London: How

We went to London with the Lady de Gloves and a sibling and had a great time.  In this post we will tell you about how to do it.  It the next one we will tell you what we did.

We think there are N things you should plan about your stay in London:

  • Get an Oyster Card for each person.
  • Use the Underground
  • Stay near transportation.
  • Physical handicaps will be a problem.

Really, you are thinking, MWG put Oyster Card first suggesting it is the most important.  Yup.  London is a big place, over 600 square miles, with lots of people, almost nine million, and very difficult to drive in because it is an old city that was not designed for vehicles and you have to drive on the wrong side of the road.  Public transportation and walking is the way to go.  The link will give you details on everything you can ride with it but the Oyster card can get you from the airport to where you stay and all around London cheaply and easily.  The Oyster Card is like having E-Z Pass on a toll road.  It is cheaper and faster than paying individual tolls.

The card can do lots for you but we recommend emphasizing the Underground.  The subway in London is called the Tube or the Underground but we like the latter.  The stations, like King’s Cross where six lines meet, can be enormous.  This means three things.  First your map app will underestimate the time by a few minutes because of the walking within the station.  Second, you need to pay careful attention to the maps on the way down to the trains.  The trains are usually identified by the last stop so the Victoria line southbound is Victoria – Brixton.  Third, you need to pay careful attention on the way up because you can end up in a variety of places.  It takes a little work but the Oyster Card and the Underground can get you almost anywhere in London.  According to our map device, it was usually quicker than driving without the worry of trying to park.

We didn’t like busses because the signs are not as obvious and announcements are harder to hear.  In addition, they get caught in traffic.  You can ride busses with your Oyster Card but we much preferred the Underground.

For lodging, price is a critical issue that might overwhelm any other considerations.  We went Air BNB because our party of three needed two bedrooms.  A flat (apartment) is much cheaper and has its own kitchen compared to two hotel rooms.  It is hard to be far away from the Underground but being near a big station, and especially King’s Cross which is close to another big station, Euston, with Underground, trains, and busses means that you can be anywhere in London in a few minutes, and in a few hours anywhere in country or even Paris.  We walked by several hotels each day so there are a variety of places to stay in the King’s Cross and Euston area.  It is far from the only good choice but was great for us.

London is an old city with lots of steps and many of them are beautiful marble staircases but there are not as many ramps.  If you have physical limitations it can be a problem.  Rest rooms in restaurants and pubs are often on a different floor.  Not all the Underground stops have lifts (elevators).  If you have physical limitation you need to research you plans very carefully.

London is a wonderful city to visit.  Get an Oyster Card.  Ride the Underground.  Stay near a big station like King’s Cross.  Next time we will give you some ideas on what to do in London.


Third Hand High? OMT

We have one more thing (OMT) on the hand from yesterday.  Our opponents bid three no trump and it was crucial that we do not play third hand high to limit their club winners one and transportation to the dummy.  The hand in case your forgot:

North: S 7, H A Q 7 6 4, D K Q 5 3, C K 8 5
East: S Q 8 5 4 3, H 5,  D 8 4, C J 6 4 3 2
South: S A K J 10 6, H J 3 2, D J 10 6, C Q 7
West (MWG) S 9 2,  H K 10 9 8, D A 9 7 2, C A 10 9

Whoops: We just noticed that we left off the spade trey from our partner’s hand on the earlier post.  It doesn’t matter to the play of the hand.

What if opponents bid four hearts as most did.  Should we as West play third hand high?  Absolutely.  You have four defensive winners, two minor aces and two hearts,  in your hand and you need to make sure you keep them.  It is not a bad idea to play the ace of diamonds on the second trick.  Then all you do have to cover the heart jack when it is played.

So in four hearts West plays the ace of clubs and returns a little one that dummy wins with the queen.  What should declarer do?  Answer play a little heart to the ace and then a little heart to the jack.  This makes the contract against a singleton king and and three-two trump split.  It is down one as the cards lay but the only hope against the distribution is to guess it and then find a way to get West to lead a trump.  The defense couldn’t miss against four hearts as the cards lie.  It could against three no trump.

Third Hand High?

Here is one we messed up on defense in the interesting hand below. It has a declarer question too.  North dealt and opened a heart.  We were E-W and passed every bid.  South bid a spade and N bid a no trump.  Here is where opponent’s system made things interesting.  South could pass but 2C means pick a part score contract and 2D means pick a game contract.  2D led to North picking 3 NT and South left it at that.  Everyone else was in 4 hearts down one.   It is a matchpoint game and only E-W side is vulnerable in case you wanted to know that.

