The art of the con - lessons from the Cazique, or prince, of the land of Poyais

The conman who pulled off history’s most audacious scam


Con artists have long recognised that persuasion must appeal to two very particular aspects of human motivation – the drive that will get people to do something, and the inertia that prevents them from wanting to do it. In 2003, two social psychologists, Eric Knowles at the University of Arkansas and Jay Linn at Widener University, formalised this idea by naming two types of persuasive tactics.

The first, alpha, was far more frequent: increasing the appeal of something. The second, omega, decreased the resistance surrounding something. In the one, you do what you can to make your proposition, whatever it may be, more attractive. You rev up the backstory – why this is such a wonderful opportunity, why you are the perfect person to do it, how much everyone will gain, and the like. In the other, you make a request or offer seem so easy as to be a no-brainer – why wouldn’t I do this? What do I have to lose?

They called the juxtaposition the approach-avoidance model of persuasion: you can convince me of something by making me want to approach it and decreasing any reasons I might have to avoid it. According to Columbia University psychologist Tory Higgins, people are usually more likely to be swayed by one or other of the two motivational lines: some people are promotion-focused (they think of possible positive gains), and some, prevention-focused (they focus on losses and avoiding mistakes). An approach that unites the alpha with the omega appeals to both mindsets, however, giving it universal appeal – and it is easy to see how MacGregor’s proposition offered this potent combination.

He published interviews in national papers, for instance, touting the perks that would come from investing or settling in Poyais. He highlighted the bravery and fortitude that such a gesture would demonstrate: you wouldn’t just be smart; you would be a real man. The Scottish Highlanders were known for their hardiness and adventurous spirit, he wrote; Poyais would be the ultimate testing ground, a challenge and gift, all in one. He pointed those who needed more convincing to a book on the virtues of the small island nation, by the elusive Thomas Strangeways (actually MacGregor himself). His prospectuses enticed the public with their masterful promises, their lure of opportunity, their appeal to scarcity, their admonitions not to let this perfect moment pass by.

..... Psychologist Robert Cialdini, one of the leading experts on persuasion, argues that six principles govern most persuasive relationships:
  1. reciprocity (I rub your back, you rub mine)
  2. consistency (I believe the same thing today as I did yesterday)
  3. social validation (doing this will make me belong)
  4. friendship or liking (exactly what it sounds like)
  5. scarcity (quick! there isn’t much to go around)
  6. authority (you seem like you know what you’re talking about). Consider how many of those MacGregor used instinctively.

  1. Reciprocity: you invest with me, and I give you the opportunity of a lifetime – a life so wonderful that no one else can give you something comparable.
  2. Social validation: you will be the most Scottish of Scotsmen, the most respected of people, a pioneer and role model.
  3. Scarcity: act now, for this is not an opening that will remain. If Scotland doesn’t sweep Poyais up, someone else will – and there goes the nation’s one chance at colonial greatness.
  4. Authority: Dr. Strangeways surely knows that of which he speaks. If you don’t trust me, then at least trust him – though why wouldn’t you trust me? After all, I’ve published in the best media of the time.
Comment: Wiki article . All images from the Wiki article except the graph below. Source.


Investing circa 1843

What ‘Panic’ Meant to Investors 143 Years Ago


You can see how an earlier era of investors thought of the term in this engraving, by the illustrator Frank Bellew for the cover of the Sept. 29, 1873, edition of The Daily Graphic, titled “Panic, as a Health Officer, Sweeping the Garbage Out of Wall Street.”

“Panic” appears to be dressed in rags, but in fact Mr. Bellew has portrayed him wearing breeches and a jerkin, or rough shirt, made of goat skin — an obvious reference to the Greek god. (This sculpture, from the 1st century A.D., shows how common that imagery was.) The garbage that Panic is sweeping out of Wall Street consists mainly of strips of ticker tape bearing such descriptions as “ROTTEN RAILWAYS,” “SHAKY BANKS” and “BOGUS BROKERS.” A few squawking ducks, one hobbling to the left between Panic’s feet, are trying to escape the wreckage — symbolizing the old Wall Street term “lame ducks,” or traders who bought stock with borrowed money they can no longer afford to pay back.

... In his unforgettable image, Mr. Bellew compares bad investments, and weak investors, to sources of disease. By spreading the fear that flushes out such “garbage” in the short term, panic ends up improving the hygiene of the market in the long term. That’s good for investors who have the staying power to outlast a panic — and bad for those who don’t.
Comment: Staying power ... a lesson from 1843. Image source.


