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The Digest #108
Russia's Heavy Losses, Economic Warfare, Networked Learning, Daylight Savings Time, Roger Lowenstein, Microcap Investing
“One of the things I do is look at every merger announcement. What a merger tells you is what businessmen are willing to pay for a business. I think it’s the best indication of value… The first question I ask is why? The second question is: does it make sense? These are the simple basic things you do, and we continue to do when there are merger announcements.”
Why Russia is Losing: Gen. David Petraeus on the War in Ukraine by Jonathan Tepperman, March 23, 2022. Tomorrow marks one month since Russia invaded Ukraine. Gen. Petraeus analyzes the situation in this interview. “It’s always hard to tell when an enemy is about to crack. If Russia’s reported losses of troops, weapons systems, and vehicles are not wildly inflated, however, there may already be a number of Russian units that are combat ineffective, and there have to be others on the edge of becoming ineffective. That points to challenges overall in the weeks ahead, particularly for those Russian units under pressure, such as those around Kyiv and Kharkiv.” (The Octavian Report)
A Brief History Of Economic Warfare by Jamie Catherwood, March 20, 2022. “As money became more influential in dictating the outcome of military conflicts, warring nations quickly devised strategies for weaponizing money. An early example of this is found in Revolutionary War, when Britain attacked America’s paper currency (“continentals”) by flooding the market with counterfeit bills. The objective was to destroy this paper currency’s value by causing inflation due to an oversupply of bills.” (Investor Amnesia)
Russia in Ukraine: Let Loose the Dogs of War by Aswath Damodaran, March 19, 2022. “As the world's attention is focused on the war in the Ukraine, it is the human toll, in death and injury, that should get our immediate attention, and you may find a focus on economics and markets to be callous. However, I am not a political expert, with solutions to offer that will bring the violence to an end, and I don't think that you have come here to read about my views on humanity. Consequently, I will concentrate this post on how this crisis is playing out in markets, and the effects it has had, so far, on businesses and investments, and whether these effects are likely to be transient or permanent.” (Musings on Markets)
When the Optimists are Too Pessimistic by Nick Maggiulli, March 22, 2022. This article argues that people are sometimes not optimistic enough because they default to thinking in linear terms and ignore the effects of compounding. “But if you can fight back against your default way of thinking, you might see things a bit differently. This is probably why I’ve become increasingly bullish on our future. Because I’m finally beginning to understand compounding. More importantly, I’m seeing it play out in my real life as well. I’m experiencing things that I only used to write about.” (Of Dollars and Data)
The New Way to Learn by Sahil Bloom, March 23, 2022. This article argues that traditional approaches to education are no longer effective primarily because they encourage compartmentalization of knowledge and encourage a forced, linear progression as students advance through the system. Essentially, the concept of networked learning that the author advocates is similar to what Charlie Munger has long described as multidisciplinary lifelong learning. (The Curiosity Chronicle)
Michael F. Price, a Pugnacious Value Investor, Has Died at Age 70 by James Hagerty, March 18, 2022. In an interview in the 1997 book “Investment Gurus” by Peter J. Tanous, Mr. Price also recalled spending a summer observing a group of traders specializing in takeover stocks. “If these guys can sit on their butts and make a lot of money by reading various things,” he concluded, “there’s something to this.” (WSJ)
CEOs Need to Bring Investors Along for the Ride by Jason Zweig, May 2, 2009. In this article written over a dozen years ago, Jason Zweig discusses the management culture at Alleghany Corporation. Berkshire Hathaway agreed to acquire Alleghany for $11.6 billion in cash earlier this week. (WSJ)
Should We Make Daylight Saving Time Permanent? by Randyn Charles Bartholomew, March 17, 2022. By unanimous consent, the United States Senate recently passed legislation to make daylight “savings” time permanent. However, there is a good case to be made to make standard time permanent instead. Hopefully the issue is more fully debated in the House of Representatives. (Scientific American)
Delancey Place Book Excerpt Archive. I recently heard about Delancey Place while listening to a podcast episode of Grant’s Current Yield. Delancey Place is a free newsletter that is published every weekday. Each issue features a short excerpt from a book that can be read in just a few minutes. I’ve already added a few of the books to my Amazon queue for future consideration. (DelanceyPlace.com)
A Century of Wealth Creation with Weston Hicks, CEO of Alleghany Corporation, August 10, 2021. This is an interesting interview of Alleghany Corporation’s longtime CEO, Weston Hicks, who retired at the end of 2021. As Warren Buffett said in the press release announcing Berkshire’s offer to acquire the company, Alleghany has a number of characteristics that seem similar to Berkshire. (Compounders)
How Ukraine Is Rebalancing Global Power, March 19, 2022. Vitaliy Katsenelson is a name familiar to most value investors. His background growing up in the Soviet Union before emigrating to the United States in 1991 puts him in a unique position to comment on the cultural ties between Ukraine and Russia and the mindset that led to the current conflict. He recently published a three-part series on the war that I highly recommend as well: (part 1, part 2, and part 3) (Full Disclosure)
Roger Lowenstein on Ways and Means: Lincoln and His Cabinet and the Financing of the Civil War, March 20, 2022. Phil Ordway interviews Roger Lowenstein about his new book exploring how the Union and Confederacy financed the Civil War. Lowenstein is well known in the investing community for his groundbreaking 1995 biography of Warren Buffett. (This Week in Intelligent Investing)
The Big World of Microcaps with Ian Cassel, March 17, 2022. “Trey Lockerbie speaks with microcap expert Ian Cassel. Ian has been investing in microcaps for over 20 years and is a Co-Founder of the popular site MicroCapClub. He’s the author of two amazing books on Intelligent Fanatics – a phrase coined by Charlie Munger. And he’s now the CIO of Intelligent Fanatics Capital Management.” Related book review on The Rational Walk: Intelligent Fanatics Project: How Great Leaders Build Sustainable Businesses (The Investor’s Podcast)
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