Confucius Updated, the Volfefe Index, and the Noerr-Pennington Doctrine


Confucius Updated

In chapter 1, verse 1, of the Analects, Confucius is quoted as making this observation:  “有朋自遠方來、不亦樂乎.” “Having friends who come from afar, isn’t it a pleasure.”

In the new translation—The Confucian Analects Updated and Retranslated for Today’s Reader—the Master will be quoted as saying, “To exchange emails with friends from afar, what a pleasure that is!”

The Volfefe Index

I am indebted to old friend Vasari for this news:

CNBC, JP Morgan has created an index to track the effect of Trump’s tweets on financial markets: ‘Volfefe index’:

Donald Trump is tweeting more and it’s affecting the bond market.

In fact, the president’s market-moving tweets ballooned in August as he hammered China on trade and went after the Federal Reserve on interest rates.

In an attempt to quantify the impact of Trump’s tweets on the bond market, J.P. Morgan devised a “Volfefe Index” to analyze how the president’s tweets are influencing volatility in U.S. interest rates.

J.P. Morgan found that the index, named after Trump’s infamous and still mysterious “covfefe” tweet, explains a measurable fraction of the moves in implied rate volatility for 2-year and 5-year Treasurys.

“This makes rough sense as much of the president’s tweets have been focused on the Federal Reserve, and as trade tensions are broadly seen as, first and foremost, impactful on near-term economic performance and, likewise, the Fed’s reaction to such developments,” wrote the authors of the J.P. Morgan report.

The Noerr-Pennington Doctrine

I had a meaty email discussion with old friend Lobo Loup—who’s still practicing antitrust law—about my post on the bogus Antitrust Division investigation of several auto manufacturers. In the post, I called attention to this important legal principle:

Business firms, acting separately or together, have a constitutional right to free speech, to freedom of association, and to petition for redress of grievances. These constitutional rights imply that business firms, individually or jointly, may lobby any branch of government, and any level of government, to adopt laws or regulations or rules to the firms’ liking, or otherwise to do as the lobbyists request. These constitutional rights override anything to the contrary in the antitrust laws.

As long as the firms are lobbying, it does not matter if the outcome they seek could be called “anticompetitive” or “unwise” or “harmful” or “contrary to the public interest.” Nor is there an exception if the lobbying pricks the thin skin of Dear Leader.

Antitrust lawyers call this the Noerr-Pennington doctrine, and it’s a very robust and important principle of antitrust law.

The takeaway from the email discussion—my words, not Lobo’s—is that the Antitrust Division pretty clearly appears to be doing one of two things, or maybe both at the same time:

  • undertaking a legally doomed exercise, in bad faith, for the purpose of harassing some large corporations which have dared to take a position contrary to Trump, and/or
  • attempting to cut back drastically on the Noerr-Pennington doctrine.

Either possibility should cause the folks on the Business Roundtable to shit in their pants. Bigly.


And, speaking of friends from afar, greetings to today’s readers, who come from Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Kenya, Myanmar, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Camels Passing Through the Eye of a Needle

eye of a needle

Caitlin Flanagan, They Had It Coming: The parents indicted in the college-admissions scandal were responding to a changing America, with rage at being robbed of what they believed was rightfully theirs.

Not just informative about the corruption of the elites: a truly epic essay.

David Atkins, Stop Listening to Rich Overconfident Men

A capital suggestion.

Aardvark’s Animadversion

Confucius, for one, would have understood the nub of the situation we are in: unless we can find a way to inculcate a greater sense of morality into our elites, we are doomed.

We may be doomed.

Obviously, I need a visit from my daughter, Pollyanna Aardvark. But she’s tied up this morning, down at the soup kitchen.


Dunning, Kruger, Canute, and Confucius


Though of mature years, Aardvark still relishes learning new information, new ideas, new concepts. This morning I am pleased to share with you, gentle reader, the news that Donald Trump is the poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Many of you, I am sure, are fully knowledgeable on this topic. For many of you, Dunning and Kruger are as familiar as Freud and Jung.

But in case you, like Aardvark, are not among the cognoscenti, please read Jonathan Chait on how Donald Trump Thinks He’s Good at Being President.

Donald Trump’s disorienting, surreal press conference contained one moment of pristine clarity, when the president predicted, “Tomorrow, the headlines are going to be, ‘Donald Trump rants and raves.’” This prediction, while quite correct, raises the question of why Trump thought it was a good idea to hold a media event whose principal effect would be to produce headlines depicting him as rambling and unhinged. Reports from the administration have supplied the answer, which is quite simple: His boasts spring from a place of utter, self-delusional conviction. … …

Trump, as many have noted, is the world’s highest-profile case of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is the phenomenon by which incompetent people are unable to gauge their own competence. Of course, Trump is not bereft of talent. He mastered the technique of using the media to raise his profile, flooding the news with arresting quotes and tidbits and scandal, turning the ordinary heir to a real-estate portfolio into America’s most famous rich person — a branding triumph that he leveraged into a lucrative licensing operation, some outright swindles, and, most crucially, a television show in which he played a brilliant executive.

All the evidence suggests Trump truly believes he is the character he plays on television. And now that he is surrounded by courtiers and the trappings of power, and constantly flattered by powerful people who are secretly terrified of his incompetence, he is convinced of it more deeply than he ever has been before.

The link in Chait’s post takes you to Donald Trump, the Dunning-Kruger President, where you may read all about it.

As was so often the case, Confucius captured the essence of the thing: