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Definition of a U.S. person. For federal tax purposes, you are
considered a U.S. person if you are:

  • An individual who is a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident alien,
  • A partnership, corporation, company, or association created or
  • organized in the United States or under the laws of the United States,
  • An estate (other than a foreign estate), or
  • A domestic trust (as defined in Regulations section 301.7701-7).



Citizens’ Semi Centennial, offering the Native American origins of the name Paramus: via Google Books

George Washington happened to encamp in Paramus on many occasions, including following his victory at Monmouth.

A colonial soldier recorded a startling sense of difference in the area in 1778 that persists, though in a different way, to this day. He remarked on the Dutch influences and idiosyncratic architecture. The homes combined two wings through an overhang set on columns and extending to a minor piazza. It gave each home an airy sense to the visitor. But the remarkably level ground, he observed, was almost preternaturally suited for agriculture at the time and would be similarly suited for strip-mall development later – beginning with the Garden State Plaza in the 1950’s.

Modern-day Paramus derives from the “New Paramus Patent,” which was also known, in perhaps a punning-premonition of things to come, as the “Wearimus Tract.” Unlike many concessions, Paramus did not have a colonial origin. It was a gift from the Native Americans.

Albert Zaborowski, having arrived in 1662 via the Dutch ship, Deb Ves, or “The Fox,” became a job-creator and accumulated significant land-interests in Hackensack, which was then called Ackensack, meaning the silent union of two waters. Zaborowski married the Dutch Miss Van Der Linde, who bore him five boys. Their progeny would later be known as Zabriskie, but not before their eldest, Jacob, was carried off into the forests by the Indians while still young.

The Native Americans who had taken Jacob returned fifteen years later with the son and a simple explanation. They had absconded with him if only to teach him their language and ensure their ability to communicate with the colonial interests. Along with Jacob and the explanation, they granted Zaborowski two thousand acres – the New Paramus Patent. This is not to be confused with the Paramus Estate, which was later purchased for a quart of whiskey and a pound of tobacco by Garrit Hopper in 1812, one of three brothers who emigrated from Amsterdam and settled in the area.

The plaintiffs’ claim against the defendant for ‘hot news’ misappropriation of the plaintiff financial firms’ recommendations to clients and prospective clients as to trading in corporate securities is preempted by federal copyright law.

We conclude that in this case, a firm’s ability to make news — by issuing a recommendation that is likely to affect the market price of a security — does not give rise to a right for it to control who breaks that news and how.

Robert Sack, U.S. Circuit Judge, writing in the joint opinion of a three judge panel, via Bloomberg. The opinion does not impact Judge Cote’s findings of copyright violations by Flyonthewall, it does undermine New York’s hot news doctrine and the enduring notion of property rights for the news.

there are probably a couple of bad apples…But how many people have gotten raped and killed after using Craigslist? You can’t go blaming Craigslist for that.

“Former GLG Exec,” quoted as fuming by the Economist.

OK – it’s alternately hilarious and disgusting to think that someone would actually say something like this.

First, sorry Gerson Lehrman Group, you’re disruptive, but you’re not Craigslist-disruptive. They undermined the entire newspaper industry.

Second, the stories of murder and abuse that have imprinted themselves into the lore of Craigslist personals are deeply saddening. It is inappropriate to make light of them through such an irresponsible and deluded comparison. That the comparison was made while fuming, as the Economist reports, is even more distressing, for it suggests a measure of petulance, delusion and utter lack of sensitivity on the part of this unnamed individual that ignores the very real suffering realized by those who have been raped and killed.

Third, and the Economist alludes to this, as well, Craigslist has come under fire for having appeared to enabled those tragic circumstances. Those who believe it to be only a platform, beware. Many have called for safeguards and procedures that might protect users and prevent just such outcomes. But both the Economist and this nameless “former executive” ignore some basic facts that would belie the parallel, benefit Craigslist and illuminate some underlying strengths and lessons that expert networks could provide.

Unlike Craigslist, where participation is largely anonymous and without controls or records, participation in an expert network is diligently recorded and carefully organized according to a series of procedures, policies and systems that are designed to protect everyone involved. Quoting Alexander Saint Amand, the Economist writes, “If you want to sell inside information, this is a terrible place to do it.” If that’s the case, perhaps Craigslist would benefit from making similar investments in an effort to protect their users and prevent those horrible outcomes described.

Yes, there are lessons to be learned, and the parallel can yield benefits, but what delivers immediate comfort to me is that the individual is not a current but a former GLG exec. Such craven and mercenary comparisons with so little insight into the basic workings of either Craigslist or expert networks have no place at Gerson Lehrman Group, Craigslist or any other enterprise.

Did the human capacity to reason evolve as a mechanism to acquire truth? Or was it only in the service of winning arguments?

This is the question at the center of an article by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber in The Journal of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Described by the New York Times, the article observes that language and reason have little to do with “truth and accuracy.” Quoting Mercier:

Reasoning doesn’t have this function of helping us to get better beliefs and make better decisions. It was a purely social phenomenon. It evolved to help us convince others and to be careful when others try to convince us.

The position of Mercier and Sperber would appear to provide an evolutionary explanation for all manner of rhetorical devices and tendencies. Individuals, for example, have a tendency to ignore data that does not support their case. This phenomenon is called confirmation bias. In a sense, reason isn’t an instrument by which to acquire truth. Instead, it’s perhaps more ambiguous. Reason is a means by which to convince others, change their minds. Reason is coercive.

Mercier and Sperber’s argument has inflamed some elements of the academic community. Darcia Narvaez, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame diminished the theory as a moment of academic fashion:

[it] fits into evolutionary psychology mainstream thinking at the moment, that everything we do is motivated by selfishness and manipulating others, which is, in my view, crazy.

Others have remarked that Mercier and Sperber’s argument is in fact an example of the wisdom of crowds or the aim of deliberative democracy, described by Rawls and Habermas. Jonathan Haidt, a professor at UVA quoted by the Times, suggested as much:

Their work is important and points to some ways that the limits of reason can be overcome by putting people together in the right way, in particular to challenge people’s confirmation biases.

Mercier and Sperber appear to be heading in this direction, as well. Their article points to the advantages of group dynamics in the development of strong arguments. The group, after all, is equipped to present and vet many perspectives in rapid succession. The group could conceivably pick apart instances of confirmation bias and illuminate flaws in reasoning. According to Mercier and Sperber,

At least in some cultural contexts, this results in a kind of arms race towards greater sophistication in the production and evaluation of arguments. When people are motivated to reason, they do a better job at accepting only sound arguments, which is quite generally to their advantage.

Yes. Reason may be coercive, but Mercier and Sperber seem to be saying that with enough reason, enough speech, the group should arrive at a better outcome. Indeed, it’s reminiscent of the logic underpinning the metaphor of the marketplace of ideasthat more speech and more argument might spawn better speech. Justice Holmes, who coined the phrase in 1919, would be proud.

The marketplace metaphor, however, is flawed. As we’ve seen at other times, through the views of Ronald Coase, Justice Stevens, and others, an efficient market in speech does not equate to some Spenserian concept of survival of the fittest.  Indeed, Mercier rather off-handedly observed, “It doesn’t seem to work in the U.S.” Which leaves us with a question, just what is this metaphor we call the marketplace of ideas? Is the mere presence of a group itself sufficient to present and vet a variety of arguments? How do economic resources distort the marketplace of ideas?

Today marks John James Audubon’s 226 birthday. Though he wasn’t the first to document and detail the various birds of America, he is certainly most famous. The woodsman artist introduced us to birds as specimens to appreciate, rather than eat or fear, and his work dominated the wildlife genre.

The seminal Birds of America collection set the standard for representations of birds and wildlife for many years to come. Sold as a subscription, buyers parted with $1000 -a princely sum- for what would later number 435 prints, issued five times a year, between 1827 and 1838. Today, the style persists through the works of Roger Tory Peterson and David Sibley – not to mention the more unusual stylings of Walton Ford. But it was actually not the first to take on the project, and it’s worth remembering another contributor who occupied his Birds of America with the pursuit of what was American. Read the rest of this entry »

To string incongruities and absurdities together in a wandering and zometimes purposeless way, and seem innocently unaware that they are absurdities, is the basis of the American art [of the humorous story]…Another feature is the slurring of the point. A third is the dropping of a studied remark apparently without knowing it, as if one were thinking aloud. The fourth and last is the pause.

Mark Twain, from How to Tell a Story. A wonderful-looking edition scanned by Google Books happens to be missing many pages. The quote pops up again in The Rotarian in 1937, with A Chuckle Girdles the World by George Vincent, who suggested “humor is our great protection against fanaticism.”

Twain proposed to differentiate the American art of the humorous story from the English comic story, and the French witty story. These depend on the matter of telling, and the American depends on the manner of telling. Of the American: “This is art–and fine and beautiful, and only a master can compass it; but a machine could tell the other story.”

When I was an analyst, I used build my own network. I’d spot names in magazines where someone was quoted about a company and call them — that’s part of doing fundamental research.

Dan Chung, CEO, Fred Alger, remarking on how, back in his day, they didn’t rely on expert networks or outside consultants. No, they called people quoted in trade magazines themselves, asked all those probing questions, and walked uphill, in the snow, to school, both ways. Chung is the son-in-law of the gentleman behind the eponymous firm: via Marketwatch

Steve Cohen has had among the highest returns in the industry….Insiders in the business for a long time suspected that his special sources amounted to privileged information. The debate amongst insiders was, “Was the special information on the right side of legality or the wrong side?” But I think it was a pretty common view that it was close to the edge….

When you have somebody who doesn’t appear to have that readily identifiable edge, who nonetheless makes much higher returns than other people, you wonder.

Sebastian Mallaby, author of More Money Than God. He went on to share that “in the past, successful investors constructed their own expert networks,” just like Dan Chung, which he attributed to the master networking skills of those such as Julian Robertson, when who you knew was the currency, and those that were known were former executives and outside of the circle of those normally considered insiders. So if what Julian did was ok, why won’t Mallaby afford Steve Cohen the same safe-harbor? Is it any different than a service which will connect anyone else to former executives and others outside of the circle of those normally considered insiders? After all, it’s hard to see a difference in kind between what Julian and Steve are described as having done. The interview merely insinuates. It does not specify: via LA Times update – this was also posted as a comment on the LA Times blog-piece, but they seem to have removed it.

The McClellans might have thought that they could conceal their illegal scheme by having close relatives make illegal trades offshore. They were wrong.

Robert S. Khuzami, enforcement director for the SEC, commenting on a specific insider trading scandal involving the general misbehavior of consultants at Deloitte who misappropriated and tipped material non-public information to trade for their and their relatives benefit: via NYT

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