitation of any kind. Individuals curious about my investing style, portfolio calculations, or just friendly banter can contact me by e-mail at jmatthewhouse at gmail.com or on Twitter at @jmatthewhouse.
Where is the train? (Taken with Instagram at CTA - Rosemont)
The Americans for Tax Reform pledge is completely ludicrous in my view, because it effectively locks the entire Republican Party into the status quo. The fact that House Republicans are meeting with Norquist today for an interpretation of the pledge is telling - no one knows what the pledge means. Five minutes of Googling could not turn up the actual text of the pledge. All I was able to find was the following:
The Taxpayer Protection Pledge
ATR asks every candidate for elected office on the state and federal level to make a written commitment to their constituents to “oppose and vote against tax increases.”
Let’s consider a world of three people. One person pays all of the taxes ($3). Now Congress decides to broaden the base, and have all three people contribute to tax revenues ($1 each). Two people now have suffered tax increases, and can run screaming to their representatives that they have violated the pledge, despite the fact this move was revenue neutral. This is the insanity of the ATR pledge.
Tax systems in complex, modern economies are complicated. To have politicians hewing to an oversimplified, nonsense pledge in the middle of a fiscal crisis is beyond ridiculous.
Morning Fog (Taken with Instagram)