Who Taught You Math???

Mod note: Best of Eddie, this was originally posted on 11/29/12.

We. Are. So. Screwed.

It's no secret that the educational quality in the United States has been on the decline for well over a decade. But I had no idea exactly how far we've fallen in real terms. That is, until I read this Psychology Today piece about a recent survey of the math skills of college students in the US. And then I threw up in my mouth a little.

How bad is it?

In an interview one student was asked if he could think of a way to check whether 462+253 = 715. He smartly subtracted 253 from 715 and came out with 462. So far so good. But when he was asked whether he could have subtracted 462 from 715 instead, he said he did not think so. He had been told in school to subtract the second number from the bigger number, not the first. It appears he was just following a memorized script.

Muddy Waters Bails on China

You can't fight city hall.

In the process of explaining his recent takedown of Singapore-based Olam International, Muddy Waters founder Carson Block admits that his firm is no longer focusing on Chinese stocks due to the Chinese government's complicity in the various and sundry accounting frauds perpetrated by Chinese companies. He admits that there's no sense in uncovering corporate fraud when the government is just going to erase all the evidence anyway.

Lucky for Muddy Waters and their clients, there are crooks and morons in accounting departments worldwide. Block covers a lot of ground in this interview and I have to say that he is looking really polished these days (compared to his almost manic paranoid appearance during the Sino-Forest debacle). He has some great insights on short selling, and he bolsters his claims against Olam by asserting that they're willing to go to court to defend their research. This is good stuff.

What I've Learned About Facebook

It's no secret that I'm not a huge fan of Facebook. I thought it was a neat idea early on, but like just about anything else it loses its luster when your mom becomes aware of it. So like the rest of the cool kids on the Internet I migrated to Twitter, which is actually much better suited to meet the needs of finance and econ information junkies like me. I didn't delete my Facebook account (it's really the only way to keep in touch with my old Marine buddies), but I more or less left it in my rear view.

Part of what I did on my time off was soft launch a side project I've been meaning to get off the ground for a couple of years now. Naturally, I wanted proof of concept before I plowed a bunch of time and money into it. So my alternatives (as I saw them, anyway) were to advertise a landing page on Google and compete for some relatively spendy eyeballs, or give Facebook advertising a shot and see if I could achieve better results for less money.

How does this relate to Wall Street, you ask? Well, one of the primary arguments against Facebook stock recently has been their seeming inability to capitalize on mobile advertising despite the fact that better than 50% of Facebook users interact on mobile platforms. I'm going to cover my surprising mobile findings in a minute, but I wanted to give you guys a breakdown of Facebook as an advertising platform from an advertiser's perspective, and that might help you to better judge the value of the stock.

So What Did I Miss?

Wow! A whole month off. I feel like my WSO muscles have atrophied a bit from disuse. The rest did me some good, I got a little tiny bit of travel in, I managed to save a deal that appeared to be going sideways in a hurry, and I kicked off a little start-up of my own (which so far has taught me some pretty surprising things about Facebook).

So what did I miss around here? Obama walked through Romney to no one's surprise other than Romney himself, apparently. As much as I don't particularly care for the guy, I had to throw some grudging respect to Obama over the way he handled election day. While Romney was out running around trying to drum up votes like a madman, Obama was shooting hoops with Scottie Pippen, OG-style. I'm guessing he wasn't worried about Romney for a single minute during the campaign.

What else big happened? Oh yeah, AAPL got clobbered. What's up with that? Fortunately, I bought it all the way down and now my average cost is $593. Yeah, yeah, I know. You own it at $40 a share and started buying it when you were eight years old with your paper route money. Shut up. Some of us were late to the party.

Is Marriage Useless Today?

mod (Andy) note: "Blast from the past - Best of Eddie" - This one is originally from November 2010. If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.

Has marriage become obsolete? According to a recent Time Magazine/Pew poll, 40% of Americans believe that marriage is obsolete today, and 44% of Americans under 30 believe the institution of marriage is soon to be extinct.

I can't think of a better topic to write about on my 8th anniversary.

You guys know how I feel about marriage from a practical standpoint: there's no percentage in it. Clearly, Prince William is not a WSO reader. All joking aside, though, is marriage dead? For someone in a lopsided income/asset relationship (where one partner earns or is worth far more than the other), how could it be to the advantage of the more financially successful partner to get married?

Harvard Scammed by 23-Year Old

mod (Andy) note: "Blast from the past - Best of Eddie" - This one is originally from May 2010. If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.

You'd think creativity would count for something. Adam Wheeler, a 23-year old from Delaware, is being charged with larceny, identity theft, and fraud after faking his way into Harvard and taking the school for $45,000 in scholarships, grants, and financial aid. Step aside Jeffrey Chiang. Take a seat Aleksey Vayner. There's a new kid in the bullshitter's Cooperstown.

Wheeler didn't take any half-steps in his scam, either. He not only claimed to have earned a perfect academic record at Phillips Academy to gain admission to Harvard in 2007, he backed up the claim with a falsified transcript from MIT. He might have gotten away with it too, if he hadn't pushed the envelope by later applying for Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships.

"This defendant's actions cheated those who competed honestly and fairly for admissions and for the scholarships that this defendant fraudulently obtained," Leone said.

For Those About to Propose

mod (Andy) note: "Blast from the past - Best of Eddie" - This one is originally from January 2011. If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.

With Valentine's Day two short weeks away, some of your girlfriends are no doubt ratcheting up the pressure on you to pop the question on the most romantic day of the year. Maybe you already live together. Maybe you've been going out for a few years. Maybe you met her in a Chelsea dive bar on Tuesday. It's no matter. They all want the same thing.

Allow me to introduce Charles Brandes. Sure, he's a big shot today pulling in an estimated $16 million a month, but he wasn't always. He was once just a young monkey like all of you. And therein lies his cautionary tale. For it was at that point in his career that he met Linda King Formo, a single mother earning $6 an hour as a librarian.

Bonus Bananas October 26, 2012

Sorry I'm late, guys, but I actually caught somebody trying to steal $11,000 from me this morning. Bizarre. The balls on some people. Here we go:

1) 'Rogue trader' Jerome Kerviel loses appeal (France24) - Poor, poor Jerome. Looks like he's gonna do three years and cough up five billion after all.

2) Robin Hood tax gains traction in Europe (CNN Money) - They're referring to a transaction tax on trading, an idea that is being kicked around on this side of the pond as well. It'll be interesting to see if this idea catches on. I don't particularly subscribe to the view that HFTs provide a huge social benefit through increased liquidity, and it wouldn't break my heart to see them lose some influence in day to day fluctuations.

3) Catarina Migliorini Sells Virginity For $780,000; Male Virgin Alex Stepanov Gets $3,000 (Huffington Post) - Okay, so she's 9ish and she's doing it for a good cause, but almost a million bucks? C'mon, man! Somebody please explain the ROI here. Women really are sitting on a goldmine.

I Just Wasted My Vote

I'm taking the next month off and I won't be around when Obama gets reelected, so I thought I'd let you guys know that I was a good citizen and mailed in my absentee ballot earlier this week.

I'd initially intended to abstain this year, but the debates really turned me around. For the record, I think abstention is a perfectly legitimate vote in and of itself, and is really the only way for the American people to signal to the rest of the world that we have no faith in our government. Be that as it may, I've only ever abstained once (2004) since reaching legal voting age. On top of that, I firmly believe that anyone who ever voted for George W. Bush (as I did in 2000) should have their voting privileges revoked for life, so any voting I do from now on is pretty much gravy.

So what was it that got me off the schneid and forced me to download a ballot and mail it in? I think it was the case laid out by both candidates for their respective viewpoints, actually. Watching the debates drove home one thing for me:

I had to vote this time around for the sake of my own conscience.

Check Out the New JDOasis.com!

For those of you wondering what's going on over at JDOasis.com, I've got some exciting news for you. The site is going through a total re-launch, complete with a full team of writers dedicated to making JDO the WSO of the legal world. Do me a favor and help them out by Liking them below:

Did I mention the suit giveaway over there? You can get up to 20 entries to win another suit from Indochino by liking jdOasis.com+ other simple ways to enter. Be sure to check it out. Also, if you're considering a career in law or you're contemplating law school, there is already a ton of helpful content on JDOasis. You'll recognize some familiar faces over there who help make JDO as lively as WSO. It's no secret that landing a job in Big Law is no mean feat, and JDO can help you put your best foot forward in the same way WSO generates more Wall Street success stories than any other site on the web.