Newley Purnell's Home on the Web since 2001

Author: Newley (Page 2 of 330)

By Me Yesterday: What Trump Said About Working Visas to the U.S.

The story begins:

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Monday said his administration will scrutinize what he called “abuses” of visas amid speculation that he intends to restrict the flow of skilled workers into his country.

In a two-minute video posted on YouTube, Mr. Trump for the first time since the Nov. 8 election articulated to the public what he plans to do during his first 100 days in office.

“On immigration,” Mr. Trump said, “I will direct the Department of Labor to investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker.”

He also said he would take action on trade, energy policies and more.

My previous stories on Trump and immigration are here and here.

Video: Me on Facebook Live Talking about Our Recent Amazon Story

Embedded above and on The WSJ Facebook page here: A colleague and I earlier today discussed my recent story about Amazon’s rapid rise here in India.

Book Notes — Fooled by Randomness, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Note: From time to time I share notes about the books I’ve been reading, or have revisited after many years. For more such posts, see the Book Notes category

Fooled by randomness

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

ISBN: 1400067936
Amazon link
My rating: 7/10

The book in three sentences:

The world is mostly random and non-linear, but we are hard-wired to construct narratives that make sense of it all. What we attribute to individuals’ and organizations’ skill is often mostly due to luck. We trick ourselves into thinking that what seems unlikely to happen — like the appearance of a black swan — will never actually take place.

My notes:

  • This is Taleb’s first book, published in 2004, before his more well-known “The Black Swan” came out three years later. Here, he lays out his thinking on why we are “fooled by randomness,” or built to make sense of a world that often is nonsensical.
  • Taleb relates his experience as a trader, taking an unconventional approach to investing, to illustrate how his grasp of how the world has brought him success. Unlike those around him, for example, he eschews news because its signal-to-noise ration is too high. A proud iconoclast, he assails journalists, economists, academics, MBAs (of which he is one) and other investors for being blindly taken in by randomness.
  • A passage from the prologue sums up Taleb’s thinking:

    We are still very close to our ancestors who roamed the savannah. The formation of our beliefs is fraught with superstitions — even today (I might say, especially today). Just as one day some primitive tribesman scratched his nose, saw rain falling, and developed an elaborate method of scratching his note to bring on the much-needed rain, we link economic prosperity to some rate cut by the Federal Reserve Board, or the success of a company with appointment of the new president “at the helm…”

    This confusion strikes people of different persuasions; the literature professor invests a deep meaning into a mere coincidental occurrence of word patterns, while the economist proudly detects “regularities” and “anomalies” in data that are plain random.

    At the cost of appearing biased, I have to say that the literary mind can be intentionally prone to the confusion between noise and meaning, that is, between a randomly constructed arrangement and a precisely intended message.

  • Perhaps because Nassim’s work is so influential — people often refer to “black swan” events, especially in the tech world — I feel as if rather than introduce me to a radical new way of thinking, this book reinforced many of Taleb’s arguments, which I had already internalized. Some of the best parts of the book, in my mind, are his anecdotes about colorful characters from the Wall Street world.
  • I must say I found what seemed to be his focus on proving his intellectual superiority to those around him to be mildly off-putting. Still, I found it quite entertaining and enriching. If you set out to read this book not as a nonfiction guide to his way of thinking but as a personal essay, which is how it structured, I think you’ll find it enjoyable and enlightening.
  • By Me on Friday: How Amazon Has Taken India by Storm

    The story begins:

    NEW DELHI– Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, perturbed by his company’s failure to capture much of the massive Chinese market, had a pointed message for executives in India during a visit in 2014: Don’t let that happen here.

    Do what it takes to succeed and don’t worry about the cost, Mr. Bezos said, according to a person who was present.

    Amazon, which dominates online selling in the U.S. but so far has gained little traction in developing countries, has since invested billions of dollars to build a logistics network spanning India to reel in shoppers.

    The result: the company rapidly became India’s No. 2 e-commerce player and moved within striking distance of local rival Flipkart Internet Pvt., according to some estimates. Indeed, Mr. Bezos last month declared Amazon was on top in a market it largely had ignored until recent years, though he didn’t say by which measure.

    “We are winning in India,” Mr. Bezos said at a conference in San Francisco, arguing that Amazon has pulled past Flipkart to become “the leader in India now.”

    Amazon’s attempts to push into developing markets—marked by difficult logistics and significant cultural differences in shoppers’ expectations—reflect the e-commerce giant’s search for new routes to growth as it saturates the U.S. market. Countries such as China and India promise rapidly growing populations with steep rates of online shopping adoption as technology becomes more accessible.

    Click through for a video, narrated by yours truly.

    By Me on Thursday: H-1B Skilled-Worker Visas and Donald Trump

    The story, which seems to have gotten a lot of attention online (it’s been shared widely on Facebook and has attracted 49 comments on The WSJ site so far), begins:

    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will likely crack down on the use of skilled-worker visas issued to Indian outsourcing firms, said a leading anti-immigration campaigner.

    Mr. Trump is still picking his cabinet, and how his policies will evolve is hard to guess, but he was elected pledging to restrict immigration. That means the tens of thousands of mostly Indian migrants entering America on high-skilled worker, or H-1B, visas could become a target for tougher vetting, said Roy Beck, president of Arlington, Va.-based NumbersUSA, which advocates for limited immigration.

    “It would be very surprising if we don’t see the rules around H-1Bs really tighten,” he told The Wall Street Journal.

    Mr. Beck said his organization provided information and analysis to Mr. Trump and a handful of other candidates during the campaign, though the group does not support any individual candidate and does not currently work with Mr. Trump.

    Mr. Trump’s presidential-transition media team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    During his campaign, Mr. Trump emphasized tightening immigration and criticized companies that ship jobs overseas to countries like India and China.

    Click through to read the rest.

    In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: Explaining Trump, Arkansas Queso, Medieval Shipwrecks, Best Book Podcasts

    Newleys notes

    Edition 72 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers yesterday. It’s pasted in below.

    To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox before I post them here, sign up at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe.

    Hi friends, thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter where I share my stories and links to items that catch my eye.

    There’s only one place to start this week: The rise of Donald Trump.

    I posted on my blog links to a bunch of stuff I was reading the day after the election.

    One of them is a 2014 book called “The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium,” by Martin Gurri. From the book’s description. Emphasis mine:

    Insurgencies enabled by digital devices and a vast information sphere have mobilized millions, toppling dictators in Egypt and Tunisia, crushing the ruling Socialist Party in Spain, inspiring “Tea Parties” and “Occupations” in the United States. Trust in political authority stands at an all-time low around the world. The Revolt of the Public analyzes the composition of the public, the nature of authority and legitimacy, and the part played by the perturbing agent: information. A major theme of the book is whether democratic institutions can survive the assaults of a public that at times appears to be at war with any form of organization, if not with history itself.

    Another is a 1986 book by Arthur Schlesinger called “The Cycles of American History,” in which he argues that the U.S. always alternates between periods of liberalism and conservatism.

    And yet another is “Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy,” by Chris Hayes.

    And in other postmortem news, Economist Tyler Cowen discusses how major stakeholders fared – that is, who comes out of this looking good, and whose status has fallen.


    Indian-Origin Candidates Sail to Victory in U.S. Elections. Click through for more details on Pramila Jayapal, Kamala Harris, Ro Khanna and Raja Krishnamoorthi.

    What Donald Trump’s Election as President of the U.S. Could Mean for India. The story, which I wrote with a colleague, begins:

    For Indian businesses, foreign-policy strategists and government officials, Donald Trump’s election victory sows uncertainty on issues ranging from information-technology outsourcing to Asian geopolitics.


    1) Arkansas says it has the world’s best queso. Texas isn’t pleased. Don’t miss this excellent WSJ story, which begins:

    In a safe in Little Rock, Ark., restaurateur Scott McGehee keeps five recipes for what he considers one of the state’s biggest culinary treasures.

    Two cheese-dip recipes were handed down by his late father, Frank. One came from the long-gone Taco Kid chain and cost $2,000, with hot-sauce and chili formulas thrown into the deal. The collection represents “the greatest recipes in cheese-dip lore,” says Mr. McGehee, who melded them into the “five families cheese dip” served at his Heights Taco & Tamale Co. in Little Rock.

    When it comes to food, Arkansas has long lived in the shadow of neighbors such as Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee, known respectively for their fajitas, gumbo and Memphis barbecue. Many Arkansans think cheese dip has finally given them something to call their own.

    2) A guy named Calvin Seibert makes really cool modern sandcastles. Here are some images of the creations, which he constructs at beaches around New York. And here’s an interview with him.

    3) Fascinating details are emerging about a medieval ship found at the bottom of the Black Sea. This NYT feature has some amazing photos of the craft, which likely sank in the 13th or 14th century, but has remained unusually intact.

    4) Cool site for travel research: The Basetrip. I recently came across the site, which aggregates information on more than 200 countries, providing details on information like visa requirements, currency and electricity.

    5) There are some great podcasts about books out there. The Guardian lists ten to check out. The Millions also had a roundup back in July.

    Thanks for reading. If you like NN, please forward it to a friend. Any feedback? Hit me up.

    – Newley

    Video: How Human Population Has Exploded Over Time

    Embedded above and on YouTube here: “Human Population Through Time,” a video from the American Museum of Natural History. From the description:

    It took 200,000 years for our human population to reach 1 billion—and only 200 years to reach 7 billion. But growth has begun slowing, as women have fewer babies on average. When will our global population peak? And how can we minimize our impact on Earth’s resources, even as we approach 11 billion?

    Amazing to see the spikes after agriculture began, and then especially after the industrial revolution.

    Delhi Snapshot: No Photos Please 

    Encountered these guys near my office recently. 

    They were not happy to have their photo taken. 

    Post-Trump Election Tab Dump: What I’m Reading

  • ‘Deplorables’ Rise Up to Reshape America,” by The WSJ‘s Gerald F. Seib. (yesterday):

    In short, Mr. Trump and his followers have, in one dramatic stroke, transformed the GOP from a traditionally conservative party into an avowedly populist one.

  • The Voters Decide,” by Ben Thompson (March 2016). Politics “is just the latest industry to be transformed by the Internet,” he writes.
  • Democracy’s Destabilizer: TMI,” by Virginia Postrel. (Dec. 2015). References a 2014 book I have just begun reading, “The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium,” by Martin Gurri. Postrel writes:

    Information used to be scarce. Now it’s overwhelming. In his book “The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium,” Gurri considers the political implications of this change. He argues that the shift from information scarcity to abundance has destroyed the public’s established trust in institutional authorities, including media, science, religion, and government.

  • Has Election 2016 been a turning point for the influence of the news media?” (yesterday), by Pablo Bocskowski:

    “The stark contrast between editorial dynamics and electoral preferences might lead to two trends directly affecting the news media in the short-term future.”

  • 5 Reasons Why Trump will Win” (July 2015), by Michael Moore.
  • The Cycles of American History“, a 1986 book by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. on the “recurring struggle between pragmatism and idealism in the American soul.”
  • Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy” (2012), by by Chris Hayes. “A powerful and original argument that traces the roots of our present crisis of authority to an unlikely source: the meritocracy.
  • Page 2 of 330

    Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

    %d bloggers like this: