Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring Break

This might be the funniest segment FLG has ever seen on The Daily Show.

FLG, like many people, has always had an issue with folks saying "kids these days" about shit they did when they were younger.   Now that he has kids he sort of gets it more, but he tries to fight it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Contraints

FLG has written before that the ultimate goal of the Left is a misunderstood form of Aristotelian leisure.  This ultimate goal, which  FLG believes most don't even fully understand themselves, manifests something like this:

there not only shouldn't be constraints on human desires, but the only constraints are economic and the present state technology. Both of these are theoretically rectifiable. It lends to the idea that the eventual and proper state of human life is one with no constraints on human desire. Therefore, any constraint is by definition an obstacle to be overcome. 

FLG found this interview with a White House economist fascinating because it so illustrates my point:
I agree that the 77 cents on the dollar is not all due to discrimination. No one is trying to say that it is. But you have to point to some number in order for people to understand the facts. And what it represents is the fact that women on average are put in situations every day that for a variety of reasons mean they earn less. Much of what we need to do to close that gap is to change the constraints that women face. And there are things we haven’t tried.

The pay gap isn't the best case for FLG.  The issue arises more when people on the left view the adverse consequences of bad decisions made by an individual eventually become, not the adverse consequences of a series of bad decisions, but rather unfair constraints in a some future decision.  Since FLG has trouble thinking of children as a bad decision, so it's harder for him to point to that as a major issue in this type of analysis.  But nevertheless, the decision to have children comes with a variety of long-term consequences, which are unavoidable and also fall differently, potentially disproportionately, on each parent.


FLG certain that we can't fundamentally change the adverse consequences of having children, and is deeply skeptical that the government should try to ameliorate certain of the second order effects.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Principal-Agent Problem

FLG has written before about what he sees as a principal-agent problem in the last decade or so of Microsoft's history:
Microsoft, to take one example, wastes so much money getting into new businesses looking for growth that FLG thinks shareholders would be better off just milking Windows and Office and call it a day.
A recent piece on Marketplace about how Facebook is transforming into a venture capital/holding company makes FLG think this might be a uniquely and especially problematic issue with regard to tech companies:
Victor Hwang, CEO of T2VentureCreations, a Silicon Valley Venture firm puts it this way:  “On Wall Street, the biggest fear is missing the numbers, not making earnings.  In Silicon Valley, in the startup world, the biggest fear is obsolescence.  Because obsolence is the equivalent of death.” 

Unlike Mark Zuckerberg, FLG as an investor doesn't particularly care if Facebook as a company remains relevant.  He just wants that stream of revenue maximized.  The crux of the matter turns on a simple issue for FLG -- Does he think that Zuckerberg is going to be better at picking the next set of winning companies than he is?  If so, then maybe investing in Facebook makes sense, but FLG is not at all convinced that is the case.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Gender and Social Versus Peer Pressure

Two recent pieces of media rattled something in FLG's brain.  Today there was this piece by Catherine Rampell:

It’s not clear from the data why women might be more sensitive to grades than men are.
“Maybe women just don’t want to get things wrong,” Goldin hypothesized. “They don’t want to walk around being a B-minus student in something. They want to find something they can be an A student in. They want something where the professor will pat them on the back and say ‘You’re doing so well!’ ”
“Guys,” she added, “don’t seem to give two damns.”

 And last week FLG was listening to a this episode of a podcast that he listens to frequently.   It was the first time listening to that podcast when FLG just couldn't relate to the guest.  Sure, he could relate intellectually, but the sort of emotional empathy wasn't there.  Now, this doesn't mean the guest was wrong or anything, just that her experience seems fundamentally different from FLG's experience, which makes perfect sense given that she is a woman and we are talking about body issues, sexuality, etc.

Both of these reminded FLG of his conclusion that women are more sensitive to societal pressures and influence.  The thing he is pondering now is the difference between peer pressure and social pressure. Just to be clear of the distinction -- social pressure is broad, societal expectations; peer pressure is more of an acute pressure within a given context from specific individual or individuals.

FLG's current working hypothesis is that women/girls are more susceptible to societal pressure than men/boys, but with peer pressure the reverse is true.  A small group of women/girls may generate acute peer pressure that magnifies societal expectations, but a group of men/boys together can go completely off the fucking rails.  A sorority might torment pledges about their weight, but a small group of fraternity pledges might just burn a fucking building down when none of them individually would have even considered it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Period of History

Apparently, FLG belongs in Ancient Rome.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Bitcoin

FLG had meant to write something about Bitcoin at some point, but Megan McArdle articulated his stance exactly:
I’ve never been very bullish on Bitcoin, because ultimately, the better it performs at evading government surveillance of currency transactions (and government ability to manage debt loads via inflation), the harder those governments are going to try to shut it down. And it turns out that governments are very good at shutting down these sorts of … call them financial workarounds … because they can order the banks and payment networks that service the vast regular economy to refuse to take Bitcoins or take payments from companies that do take Bitcoins. What governments have done to online poker and offshore banking havens, they can do to Bitcoin vendors.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Priceless

FLG is confounded by how he didn't learn of this site earlier.

In a statement to the United Nations Security Council on Monday, President Barack Obama gave a heartfelt apology for what he called the “tragic and brutal” actions which will be taken by American troops in the wars of the future.
...
 Many of Obama’s supporters counter that by taking such a proactive stance, Obama is seeking to bolster America’s image among potential future allies in Libya and Iran.

FLG almost collapsed his spleen from laughter at this one:
Washington-area police have issued an Amber Alert and are seeking the public’s help in locating a missing 238-year old foreign policy for the United States. 
When last seen it was speaking softly and carrying a big stick.

Quote of the day

The Cave and the Light (p. 293):
[S]cratch your average conspiracy theorist and you'll probably find a renegade Platonist underneath.

For FLG, Platonist and recovering conspiracy theorist, this strikes close to home.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Quote of the day

Megan McArdle:
A modern society cannot be run with an org chart that has Batman filling all its key roles.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Cave and the Light

FLG is about halfway through The Cave and the Light.  As you can imagine, he's enjoying it.

FLG does quibble a bit with Herman's interpretation of Plato, and not surprisingly this relates to time horizons.    At one point, Herman argues that Plato is concerned about the eternal while Aristotle is concerned about the hear and now.  FLG agrees with that.  But then, not too long later, Herman changes this, largely based upon the story of Atlantis in Timaeus, that Plato's philosophy is focused on what has been lost, while Aristotle's is focused on the future.  FLG isn't so sure about that exactly.

FLG largely attributes this to a mild Aristotelian bias, which is to be expected among people who hold PhDs.  It's fascinating to FLG because he thinks a lot of his frustration with academics can be attributed to the Aristotelian bias among academics, the origins of which he had a decent idea, bu the book is detailing.  As Herman explains about Aquinas, his overriding concern is whether "what I have said is true or not."    FLG, in his more uncharitable moments, describes this among academics as a morbid fear of being wrong.  It's not that FLG objects to wanting to say what is true, but rather that he rejects the idea that only what can be demonstrated in material reality is objectively true.   It also, as a practical matter, severely limits what they can comment upon and make claims about.

The book has also gotten FLG pondering a few other things.  First, his fascination with Chartres is probably a product of his fascination with Plato, as the design is directly inspired by Neoplatonism and the concomitant fixation on geometry. Second, FLG has never really delved too deeply into the divergence of Neoplatonism from Plato himself beyond the influence of Christianity; however, he never really considered the impact of the Neoplatonists not having access to much of Plato's work beyond Timaeus.  Lastly, and a bit of a non sequitur, gonzo journalism.

When Hunter S. Thompson said, "Objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long. You can't be objective about Nixon,"  it reminds FLG of Aristotle misunderstood.  Journalists in their desire to just report the facts is futile quest to remain empirical without value, but that is not something Aristotle would have understood.   The empirical facts point toward some higher order, although for Aristotle that higher order was limited by what could be demonstrated in Nature, while for Plato the Good was beyond the material world.   And so FLG realizes that the same thing that makes the Allegory of the Cave so alluring is also the same thing that that makes gonzo journalism so appealing to him as well, but he thinks Plato would disagree.

PS.  Update.  Sorry, FLG meant to mention some of this before, but forgot.    Roger Kimball's review is accurate.   Herman does take a crowbar to the distinctions between Plato and Aristotle and then runs a bit too far with it.  Also, he seems to jump around chronologically as well for the same reason.  To create a diametrically opposed dialectic between the two thinkers throughout the ages.   But FLG is forgiving in the context of some dramatic licence to move the narrative along.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Daddy Issues Revisited

Long-time readers may remember that FLG wrote this a few years ago:
FLG has a long-standing theory that ambitious men are, with few exceptions, the offspring of abusive or absent fathers. 

A column by Peggy Noonan about Diane Blair's notes about the Clintons reminded him of his theory, not that he forgot it per se, but it just hasn't been at the forefront of his mind lately:
 the Blair papers remind us that in the past quarter-century the office of the presidency has become everyone's psychotherapy. There is an emphasis on the personality, nature, character and charisma of the president. He gets into dramas. He survives them. He is working out his issues. He is avenging childhood feelings of powerlessness. He is working through his ambivalence at certain power dynamics. He will show dad.

 FLG really needs to sit down and write a post looking at the Father-Son relationship of every president.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Warthog

J. Furman Daniel, III:
The A-10 is a tried and true design that has served our nation well.  In an era of increasingly complex, expensive, and troubled weapons procurement, it is essential to have some systems that are solid and reliable. With only modest changes to the original design, the A-10 has been upgraded to meet the challenges of the future and deliver its trademark firepower, durability, survivability, and persistence to battlefield hotspots for decades to come.

FLG concurs wholeheartedly.  Also, Mr. Daniel is a Georgetown alumnus and general badass, almost as badass as an A-10.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Quote of the day II

Buttonwood:
In the US in 2010, the top 25 hedge-fund managers earned four times as much as the top S&P 500 CEOs put together.

FLG isn't terribly concerned about inequality, but does think a lot of the remuneration in finance is based on gaming the system or taking huge risks at other peoples' expense.  In any case, that quote is a bit shocking to FLG.

Quote of the day

Fuck the EU!

Love it.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Lost In Translation

Walter Russel Mead:
democracy advocates can address one of the biggest fault lines in our allegedly flat world: People who don't read English or a handful of other languages live in a different information universe. John Locke, Edmund Burke, Thomas Macaulay, Montesquieu, Thomas Paine, Adam Smith, Benjamin Franklin —the works of these thinkers need to be well-translated and widely available. People who read only Urdu, Burmese, Arabic or Punjabi need readily accessible editions (cheap print or Web-based) of important books in their own languages so that people beyond elite circles have access to the ideas and the histories that matter.

This idea appeals to FLG so strongly that he almost circles all the way around to complete and utter skepticism that it would ever work.  But damn does he love the idea.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Celebrity Sightings

FLG is pretty sure Al Hunt was on his DCA-LGA shuttle flight this afternoon.

FLG is completely positive that Mitt and Ann Romney walked into the Carnegie Deli while he was paying for his pastrami on rye.  They were very gracious and polite.



Monday, January 27, 2014

FLG Still Contends It's All About Leverage

The way to limit systemic risk in the financial system is to limit leverage.  Everything else is pretty much a distraction.  This isn't to say that other things, prosecuting insider trading, fraud, other ethical violation, etc, aren't important, but they just don't have much to to with systemic risk.

FLG has been calling for hard, fast rules limiting leverage because, well, he wants to limit leverage (see above).  He also thinks things like the Volcker Rule sound great in theory become horrible 2,400 pages of indecipherable mess that can and will be gamed when all is said and done.   Far better to just set up a rule that can be both explained and actually implemented in one sentence.  So, you can imagine FLG's joy when he read this the other day:
It's particularly tenet-shaking because of the blunt arbitrariness of the rules: Lending to companies with a debt-to-earnings (no, debt to our good friend Ebitda, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) ratio of greater than 6 times is basically right out, but a 5.9x ratio is fine. Give or take.You can buy a company and lever it more than 6 times, but not with (any) bank debt. You gotta go get bonds, and "Since bonds are typically more expensive than loans, the revised structure can make the deals more costly."

It's pure, simple, and easily understood leverage limiting.   Sure, this arbitrary rule will create some inefficiencies, but almost any regulation will create inefficiencies.   

Friday, January 24, 2014

Quote of the day

John C. Dvorak:
Someone at Microsoft—and I suspect it began with the miserable counter-productive "ribbon" interface on Microsoft Word—hates desktop computers.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Six Years

The world has now been subjected to FLG for six years.  Although, the annual post count keeps decreasing with radioactive half-life-esque speed.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Quote of the day

Kathleen Parker:
Obama is not, in fact, a god, as he now seems comfortable conceding

Well, in that case, he just broke Winston Zeddemore's number one rule.   

Friday, January 3, 2014

Minimum Wage


The other day, FLG read this NYTimes editorial and scratched his head at the same passage that Caroline Baum over at Bloomberg did:
In March, every Republican in the House voted against a measure to raise the minimum wage. “When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it,” said Speaker John Boehner in February, espousing a party-line theory that most economists agree has been discredited.
FLG actually read it twice to make sure he read it correctly.  Look, FLG isn't one to think that a moderate increase in the minimum wage is going to have disastrous effects on the labor market.  But he also knows that a price floor results in a surplus because the quantity of labor demanded would decrease and the quantity of labor supplied would increase.  This isn't some crazy party-line theory that has been discredited, but Econ 101 and all that is required to graph it are some straight lines.

So, thinking this, FLG had to click on the link asserting the discredit of basic price floor theory.  Lo and behold, it links to a CEPR report.   Now, for those of you who don't know, CEPR is the Center for Economics and Policy Research headed by Dean Baker.  (Although, he wasn't the author of the paper.)  FLG has said good things about Dean Baker in the past, but let's be clear, he's a man of the left.  The equivalent would be to dismiss Nancy Pelosi was a left-wing ideologue for suggesting that deficit spending can stimulate the economy, cite a Cato or Heritage paper, and claim most economists disagree.  It's fucking nuts.  (Although, FLG must, in the interest of fairness, state that he assumes the Wall Street Journal has probably done just that, but it's still fucking nuts.)

Time Horizons: Inauguration Speech Edition

FLG would like to point out that in Bill de Blasio's inauguration speech he mentions not waiting, starting today, and now more than a dozen times, which makes perfect sense given FLG's Time Horizons Theory.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Quotes of the day

FLG thought this was worth highlighting given the recent China air defense zone kerfuffle from page 107 of Special Providence:
No other principle has played such a major role in our diplomatic history; infringing on our freedom to travel by sea and air remains the fastest way for foreign powers to start a war with the United States.


Also, FLG was intrigued by the alleged reversal of FLG's Time Horizons Theory in this quote from Stiglitz:
In practice, the right’s narrow focus on incentives has proved inimical to long-term thinking and so rife with opportunities for greed that it was bound to promote distrust, both in society and within companies. Bank managers and corporate executives search out creative accounting devices to make their enterprises look good in the short run, even if their long-run prospects are compromised.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

My Eyes, My Ears

FLG and Mrs. FLG are watching What We Wasted Our Year On.

FLG:  What does the fox say?  What are they talking about?

Mrs. FLG:  Oh my god!  You haven't heard it?  You need to see it on YouTube.

FLG grabs his iPad.

FLG:  Okay, here it is.  Weird.

A hideous ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding starts coming out of the computer. 

FLG:  Make it stop!  My ears, my eyes. This is fucking horrible.

Mrs. FLG laughing uncontrollably:  You have to watch the whole thing.

FLG:  No, I don't.  I want to unsee that.

Quote of the day II

Peter Wehner:
[T]he president is a chronic whiner, a habitual complainer and excuse-maker. He relied on blame shifting for his entire first term, and I suspect it’s not merely a tactic for Obama. It is how he’s been conditioned, how he views the world and his place in it. He believes deep in his bones that every setback he encounters is due to outside forces. And so he has laid the blame for his failures on his predecessor, the congressional GOP, the Tea Party, conservative talk radio hosts, millionaires and billionaires, Wall Street, Japanese tsunamis, the Arab Spring, Fox News, and more. Those excuses no longer work–and because they don’t, one of the main political arrows has been removed from the Obama quiver.

Quote of the day

Daniel Miller:
What appears to be the most seminal moment in a young person’s decision to leave Facebook was surely that dreaded day your mum sends you a friend request.
FLG has been sure this would be the case for years.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

FLG is currently listening to





Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Couple Of Quotes

that FLG noted today

The Wire:
A new study has found that as much as 80 percent of the raw scientific data collected by researchers in the early 1990s is gone forever, mostly because no one knows where to find it.

 Buttonwood:
 A nation that gets rich by buying and selling houses is rather like the mythical island which prospered when each house took in its neighbours' washing. By the same token, nations don't get rich by buying back shares.
Bonus:

Ken Brown explains China’s financial system—with some help from claymation.

Which lends support to FLG's theory that all explanations can be made clearer through claymation, even his beloved Plato.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

On Sale

FLG is keeping an eye on the Mr. Porter sale site for Charvet ties.  In previous years, they've gone lower after Christmans, so he's waiting it out.  Although, often his favorites are sold out while he waits.   So, he's a bit torn, but still holding firm.  (The Emma Willis ties are also very, very tempting, in particular, this cashmere one and this circle print one.)

While acknowledging that FLG's taste in ties is on the expensive side, the idea of paying almost a thousand dollars, on sale mind you, for a scarf makes him a bit nauseous.

And he hasn't bought it yet, but at $30 the pocket square with a pin up girl is pretty tempting.  Can't do the cufflinks though.

The Georgetown schoolboy scarf is on sale at J Press, as is the needlepoint Jolly Roger wallet that FLG will never buy.

Not on sale, or even in stock, but still pretty cool, is this map pocket square.

FLG Keeps Coming Back To Tocqueville

Elitism is distasteful to the citizens of democratic societies, but disguising it is a luxury we can no longer afford. We still need universities, but we need them to be, as in most periods of history, the domain of a relatively small group of people. Young people who are eager and intellectually capable should be encouraged to get a serious liberal arts education, and rewarded with opportunities that justify the investment. Those who are not should be directed to more targeted educational pathways that will enable them to find decent employment with a minimum of debt. Everyone should enjoy the fruits of a serious liberal arts education, but some may need to enjoy them less directly than others.

FLG keeps going back to that one passage in Tocqueville almost every time he reads something about higher ed, whether that's lamenting the downfall of liberal education or the impact online education will have:
It is evident that in democratic communities the interest of individuals as well as the security of the commonwealth demands that the education of the greater number should be scientific, commercial, and industrial rather than literary. Greek and Latin should not be taught in all the schools; but it is important that those who, by their natural disposition or their fortune, are destined to cultivate letters or prepared to relish them should find schools where a complete knowledge of ancient literature may be acquired and where the true scholar may be formed. A few excellent universities would do more towards the attainment of this object than a multitude of bad grammar-schools, where superfluous matters, badly learned, stand in the way of sound instruction in necessary studies.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Quote of the day

Charles Murray:
Seen dispassionately, getting a traditional liberal education over four years is an odd way to enjoy spending one’s time. Not many people enjoy reading for hour after hour, day after day, no matter what the material may be. To enjoy reading On Liberty and its ilk—and if you’re going to absorb such material, you must in some sense enjoy the process—is downright peculiar. To be willing to spend many more hours writing papers and answers to exam questions about that material approaches masochism.
FLG wonders what it says to go beyond that and blog about these things.

Courage And Charm

FLG will inartfully summarize this post by Emily Hale that she is concerned about genderizing courage as masculine.  FLG had two knee jerk reactions.

 First, testosterone is a male hormone and estrogen is a female one, but both men and women have each.   The question is the appropriate balance.  If we say moderation in all things, then it would mean a different balance between the two in men and women.  FLG thinks a similar approach applies with masculine versus feminine virtues.

But as Emily notes there is always the question of context :
Considering courage in the context of virtue, of course, means that Aristotle isn't referring to having courage in any situation, but rather having it in the appropriate amount in the appropriate situation.

For example, while physical bravery is typically associated with the masculine, a mother defending her offspring even against impossible odds is a cliche.

Second, FLG immediately thought of how this article lamenting the decline of male charm hits the same notes, but from the opposite starting point.
There is no getting around the basic womanliness of charm. One of the three most important virtues in a man, according to Christopher Hitchens—among the very few charming men I’ve known—is the ability to think like a woman. (The other two are courage, moral and physical, and a sense of the absurd.)

Special Providence

FLG is reading Special Providence by Walter Russell Mead (whose blog, Via Media, you can find on the blogroll).  It's a great read .  FLG is disappointed that he hadn't read it earlier and even more disappointed that none of his professors at the SFS assigned it.  Although, maybe if FLG had taken a course on American Diplomatic History it would have been.  Although although, that a course on American Diplomatic History isn't required does say something in and of itself.

Almost every page has a passage worth highlighting, but here are a couple that FLG liked:
A democracy can, so to speak, easily have too many drinks and then pay a sordid call on a prostitute; it is much harder for a democracy to maintain a cultivated mistress in a fashionable apartment.   Unfortunately it is precisely this latter attitude of stylish and accomplished amorality that has historically worked well for diplomats.
In contrast to the common conception that the American people are ignorant of history, he points to our reverence of the founding documents as near sacred.  What FLG likes here is the concision of the prose:
We do not generally ask whether these documents are adequate for our purposes; the Bill of Rights and the Declaration judge us, we do not judge them. 


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Jesuit Education

FLG was rereading The Prince the other day and stopped at the mention of Girolamo Savonarola.  He wondered how many people would know the name, the Bonfire of the Vanities, and the events with Pico della Mirandola?

And then he realized that FLG knew a lot of Dominicans throughout history because, at least in his experience that at Georgetown, the Dominicans are portrayed as not quite bad guys, as they are still Catholics, but as the Jesuits' foils.  Or perhaps just a misguided portion of the Church.

At the top of the list of bad Dominicans is Tomás de Torquemada.  Savonarola isn't portrayed particularly well. FLG remembers Oliviero Carafa being criticized.  Then there are Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger and their witch hunting - literally.  On the other hand, FLG will say that Bartolomé de las Casas comes out okay.

He was wondering if the this portrayal of the Dominicans is common in Jesuit education or if was just a Georgetown thing.  In any case, FLG is thankful for having at least a passing knowledge of them.
 
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