Thursday, December 8, 2016

Has It All Finally Gone Too Far On Campus?

FLG found this fascinating.   The director of the School of Social Work at a university in Toronto walked out of a talk being given by a black female speaker, and he was subsequently accused of committing a "violent act" of pretty much every -ism.   Protests, calls for his dismissal, etc, etc.  He stepped down as director, but is still at the school, which seems to be a problem for the protestors.

But here's the fascinating thing.   If you were to ask FLG what part of the faculty at any university is the most liberal, well, the School of Social Work would be pretty much at the tippy-top of that list. And here's how that faculty, the ones that have been teaching them about all this stuff they are upset about and protesting, looked when getting protested themselves:


Is that the look of shock and horror or even resignation that they've mind fucked their students and are appalled at what they've created?    FLG can only hope.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Back to Tocqueville

After reading this blog post by Ramesh Ponnuru:
One thing that surprised me about our panel, though, was how little they dwelt on political correctness and how much they talked about another threat to the liberal arts: the tendency to view higher education purely in terms of its economic benefits. “Our age is an age of the celebration and valorization of wealth, power, influence, status, prestige," George said. "Those things are not bad in themselves, but they easily and all too often become the competition for leading an examined life.”
FLG thought of a passage from Tocqueville that he often references:
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. [...] 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.

This Talk By Jacob Levy

...keeps popping back into FLG's head recently...

Is FLG The Only One Who

...thinks that Trump's call to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen might have actually been savvy genius?  

Think about it.   Right now is the least risky time to call.  Or rather there is complete plausible deniability.     He's not actually in office, so it's not an official-official call from the President.   Also, the State Department can look at the Chinese, shrug and say with a straight-face, Sorry, he's new at this.    He literally has zero foreign policy experience.

So, he gets to show some support to Taiwan, but has a get out of jail free card of sorts.  Call now, shrug and apology.    Call a year from now.   Big issue.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

FLG's Annual Who Wants And Can Afford To Wear This Shit? List

FLG starts looking at stuff on Mr. Porter around now because after the holidays come huge markdowns.  He pays particular attention to the Charvet, Drakes, Inis MeainJ M Weston and Loro Piana sections.   In truth, even discounted almost all of those brand's stuff, although exquisite, is too much for FLG.

Anyway, while pursing the site, FLG always comes across items and wonders, often aloud, Who the fuck is the market for this stuff?   Rap artists?   Coked-up Investment Bankers?   WHO?!   FLG WANTS TO KNOW!

A $12,000 cocktail shaker shaped like an airplane.

$17k and change for an ice bucket.

Over $800 for a sweatshirt with two dogs fighting.  It's a sweatshirt.   It's made of cotton, not cashmere.   It's $800.

This one is twice that.

FLG is pretty sure Serpentor is the only possible buyer of this one.

These sneakers are nice, but $600 is crazy.

These are $700 and have a lion picture on them.

These are hideous and over a thousand.

These boots confused FLG.

A grand for a camo backpack.   Camo backpacks can be found for pretty cheap.   Heck, you can get one made of kevlar for less.

If you have $1k and the balls to wear these velvet shoes, well, FLG says -- RESPECT.

It's cashmere, but really?

WHO PAYS $1,100 FOR A NYLON AND CANVAS BACKPACK that looks like it is from the school section at CVS?!




Saturday, November 19, 2016

Tips For Investment Bankers Operating In China Or Really Anybody At Anytime.

Matt Levine:
First of all: Traditionally the way to communicate a sneaky surreptitious intent is winking, not blinking. (Blinking is involuntary and therefore hard to use as a code.) Second: The reason to communicate by winking, or blinking if you must, is to avoid saying out loud the thing that you're not supposed to say. Actually saying "blink blink nod nod" defeats the entire purpose.Third: All of this is extra true over e-mail. It lasts forever. They can search it.

WTF?

Don't be messin' with MCA's park! That shit ain't cool.

Monday, November 14, 2016

How Did FLG Not Know About This Years Ago?

For some reason, an Oscar Wilde quote popped into FLG's head today.

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.

And then FLG searched for more Wilde quotes and was reminded of this one:

Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.

And FLG thought to himself, hey, there is some Plato influence there.   A quick search for Wilde and Plato turned up a Platonic dialogue that Wilde wrote --  The Decay of Lying.

FLG is shocked he hadn't known about this sooner.  This passage in particular resonated given our recent election.

CYRIL. Lying! I should have thought that our politicians kept up that habit.
VIVIAN. I assure you that they do not. They never rise beyond the level of misrepresentation, and actually condescend to prove, to discuss, to argue. How different from the temper of the true liar, with his frank, fearless statements, his superb irresponsibility, his healthy, natural disdain of proof of any kind I After all, what is a fine lie? Simply that which is its own evidence. If a man is sufficiently unimaginative to produce evidence in support of a lie, he might just as well speak the truth at once. 



(Apologies for the lack of links and possible weird formatting, this post was written on an iPhone.)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Quote of the day

Journalists increasingly don’t even believe in the possibility of reasoned disagreement, and as such ascribe cynical motives to those who think about things a different way. We see this in the ongoing veneration of “facts,” the ones peddled by explainer websites and data journalists who believe themselves to be curiously post-ideological.
That the explainers and data journalists so frequently get things hilariously wrong never invites the soul-searching you’d think it would. Instead, it all just somehow leads us to more smugness, more meanness, more certainty from the reporters and pundits. Faced with defeat, we retreat further into our bubble, assumptions left unchecked. No, it’s the voters who are wrong.

To be clear, FLG, reluctantly, very reluctantly, voted for her.    But he certainly doesn't think the end of the world is nigh.   (Just as he didn't think the oceans would recede, the world would heal, and wars would stop when Obama was elected.)     However, that the media and smug lefty pundits will get a wake-up call, if they bother to pick up the phone instead of sleeping through it, is a huge silver lining.


FLG is currently listening to

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Quote of the day

Thomas Frank:

Maybe it’s time to consider whether there’s something about shrill self-righteousness, shouted from a position of high social status, that turns people away.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Jacksonian Democracy

Well, apparently, we still live in a Jacksonian Democracy, in that the Jacksonians, when they get good and fed up, are still the most powerful block in this country.  A lot of us, FLG included, seemed to have forgotten.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Siri, Writing, & Memory

Today, FLG said, "Siri, when was the Battle of the Milvian Bridge?"

Because he just couldn't remember the year.   Siri provided the answer via the Wikipedia page.

As he asked, this passage immediately came to mind:

At the Egyptian city of Naucratis, there was a famous old god, whose name was Theuth; the bird which is called the Ibis is sacred to him, and he was the inventor of many arts, such as arithmetic and calculation and geometry and astronomy and draughts and dice, but his great discovery was the use of letters. Now in those days the god Thamus was the king of the whole country of Egypt; and he dwelt in that great city of Upper Egypt which the Hellenes call Egyptian Thebes, and the god himself is called by them Ammon. To him came Theuth and showed his inventions, desiring that the other Egyptians might be allowed to have the benefit of them; he enumerated them, and Thamus enquired about their several uses, and praised some of them and censured others, as he approved or disapproved of them. It would take a long time to repeat all that Thamus said to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts. But when they came to letters, This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit. Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

iPhones really are amazing.    What people throughout history would have given to be able to be able to talk to pretty much anybody in the world instantaneously, pull up almost any piece of written work or really almost all human knowledge in an instant, perform complex calculations instantaneously, and all with something that fits in your pocket.   But something is lost when one doesn't HAVE to remember anything anymore.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Quote of the day

Matt Levine:
I am a former derivatives structurer and I find annuities terrifying.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Quote of the day

New Yorker:
Even before [Leonard Cohen] had much of an audience, he had a distinct idea of the audience he wanted. In a letter to his publisher, he said that he was out to reach “inner-directed adolescents, lovers in all degrees of anguish, disappointed Platonists, pornography-peepers, hair-handed monks and Popists.”

In case you are wondering, it's the disappointed Platonists that really resonated with FLG. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Quote of the day

It seems to me that there are about two deep financial literacy questions:
  1. Does your plan to finance your future lifestyle rely on miracles occurring?
  1. If I offer you a 20 percent annual risk-free return, am I lying?
If you can answer those questions confidently and correctly, you can think that bond prices get purple when interest rates are hexagonal, and you'll be fine.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Speaking Of Which

FLG posted a quote from Megan McArdle's post about support for the death penalty.

One argument FLG NEVER understands is the one that the death penalty, in and of itself, is unconstitutional.

Fifth Amendment:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. 


One doesn't need to be Aristotle to understand that those phrases very clearly imply that with the due process of law, one can be deprived of life, liberty, or property.   

That's not to say that a particular method of execution could be cruel and unusual.  Or there are issues with the process by which defendants are tried and sentenced to the death penalty that are serious and broad enough to rule the death penalty de facto unconstitutional.   But it's pretty clear that the constitution allows for depriving a person of their life with due process of law.



It's All Time Horizons

Megan McArdle:
Violent criminals tend to be impulsive, and not very good at calculating cost-benefit ratios. The economic jargon for this is “hyperbolic discounters”: they place very high weight on things that will happen in the very near future, and very low weight on things that will happen a long time from now.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Arrogant Designers

For those of you who don't know, they've been expanding the Metro here in Northern Virginia for years.   The new Silver Line will eventually run all the way to Dulles Airport.   One of the big issues discussed during the planning stage was whether to run the Metro underground or elevated through Tysons Corner.    Costs won out and while there is a section underground, it's mostly elevated.    To get from the Metro station to the Tyson Corner Shopping Center, one crosses an elevated bridge, which leads into an elevated courtyard between some newly developed buildings and the shopping center.    Which is a long intro into --- why are designers and architects so fucking arrogant?

Here's an aerial view of the courtyard. Pardon my rudimentary illustrations, but the red line leads off to the Metro Station.   The blue line indicates the path straight to the doors to the mall.   (I didn't extend it all the way.)    In between is a oval of grass.   Who the FUCK thought an oval of grass obstructing the shortest walking path was a good idea?  Oh, yeah the designer who probably thought walking around it would allow pedestrians to better appreciate the space, i.e. force them walk for longer through the space for longer than they otherwise would.   Guess what happened?    See the yellow circle.   People traipsed through the grass because it is IN THE FUCKING WAY!   So, what happens next?   They rail off the grass, forcing people to walk around.     No, no, no.   Put some paving stones down or some shit.    The arrogant designer fucked up.   This stuff happens far too often and its entirely predictable. End of rant.


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.
 
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