Why I chose Laparoscopic Prostatectomy

Surgery day will be Wednesday March 2nd. I found these links very helpful:
After careful consideration, the consultation with multiple individuals, and much reading (2 books plus much on the Internet (including the above):

  • I personally interviewed three men who have received the diagnosis. One chose Cyberknife, another Proton Therapy, and another prostatectomy.
  • Additionally we had a lot of 2nd hand testimonies that were in the form of "my brother's experience" or "my Father's experience", et cetera. Examples:
    • Jim S's father had the prostatectomy
    • Eric E's friend had the brachytherapy
    • Roy W's brother had radiation
  • We met with a radiologist oncologist to discuss options
  • And yesterday morning we met with a surgeon
  • Based on our research and knowing that every man (and his wife if he is married) must make the best choice for them, we  chose surgery
  • I chose surgery because:
    • Pathological staging is not done with radiation (while with surgery the removed prostate can be examined in the lab).
    • Prostate surgery is often not an option after radiation  
    • I believe that with my age (66 ½) and expected lifespan (my Mother is nearly 96), that surgery is the better option for me.
  • Surgeons will be Nathan Hoffman and Daniel Zapzalka
  • At Methodist Hospital
  • Using the da Vinci Surgical System (image above)
  • We are:
    • Trusting the Lord: 1 Peter 5:7, "casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you."
    • Confident: Philippians 1:6, "being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ"
    • Optimistic: Romans 8:31, " If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"
  • Prayers appreciated!
Robotic surgery may be something like this .... 

Why I bought Intuitive Surgical (ISRG)

Intuitive Surgical


The idea of surgical robotics was little more than a curiosity until 1999, the year Intuitive Surgical introduced the da Vinci® Surgical System. Today, Intuitive Surgical is the global leader in the rapidly emerging field of robotic-assisted minimally invasive surgery. 
Comment: I'm not exactly "all in" as I only bought 1 share! Not my normal type to stock to buy .... almost exclusively purchase dividend stocks. On March 2nd, two surgeons will use a da Vinci robot to remove my prostate. Some cool videos below:

More on the stock:
Intuitive Surgical (ISRG) is a Zacks Rank #1(Strong Buy) that designs, manufacturers and markets the da Vinci surgical systems and related instruments. The da Vinci surgical system, which operates in hospitals worldwide, is the primary driver for growth. The system can be best described as a robotic surgeon, controlled by a human operator, which enhances visualization and precision for that operator. Benefits for the patients include less pain, less blood loss, shorter hospital stay and quicker recover. Intuitive Surgical has a market cap of $21 Billion with a Forward PE of 32. The company has Zacks Style Score in Momentum of “A” and is sitting only a couple percentage points away from its 52-week highs. Last week’s earnings were impressive, causing the stock to head almost 5% higher before pulling back. The company reported Q4 revenue at $5.89 vs $5.01 expected, with revenue coming in at $677 Million vs the $617 Million expected. Da Vinci systems revenue was up 8% year over year, while service revenue was up 9% over the same period. Worldwide da Vinci procedures were up 15% year over year, showing the popularity and momentum of robotic surgery. EPS surprises are nothing new for the company, surprising to the upside six out of the last seven quarters. Estimates are also heading higher, with analyst revising numbers higher for 2016 and 2017. Intuitive has been a very volatile stock that has had issues in the past. One of these issues has been reoccurring lawsuits, which accused the surgical system to be flawed and cause health complications. Lawsuits are troublesome and risks to the stock, but investors are shrugging them off for now as the stock approaches all time highs.

Jollibee, a national treasure in the Philippines, comes to the US

Jollibee USA

Already 34 US locations


"The Thing" expresses how I feel about Cancer

Comment: That being ... "bring the flamethrower!". The Thing (1982): The film's title refers to its primary antagonist: a parasitic extraterrestrial lifeform that assimilates other organisms and in turn imitates them

Johnson Controls: Another Inversion Deal because of a failed Corporate Tax System

Johnson Controls, Tyco to Merge in Inversion Deal - Merger will place combined companies’ headquarters in Ireland, Tyco’s home


Johnson Controls Inc. and Tyco International PLC agreed to merge, the companies said Monday, in a deal that will place the combined company’s headquarters in Ireland.

Under the terms of the agreement, Johnson Controls will own about 56% of the merged company. The new firm will be renamed Johnson Controls PLC and maintain Tyco’s Irish legal domicile. The companies said the merged entity would save at least $150 million a year on taxes and at least $500 million in costs over the first three years after the completion of the deal.

Johnson Controls Chief Executive Alex Molinaroli will lead the firm for 18 months after the tie-up is complete. After that term, Tyco CEO George Oliver will become CEO and Mr. Molinaroli will become executive chairman for a year, after which Mr. Oliver will become chairman and CEO.

So-called inversion deals, in which U.S.-based companies acquire foreign-based businesses to take advantage of the more favorable tax status, have popular—and controversial—in recent years.
Comment: Last year was Medtronic . Image source.


