Monday, September 26, 2016

Quote of the day

Mike Pietrucha:
The world is not overrun with advanced air defense systems any more than it is with laser-equipped sharks.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Quote of the day


Nassim Nicholas Taleb: 
With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers (or Montaigne and such filtered classical knowledge) with a better track record than these policymaking goons.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Quote of the Day

Abogin and the doctor stood face to face, and in their wrath continued flinging undeserved insults at each other. I believe that never in their lives, even in delirium, had they uttered so much that was unjust, cruel, and absurd. The egoism of the unhappy was conspicuous in both. The unhappy are egoistic, spiteful, unjust, cruel, and less capable of understanding each other than fools. Unhappiness does not bring people together but draws them apart, and even where one would fancy people should be united by the similarity of their sorrow, far more injustice and cruelty is generated than in comparatively placid surroundings.
The Schoolmaster, by Anton Chekhov 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Why Doesn't The Public Trust Science? Your Solution Is Part Of The Problem.

FLG is extremely interested in science, its definition, its methodologies, its perception among the public.   So, he obviously clicked on the link when he saw this title -- Why Doesn't The Public Trust Science?

Okay, there was a little bit of Republican bashing, but it was too bad.   There were solid suggestions, like this passage below:
Regarding scientific research, better standards of statistical significance are needed. Researchers should be required to register their research protocols in advance in virtual notebooks, to make it harder to get away with fiddling with an experiment’s design. Journals should create quotas for less interesting research, such as fact-checking other studies, which should be mandated by grant-givers.
FLG is especially keen on finding ways to fix incentives in science.   For example, finding ways to encourage replication studies and conduct basic fact checking is a fantastic suggestion.  But, unfortunately, we then get to this:

And the reason all of this is happening? Science in general has trouble communicating its findings to the wider public. Part of the reason could be that key parts of the scientific community are too old, too male, and/or just too out of touch.
 And then in the final paragraph, the final recommendation is this:

Given the concerning state of public distrust and the importance of science for the advancement of society, fixing it should be a national priority. A younger, more representative pool of scientists, combined with higher quality research, could help communicate important new findings to the world at large and restore the bond of trust between society and the scientific community.
So, after all that, the primary problem with science is that it's too old, male, and FLG'll guess probably too white?    Who the scientists are is apparently the primary problem, as quality research has been reduced to a parenthetical clause.

FLG does NOT dispute that a more diverse population of scientists would study different things and develop different hypotheses to be tested.   For example, FLG is convinced that women's health has been systemically understudied because the majority of medical researchers were male.   He's less convinced that remains the case, but it certainly was the case.

But FLG totally disagrees that the distrust of science has much, if anything, to do with the level of diversity in the population of scientists.  The entire point of science is to generate a hypothesis and then find as many ways to attempt to empirically disprove it that you can.   The scientist's gender, ethnicity, or age has nothing at all to do with what has been rigorously and empirically tested.

In fact, FLG would argue that calling for more diversity in science, without explaining how that would improve the quality of the science itself, rather than the perception of scientists, would only undermine the trust in science, as it would appear to make science a more explicitly political endeavor, rather than a knowledge generating one.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

DNC Hack

Given the horrible choices available in this election*, FLG has found the DNC hack the most interesting thing that's happened during this campaign season.  And it keeps getting interestinger and interestinger....

Here's the quick run down:

Summer 2015 - Cozy Bear, a cyber threat actor group who is almost certainly Russian intelligence, gained access to the DNC network.   They're pretty good at what they do (previous victims include the White House, State Department, and Joint Chiefs of Staff) and nobody noticed.   Seems like they did normal intel gathering stuff, minding their own business, until...

Fancy Bear, a separate cyber threat actor - most likely Russian Military intelligence, hacked the DNC in April 2016.

Neither of these is particularly surprising.   The political campaigns of the most powerful nation on Earth are a huge intelligence target.   FLG shrugs and says, "well, that's the game."   No big deal.

But then things get interesting....

Crowdstrike, a commercial cyber intelligence firm, publishes a blog post that accuses the Russians of executing the hack.  

Shortly thereafter, FLG thinks the very next day, a supposedly Romanian hacker nobody has ever heard of, Guccifer 2.0, stands up a blog and says he didn't it all by himself.  This is almost certainly a Russian intelligence PsyOps operation.   They release a few documents, but they don't really get any traction with the media.  So, they dump a bunch to Wikileaks and it starts to take off.

In addition to Wikileaks, there's also data leaking out via DCLeaks.  That site was likely stood up by the Russians.  But what FLG finds most shocking about that is the domain name was registered on 4/19/16 -- the same timeframe when Fancy Bear was hacking the DNC, which implies the Russian Military intelligence was planning to do this PsyOp campaign from the get go, not just them calling an audible because Crowdstrike outted them.

Fancy Bear also hacked the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  They're leaking that stuff too, but whatever...FLG will move on to another topic that is also fascinating.

So, in the midst of all this, in addition to leaking documents, the Russians deny everything and publicly claim they've been hacked themselves.  Extensively.   Multiple departments, agencies, and offices.   They don't mention any suspects, but let's consider this a "Hey, Yankees, stop calling us out.  You do this shit too." message.

And a couple of days ago, some group nobody has ever heard of before - Shadow Brokers - aka another Russian PsyOp --- put tools and exploits from the Equation Group (the cyber actor name for the NSA) up for auction and released some, which look to FLG like NSA-level stuff.

BTW, FLG doubts the Fort Meade was hacked.  After the Snowden stuff, the Russians probably knew where to look and found a bunch of NSA hacks in their systems and worked their way back to other staging servers.   The operational security of the NSA should have been better, but given the Snowden leaks it was probably tough to keep out of sight.

Anyway, it's a new geopolitical world...









Monday, August 15, 2016

Time Horizons

Had this article bookmarked for a while...
Respondents with discount rates more than one standard deviation above the average of the sample had 29% less net wealth, a loss of around $130,000. More impatient people—similarly controlling for religion, income, race, sex, optimism and education—were more likely to smoke, drink excessively, and miss out on their flu shots and medical examinations.
The study, carried out with David Huffman from University of Pittsburgh, also found whites’ discount rates were systematically 11% lower than nonwhites’. An extra year of education inculcated a 2 percentage-point reduction in discount rates.

Time horizons!  Still want to see a research paper map discount rates to political orientation.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Friday, July 29, 2016

Tyler Cowen

Updated FLG's celebrity sightings because FLG saw him at Dolcezza in Fairfax.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Really?

This Bloomberg piece references a study published in The Lancet, which says that the costs of inactivity physical inactivity costs the world around $70 billion, of which roughly $30 billion of that cost is in the US.  

Okay, big numbers.  Small compared to overall GDP both globally and in the US, but still nothing to sneeze at, particularly given that the author considers these conservative estimates.   Okay, fine.  But then there's this:

"We need more investment to make physical activity accessible to all,” she said.

Uh, huh?   To be clear, investment means public spending.   FLG isn't against public spending in favor of public health.    The return, in some cases, can be pretty good.   But he finds the idea that accessibility is the issue to be fucking stupid.    Walking, jogging, jumping jacks, push ups -- all free.   Require little to no equipment.    Everybody knows how to do them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Quote of the day

Matt Levine:
The mixing of commercial and investment banking seems to have had very little to do with the last crisis, no one can quite explain how it would prevent a new one, and it would be a real pain to break up all the banks. The one thing I will say for it, though, is that the Glass-Steagall hard line between commercial banking (deposits, loans, etc.) and investment banking (trading, etc.) is probably a more sensible line than the Volcker Rule line between market making and proprietary trading. There is every reason in the world to combine customer-facilitation and "proprietary" trading in one entity, but there's no particular conceptual reason why that entity should be a deposit-taking bank. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Glass-Steagall

There's been a lot of fucking dumb and crazy shit this election season, so why don't both parties call for the return of Glass-Steagall?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Glass-Steagall

FLG has been busy and was clearing out a backlog of blog reading.   He was surprised to find a Tweetstorm on Glass-Steagall by Josh Brown.    FLG likes John Brown and is sorta shocked by his take on Glass-Steagall and the financial crisis.

FLG won't rehash his own Glass-Steagall argument in full again, but here are the two main points:

1) It wasn't the big universal banks that went under during the financial crisis; it was Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, both risky investment banks.   Bear got bought by whom?  JP Morgan, one of those horrible universal banks made possible by Gramm-Leach-Bliley (GLB), aka the Repeal of Glass-Steagall.   Lehman was allowed to fail.  Who was next Wall Street domino likely to fail after Lehman?  Merrill Lynch.   What happened to Merrill?  It got bought by Bank of America, another horrible universal bank made possible by GLB.

So, GLB actually helped stabilize the system during the crisis.

2) Financial innovation has blurred what were previously very clear financial lines.   Derivatives, so often described as inherently risky, can be cheap, effective tool to reduce risk.   Interest rate swap, to provide one example, allow a bank to manage the interest rate exposure of its loan book quickly and cheaply.   Should we force commercial banks to manage their loan portfolio using a more expensive and slower method to manage the risk because the instrument that is cheaper and faster is perceived as inherently more dangerous?  If we don't ban their use of derivatives entirely, then it's a question of risk management, which, let's be honest, the regulators suck at micro-managing.  So, we are left with fortress balance sheets and leverage ratios.  Not Glass-Steagall's return.



As long-time readers are aware, FLG believes it's the lifting of restrictions on interstate banking, like the Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994, that were the real problem.   State borders, while political borders without much financial or economic rationale, helped contain the scope and size of banks albeit sub-optimally.  Hence, any particular failure was probably not going to take down the entire system.   Although, the Fed and FDIC didn't risk it with Continental Illinois.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Quote of the day

The New Yorker:
The argument ends by proposing that we are, in fact, digital beings living in a vast computer simulation created by our far-future descendants. Many people have imagined this scenario over the years, of course, usually while high.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Coolest Ancient Name

FLG used to think it was Andron the Archpirate, but upon learning of Archias the Exile-Chaser, he's not so sure anymore.  Archias tracked down Demosthenes, which is pretty cool.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Quote of the day

James Poulos:
Populism can be powerful, but only when it's really popular.

Seriously?

FLG watched this video by Robert Reich responding to common criticisms of Bernie Sanders.

FLG is on the other side of the political aisle and has issues with most of the responses, but he literally laughed out loud at a suggested response to Sanders being too old is that "he is younger than 4 of the 9 Supreme Court justices."

A few things here:
1) He's younger than less than half of them?   Whew!   And isn't one of those nine actually no longer living?
2) Comparing somebody's age to the Supreme Court is sorta like saying -- Old?  Got a few of names for your Methuselah, Noah,  & Shem.   Bernie is a spring chicken.
3) Being a Supreme Court justice is anywhere near as demanding as being President of the United States.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Quote of the Day

Jonathan Haidt:
So my hope is that universities will be forced to declare their sacred value. I hope we can split them off into different kinds of institutions–you know, Brown and Amherst can devote themselves to social justice. Chicago is my main hope. The University of Chicago might be able to devote itself to truth.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Object Sex Round-Up

FLG hasn't posted any object sex stories in a long, long time.   Felt it was time to remedy that oversight.

Daily Telegraph:
A MAN who shocked Britain after trying to have sex with a post box has been found dead outside a Chinese restaurant.
FLG actually feels a bit bad about this one.    Poor guy dies and all anybody knows is that he tried to fuck a mailbox.

Daily Telegraph:
A 31-YEAR-OLD woman has found love with a tree named Tim and says it’s the best sex she’s ever had. 
It’s believed Emma’s bizarre attraction to the tree may be a result of a condition called dendrophilia where a person is sexually attracted to a tree.

Questions:   Wouldn't it be easier to get a saw, cut off a branch, take the branch to a lathe, then a large belt sander, throw some lacker or whatever on it, and then go to town in the privacy of one's own home, with no marriage necessary?  Is anybody else surprised that the word dendrophilia needs to exist?



DailyNewsMobile:
Clark was purportedly found engaging in sexual behaviors with the Xlerator hand drying machine by a female custodian. The traumatized custodian reports “That boy had his d*ck all up in that hand drying machine.” she continues to describe how the incident has left her scarred “I’m not always gonna remember that boys face, but what I will never forget was the sound. ‘Whhhhrrrrrrrrrrrr’ I heard ‘Whhhrrrrrr’ then I saw his semen splattering across the floor, and I was like I ain’t cleaning that up.”

This one isn't real, but had FLG on the floor anyway.

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Conversation

Miss FLG Major:  Can I have a Poodle Skirt for the Sock Hop?

FLG:  What?

Miss FLG Major:  *Sigh* Can I have a Poodle Skirt for the Sock Hop?

FLG:  Did we go through some time portal I don't know about?   I think you are like six decades late.

Miss FLG Major:  No, silly.   My school is having a Sock Hop!

FLG:   Oh, in that case, I'll order the Poodle Skirt and a bustle in case your school decides to have a Victorian Era Dinner Party.






Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Time Horizons

FLG still says it's time horizons.   Just in case you were wondering.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cool


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Quote of the day

McArdle:
Glass-Steagall’s major appeal is not that it would work, but that it can be explained in under a minute to someone who doesn’t know anything about financial markets. Try doing that with the Basel III capital requirements.

FLG's responses to the calls for Glass-Steagall's reinstatement have varied over the last, oh seven years, between scratching his head in confusion and apoplectic rage.   Rather than recapping all that, FLG'll just post this other quote...

On the Glass-Steagall, I’ve really thought about that because No. 1, nonbank banking was already a major part of American life at that time. Letting banks take investment positions I don’t think had much to do with this meltdown. And the more diversified institutions in general were better able to handle what happened.
...by Bill Clinton

Friday, November 20, 2015

Couple of Interesting Points

...from this article about Menswear.

Interesting point 1:
In an interview with the [fashion] school’s student-run Web site and magazine, Banderas explained that he wanted to start his own menswear line; his particular ambition was to bring back the cape. Capes for men, he said, have “incredible possibilities”
If there is one thing FLG learned at Georgetown, it's that whenever one says something is interesting he must follow up with precisely why it is interesting because saying something is interesting conveys no meaning.

So, FLG agrees capes have incredible possibilities -- winter capes, bulletproof capes, travel capes with lots of pockets that are easy to take on an off, and of course invisibility capes.


Interesting point 2:
It seems as though, having searched for an authentic way of dressing “like a man,” the men of menswear have discovered that nothing along those lines exists. It’s costumesall the way down: trad, woodsman, cowboy, sailor, biker, banker, goth ninja. 

This echoes a point FLG has been making for a while.   The search for authenticity is a fool's errand bred by a disappointment in the person's own cultural milieu.   Ultimately, what seems authentic is merely interaction with the new or novel whether that be foreign cultures or ages past.   Upon further inspection, however, there's nothing authentic about them either. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Florida Police Report

At approximately 1420 hours, the defendant Sean Johnson selected a brown, tan and red-stuffed horse from the clearance shelf in the garden department. The defendant then proceeded to the comforter aisle in housewares and proceeded to pull out his genitals which were in an aroused state. The defendant then proceeded to hold the stuffed horse’s chest area to his genitals and proceeded to hump the stuffed horse using short fast movements. The defendant continued his action until he achieved an orgasm and ejaculated on the stuffed horse’s chest area.
The defendant then placed the soiled stuffed horse on top of a bed in a bag (comforter set) contaminating that property also. The defendant then exited the store and left the property. Contact was made with the defendant directly across the street.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Quick Round-Up

FLG missed International Talk-like-a-pirate day!    Unbelievable.


Did anybody else know that Puma had sneakers called "Creepers?"    Call FLG crazy, but that seems like a marketing mistake.  

FLG has been on a quest to acquire a purple velvet jacket.    He thought he'd have to have one made custom, but then he saw this.  But then he saw the price and thinks he can get one custom cheaper.

Lastly, FLG has not fucking clue what to make of the presidential race.   Hillary is faltering, but Donald Trump?   WTF?    The White House would be gold plated, wall-to-wall marble.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Celebrity Sightings

FLG happened to be staying at the Minneapolis Hilton while some sort of Democratic convention / conference was going on.  

On separate days, he saw Ed Rendell and Hillary Clinton.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Presidential Daddy Issues

One long running theme here at Fear and Loathing in Georgetown is that extraordinarily ambitious men, FLG is tempted to say people but isn't quite sure how it applies to women just yet, have are motivated to acquire the admiration and love from the people that they never received from their fathers because their father either died, abandoned, or was abusive toward them.

FLG was reminded of this when reading a NY Times article about how Lincoln didn't like Jefferson:
Lincoln, who actually grew up on a backwoods farm, saw little there but drunkenness, rowdyism and endless, mind-numbing labor under the rule of his loutish and illiterate father. He made his escape from the farm as soon as he turned 21, opened a store (which failed) and finally went into law, that great enforcer of commercial contract. “I was once a slave,” he remarked, “but now I am so free that they let me practice law.”
 FLG starts compiling the data for the presidents, but always gets sidetracked.   Here's what he has so far:
George Washington -- Father died when he was 11
Thomas Jefferson -- Father died when he was 14
James Monroe -- Father died when he was 15 or 16
Andrew Jackson -- Father died 3 week before he was born
William Harrison -- Father died when he was 18
John Tyler -- Father died when he was 23
Franklin Pierce -- "According to a popular anecdote he walked twelve miles back to his home one Sunday; his father fed him dinner and drove him part of the distance back to school before kicking him out of the carriage and ordering him to walk the rest of the way in a thunderstorm. Pierce learned from the experience, later citing this moment as "the turning-point in my life""
James Garfield -- Father died when an infant

Bill Clinton & Barack Obama have well-known father issues.

Teddy seems to be the odd one out, however, writing:
My father, Theodore Roosevelt, was the best man I ever knew. He combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and great unselfishness. He would not tolerate in us children selfishness or cruelty, idleness, cowardice, or untruthfulness.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

FLG Doth Protest!

Two recent stories have rather upset FLG.

First Story:

WSJ:
The Treasury Department announced Wednesday it will replace the main image of its own founder, Alexander Hamilton, on the $10 bill, with a woman as yet to be determined. Mr. Hamilton will remain on the bill in a diminished way.

Alexander Hamilton was a total badass who pretty much laid the foundation for American Greatness.  He also was the first Secretary of the Treasury, which FLG sorta thinks means he should stay on a bill.  Change pretty much any other bill first.

BTW, Harriet Tubman. Okay. Got it. FLG is all in favor of honoring her, but not on the $10 bill.   Eleanor Roosevelt?  What the fuck is the continuing fascination with Eleanor Roosevelt all about?


Second Story:
Don't teach Shakespeare?   Are you people fucking mad?  Then again, maybe nobody is paying attention anyway.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Magna Carta

Eight hundred years ago today at Runnymeade.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Alexander's Death

Interesting theory:
An extremely toxic bacterium found in the Styx River, now known as the Mavroneri, may have killed Alexander the Great.


But everybody knows Alexander died after drinking "a large bowl of unmixed wine in honour of Hercules."

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Think How Great The PiƱa Coladas Would've Been

AFP:
Among the thousands of fresh pineapples inside the containers, they found fruit that had been hollowed out and stuffed with drugs and then covered with a yellow wax that simulated the colour of pineapple pulp.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Quote of the day

Kevin Carroll:
Anybody who says that a guy called Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi [the leader of Isis] doesn’t intend to seize Baghdad is whistling past the graveyard

Friday, May 29, 2015

Celebrity Sightings: Eugene Robinson

Saw Eugene Robinson coming out of the post office in Westover, while FLG was drinking a beer at the beer garden.
 
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