The hands (S= spade etc.):

North: S 7, H A Q 7 6 4, D K Q 5 3, C K 8 5
East: S Q 8 5 4, H 5,  D 8 4, C J 6 4 3 2
South: S A K J 10 6, H J 3 2, D J 10 6, C Q 7
West (MWG) S 9 2,  H K 10 9 8, D A 9 7 2, C A 10 9

Correction: we left out the three of spades from partner’s (East) hand.

Partner makes the standard lead of the fourth best club, the trey.  Declarer plays low from the dummy and the we choke.  Our explanation is that we choked because our spade holding made us think that declarer can run five spades.  That would mean our discard on the fifth spade would be hard and it was possible that partner had five clubs K-J.  No it wasn’t really possible given the bidding.

Sidebar One: When we played the A of clubs on the first trick and then led the 10 it resulted in declarer four spades, two hearts, two diamonds, and two clubs.  We got minus 430 and a zero in the watchpoint competition.  End sidebar One.

If we correctly play the ten of clubs on the first trick then it gets interesting.  Should declarer play his king?  No if he plays his king then his best hope is to finesse the spade jack and hope for a three-three split.  The finesse holds but the split doesn’t materialize and now declarer is in big trouble.  He could lead a spade for down two (we get a spade, a diamond, and four clubs but we like to think he desperately leads a little heart hoping MWG holds two hearts: king and a little one.  The finesse works but when our partner shows out on the ace then we win the last seven tricks for down three.  Either way (plus 100 or plus 150) we get a top score.

Sidebar Two: What happens if the spades run?  Then declarer makes the contract by refusing the first club.  He still goes down one if he goes up on the first trick.  End Sidebar Two.

Third hand high is a general rule.  It this case waiting to cover dummy’s honor was the way to go.


Warren’s Proposals

We have tried to ignore the silliness on the left with regards to energy with the Green New Deal and all of that.  It seems to us that those were dead ideas and that is a really good thing.  Now we see some of the worst of those ideas coming from a serious contender for the Democrat nomination for president.    We concur with Jay Nordlinger at the NRO Corner:

Early last month, Elizabeth Warren issued a tweet that sent a chill down my spine: “On my first day as president, I will sign an executive order that puts a total moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases for drilling offshore and on public lands. And I will ban fracking — everywhere.”

Jay goes on to discuss the impact of such ideas on the Saudis and our allies.  We”d like to discuss why seeing Elizabeth’s tweet sent a chill down our spine and it should send one down your spine too.  It makes us glad we are not on Twitter.

We would like to look at the two sentences individually.  In the first she has a method, executive order, and a goal, no NEW leases offshore or on public lands, that seems consistent with the method.  It is a really, really bad idea and it will probably be challenged in court but it might happen.  Mark Perry at Carpe Diem consistently covers the increase in US oil output and here is an example.  Our guess is that most of this output comes from private lands so Elizabeth is being foolish and engaging in some cronyism to help her friends and donors in “alternative energy” but she hasn’t proposed anything catastrophic.

Well, she hadn’t proposed anything catastrophic until the next sentence.  There are three terrifying parts of the second sentence.  First there is “everywhere.”  Perhaps “everywhere” is just a little political overstatement but we hope she doesn’t think she can ban it globally.  Second there is the unspecified process that will allow her to ban fracking.  Some folks have been worried by the authoritarian impulses of The Donald and the 44th president.  This would take the imperial presidency to a whole different level.  And worst of all there is the banning of fracking.  It is a disaster on many levels that it is impossible to create a comprehensive list but here are a few.  There is all the value generated by fracking.  There are all the folks and organizations that support fracking.  There are all the organizations, like manufacturing, that benefit from cheap energy.  There is the environmental impact of reduced CO2 from using cleaner natural gas.  There are the international problems for the US and our allies of being back under the control of Russia and the Middle East.

Sidebar: The Donald is often accused of being an agent of Russia despite his actions.  We think Elizabeth is just a fool but her behavior in banning fracking would support Russia’s most important goal, increasing the price of energy.  End Sidebar.

An executive order to forbid new energy from public lands is ordinary political stupidity like The Donald’s trade war.  Elizabeth has moved to a whole different level when she says she will ban fracking.  It is astonishing that people take her seriously.

How Matters

Jon Pavolvitz is getting likes on Facebook for his post I’m Not On The Radical Left, I’m In The Humane Middle.  It has a picture of a winsome lass sitting on the double yellow line of a highway.  Jon says he supports the Declaration of Independence and The Golden Rule so he doesn’t understand why folks call him part of the radical left.  He then goes on to list his beliefs which we reproduce below in bold with our comments.  Other than the first one they are pretty inexplicit.  How you would accomplish these goals matter and determine where you stand.