In this dismal market - are there still stocks to buy?

The market sell off that many anticipated has arrived and we are likely in for a rough ride for 2016. I am convinced that value investing is still a valid investing option. I look for companies that:
  • Have a product or products that consumers will buy!
  • Are earning income
  • Have a solid track record even in difficult times.
  • Have low or moderate P/E scores
  • And pay a dividend
Here are a handful and why I like them:
Image source. My own philosophy is to buy a stock that one can hold onto through market swings. If that company can be profitable and will distribute a dividend through tough days, it is a valuable investment. 


Brief thoughts on a cancer diagnosis

I've been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I had an elevated PSA when I had my annual physical in late August. A follow on PSA test in late November was further elevated. I had a prostate biopsy last Monday (1/11) and received the results yesterday (1/18). I also had CAT scan yesterday. It is deemed an intermediate risk cancer with the recommendation to address the issue without waiting. I have 2 appointments upcoming next week: Monday with a radiologist who specializes in cancer. And then on Wednesday with a urologist surgeon. Based upon those meetings, we will be making a decision.
  • John Piper: Don't Waste Your Cancer is a helpful read.
  • Prior to receiving the news yesterday, Kathee and I resolved to praise the Lord no matter what the diagnosis. The Biblical basis for this is found in Habakkuk 3:17-18, "Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation."
  • Romans 8:28 is still in the Bible ... it was there yesterday and it is there today!
  • I am confident that the Lord will accomplish His will in my life and in 46 years of being a Christian, He has never disappointed me!


The "Pear" - my experience with a Prostate biopsy

The Pear - The Medieval Torture Museum 


This instrument was forced into the mouth or rectum of male victims and into the vagina of female victims. The oral, rectal, or vaginal pear was inflicted on people guilty of sodomy, on women guilty of adultery, people guilty of incest or sexual union with Satan, and it was also inflicted on heretical preachers and blasphemers.
Comment: This post is an exaggerated and hopefully somewhat humorous account.

Today was the dreaded day and thankfully I am now home! Herein is a PSA (Public Service Announcement): If one's PSA is high, this adventure awaits.

As an aside I inquired of a brother and a brother-in-law about their PSA counts. Neither knew. Perhaps they are better off!

Today I am sorry I even have a prostate. I have always gotten the prostate and the pituitary glands confused. Explained: One is near the brain and the other near a man's other brain.

Back when I was a boy and had to have the pre-camp physical, it the DRE was an annual event near the 4th of July. The "R" stands for one's backside and the "D" stands for the finger ... someone else's finger (not that I would want to put my own finger there!). For years I have not experienced the DRE (nor the other "turn your head and cough" experience.)

Then for years it seemed that no Doctor wished to so probe me - not that I blame them!

Now that I am retired and have a lot of time on my hands, I have old man problems. So my PSA was high and I had the DRE. The DRE is like 3rd base but without the snuggles.

Back to why one even has a prostate: Now that I have progeny and have ceased adding to the population, I don't need it any more. It functions like bullets for the gun. And I don't need bullets anymore.

But it's there: there to haunt one in the night ... wake up time to "pee"! (4 times a night sometimes). It's kind of like karma ... you've had your fun, now is my time to torture you!

The DRE leads to the probe. And the probe is like the pear. Prep for the probe requires something called an enema. This too has it's own probe. Tip ... remove the orange cap or it will get lost up there.

The enema is of the "Fleet" brand - but not from Fleet Farm (a favorite store of mine!). The box has a yellow banner announcing "now 70% more volume". I'm thinking "why?!"

Some may wonder how the enema compares and contrasts with the colon cleanse required for a colonoscopy: Well while both pertain to the same orifice, one is to be drunk and the other inserted. I'm good with the colon cleanse as I've discovered that if mixed with vodka the prep makes for one fun night!

The enema perhaps could be better tolerated with vodka shots too!  I'm not sure why but my wife said I was on my own with this!

At the Dr's office - and just to digress a bit ... why would someone choose this career field? I mean be a wealth advisor or something!

I'm in the exam room with a lovely nurse in a pink outfit with matching pink shoes. She asks me to disrobe and I think I must have died and gone to Muslim paradise.

I'm now reclined and blushingly naked. The gorgeous nurse is alone in the room with me. But then from behind a curtain the torturer emerges and the lovely nurse exits. I am trapped!

There's a company in my town called Lube-Tech. I hypothesize that they are suppliers for this medical office. With enough lube a Mac truck can be squeezed into a compact car parking spot.

A sonogram explores the depths of my innards. I saw a image of this later and it looks like the Roman catacombs, or a rat filled abandoned irrigation tunnel under ancient Istanbul. I expect this image be included in the next edition of National Geographic Rarely Seen: Photographs of the Extraordinary.

The sonogram is a prelude the main event: 12 cores into my prostate. Each core is fired into my prostate with a crack that I would liken to the discharge of a 22 long rifle.

I grip the table and confess sins! I may now be a Buddhist or a Muslim!

The inquisitor leaves and I am alone in my shame. I've been violated! I am no longer a virgin (reminder of the comment above!)

Afterwards the lovely nurse appears: a bottle of water and a wet washcloth is proffered. I'm thinking - a shot of whiskey seems more appropriate!

On a scale of 1 to 10 (the not fun at all to very fun scale), this event was a "1". I've had shots in my facet joints. I would rate that as a "5". And I've had the colonoscopy ... a "10" (but use the vodka advice above).


Wells Fargo responds to Vikings "photo-bomb" suit

Wells Fargo to Vikings: Our signs are just fine


The Vikings’ position “belies common sense and the purpose of the signage. A sign is made to be seen,” according to the response signed by Lindquist & Vennum lawyers Christopher Grote and Brian Freeman.

The response notes the Vikings’ claim that “raised lettering and illumination of the signage irreparably injures them somehow by distracting from the image of the new stadium.” Wells Fargo’s attorneys call that a “never-before-recognized form of irreparable injury.”

The argument revolves around two signs, 56 feet by 56 feet, on the rooftops of the two 17-story towers. The red-and-gold signs have “Wells Fargo” in letters raised about 1-1/2 feet above the roof surface. The signs have not yet been lighted.

At the heart of the dispute is the multimillion dollar issue of branding. U.S. Bank has paid the Vikings undisclosed millions to put its name on the new stadium to promote the brand in widely broadcast events, including the 2018 Super Bowl. While U.S. Bank isn’t a party to the legal dispute, the Vikings presumably want to protect the value of the naming rights. The Vikings claim the signs would permanently “photo-bomb” the image of “iconic” U.S. Bank Stadium, which they emphasize is a public investment to be protected.
Comment: Full 39 page response here.


Understanding "the market": a "cacophony of exogenous events"

How long the stock selling stampede may last


On Thursday, Saut blamed a "cacophony of exogenous events" for derailing the traditional year-end rally and leading to the worst start to a new year on Wall Street since 2008.

It all began with "the $1.2 trillion options and futures expiration" on quadruple-witching Friday on Dec. 18, Saut said. "That upset the rhythm of the rally. But we gathered our strength and came back the next week.

And then you've been hit by this potential war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Chinese slowdown, and the 'H-bomb' of North Korea." "The markets look like they're in a free fall right here," he said. "It feels like we're in one of those selling stampedes, and they typically last 17 to 25 sessions. And this would be only session six. I would be more cautious here."

  • Who could blame the Saudis for having nuke ambitions?! Imagine the Middle - East with Muslims with Nukes!!! 
  • On the China slowdown: The market is soft because of fears the Chinese economy has slipped or will slip into recession. My take is that it will! WSJ has more on this here. Image above is capture from this article.
  • On DPRK and the H-Bomb: doubt it but  Kim Jong-un is the bad boy brat of the region
  • Updated: 3rd photo from this article. See also


The stock selloff is happening in a parallel universe
Do we all live in China now? Investors could be excused for thinking that, given that arcane indicators such as a Chinese manufacturing index and the value of the Chinese yuan are inducing nauseating drops in the U.S. stock market. And the surprise halt to trading in the latest Chinese session, a mere 30 minutes after markets opened, has thrown U.S. and European markets into a tailspin.

Last we checked, however, the Dow Jones and S&P 500 indexes were composed of U.S. companies that might do some business in China, but still earn the vast majority of their revenue elsewhere. And elsewhere, economic fundamentals are looking way better than the gloomy start to this year’s trading would suggest. The U.S. economy will probably grow around 2.5% this year, which isn’t great, but is a sustainable pace that seems nowhere near overheating. The economy can progress at that measured pace for a long time before the next downturn occurs.

Another perspective chart:


Hold on ... Dow closes down triple digits, posts worst opening day in 8 years

Dow closes down triple digits, posts worst opening day in 8 years


The Dow Jones industrial average closed about 275 points lower. The index closed down 1.58 percent, for its worst start to the year since Jan. 2, 2008, when the Dow fell 1.66 percent.

Earlier, the index fell 467 points, or more than 2.5 percent, temporarily on pace for its largest percent decline on the first trading day of the year since 1932.

"I guess it makes a little more difficult hole (at the) start of the year for the market to dig itself out of," said Daniel Deming, managing director at KKM Financial. "This is just a culmination of some of the things built up over the weekend — conflict in the Middle East, lower highs and lower lows," he said.
Comment: Heatmap image source - screen shot here.  I rarely mention specific investments, but today I bought shares of HSBC.