We suspect that Jon, like many people, doesn’t think much about the other side.  Perhaps he thinks of The Donald as right wing.  We don’t.  There are some nasty folks on both sides of the political divide but, by and large, most of them are trying to solve problems.  Largely, the disputes are about priorities and methods.  For example, it is generally true that people on the left want to raise the minimum wage and people on the right don’t.  There are people on the left that want to raise the minimum wage for nefarious reasons but most of them really think it will help poor people.  Most of the people on the right think it will harm the poor.  Such a difference of opinion doesn’t make either side evil.  We think that folks have often failed in their responsibility to investigate alternative thinking.


In Defense Of Saab

We took great umbrage at the beginning of Kevin D. Williamson’s new NRODT article, Elizabeth Warren Is Wrong About Pay Day Lenders, (we are bit sure about the paywall) that comes out early on NRO.  Of course, any article that starts with “Elizabeth Warren Is Wrong” is likely to be good and the article is terrific and you should read it all.  You should subscribe if you haven’t.  The problem is the beginning.  Kevin says:

Do you know who the car-finance guys really miss? “Saab,” he said. “The Saab customer was the best.” The people who bought Saabs turned out to be as sensible and practical as the people who designed them — good credit, appropriate incomes, sensible down payments. “It wasn’t like Porsche or Land Rover,” he said. “Nobody bought a Saab because it fulfilled some fantasy.”

We loved our Saab.  Now our love might have been augmented by the fact that it replaced the Toyota with over 400,000 miles that would only start if you put a coat hanger in the carburetor just before you cranked the key and then removed immediately after the vehicle started.

Sidebar: Here is a cite for those of you that don’t know what a carburetor is.  We are pretty sure that the Saab was our first fuel injected vehicle.  End Sidebar

It was fortunate that the Toyota hood (like the Saab) was hinged at the front so starting it only required a mild bit of contortion.  The Saab not only started all by itself but it was responsive, was a joy to drive, and had a heated seat, another thing that has become standard but wasn’t several decades ago.  It also had its practical side with front wheel drive (another innovation) and big tires that took the worry out of Wisconsin winters.

Why is Kevin’s article great?  First he makes this point:

Being poor sucks, and no regulation is going to change that.

Later he expands on exactly why:

Of course, there are a lot of broke-ass suburbanites driving around in Land Rovers they cannot really afford. It is not only the poor who make bad financial decisions. (I could produce a conspectus [your word of the day] of my own.) But the poor always have less room for error, and for their errors, as for most things, they pay a proportionally higher price.  [Emphasis added]

The play Fences has some great examples of the poor making good and bad decisions.  The dad, Troy, discusses with one of his sons if they should fix the roof or get a TV.  Troy isn’t as poor as some but he he trying to show his son exactly the problem Kevin describes.  They can only do one or the other.  Troy is working poor but his good financial sense allows him to help out others at the cost of some advice.

Kevin would like the Fences model but recognizes, unlike Elizabeth, that pay day lenders might be the best option for many folks.  Too bad he never yearned to have a Saab of his very own.

Full Employment: Accountants Only

We love accountants.  We spent the majority of our life educating them.  Unfortunately, we cannot support the plan for a massive expansion of the opportunities for accountants.  Veronique De Rugy at the NRO Corner has the details on Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax.  You should, of course, read the whole thing.  The tax is loosely justified as a response to income inequality but as we have often said the issue is really envy.  Finding the levers to adjust income inequality and agreeing on the right level of inequality are akin to trying to predict climate change.

The one sure thing is the wealth tax will provide lots of opportunities for accountants. Veronique right when she tells us:

That’s why wealth taxes are always so hard to administer and so easy to avoid. It makes them a terrible vehicle for raising money. [and later]

But apparently the senator thinks she can avoid any problems by implementing anti-avoidance measures such as a repressive 40 percent exit tax on any targeted household that attempts to emigrate, minimum audit rates, and increased funding for IRS enforcement.  [Emphasis added]

Because it is off her topic she has left out is all the opportunities for the accountants in the private sector to avoid or reduce the tax.  She mentions that a wealth tax might be unconstitutional.  There is also the issue in bold above.  Can we really tax people that want to leave such a repressive regime?  On both those questions it is wise to reject the proposal rather than count on the courage of the Supreme Court.  Especially when the left wants to pack the court.

One issue we would like to see discussed is the impact of the wealth tax on wealth.  We don’t have a complete model but when wealth produces about eight percent returns and you tax it at two or three percent then the returns on assets are substantially reduced.  That, it seems to us, would reduce the value of assets.  The folks that pay the tax own lots of assets and lots of them are equities.  Equities won’t have two prices.  Will the wealth tax reduce the value of equities?

A wealth tax is at least a really bad idea for everybody but accountants.  It might be absolutely terrible if it has a major negative impact on equity prices.