Friday, October 31, 2008

A Conversation

WARNING: This is offensive, even by FLG's standards.

FLG meets his college friend (CF) at the airport.

FLG: How are you?

CF: Great. Been busy though.

FLG: Really. What's up? Baggage claim's down this way.

CF: That's right. I haven't talked to you in almost a year. I've been traveling around on business.

FLG: How's your girlfriend?

CF: We're over. The whore was cheating on me.

FLG: That's terrible.

CF: Found out on Valentine's Day.

FLG: That's even worse.

CF: I caught the bitch in my bed with another guy.

FLG: You're kidding me!

CF: Serious as a heart attack.

FLG: What did you do?

CF: What do you think I did? I kicked 'em out.

FLG: Did you kick his ass or something?

CF: What good would that have done?

FLG: None probably, but it might have made you feel better.

CF: Nah.

FLG: Sorry I brought it up. What else have you been doing?

CF: It's cool. Been Traveling. I went to Macau, Hong Kong, Vietnam. I even spent a few days in Prague last month.

FLG: I've always wanted to go to Prague. Did you enjoy yourself? What did you do?

CF: I had a great time in Prague. I've got a great story.

FLG: Awesome.

CF: So, I was balls deep in this Czech girl's ass...

Monty Python Philosophy Humor



I am zee King of Bling-Bling

I almost shit myself watching this video. (I might have to visit a doctor about that.)

Million To One Shot, Doc! Million To One.

Telegraph:
A vicar attended hospital with a potato stuck up his bottom - and claimed it got there after he fell on to the vegetable while naked.

The clergyman, in his 50s, told nurses he had been hanging curtains when he fell backwards on to his kitchen table.

He happened to be nude at the time of the mishap, said the vicar, who insisted he had not been playing a sex game.


Current Reading

Finished Casino Royale.

It was awesome.

Looks like some Democrats are waking up

Robinson (Emphasis mine):
But compare the bunny-in-the-headlights Sarah Palin of just a few weeks ago with the much more poised and confident Sarah Palin of today. Ignorance isn't the same thing as stupidity. When Palin talks about economic policy these days, her sentences don't meander into the Twilight Zone the way they once did. She has more to say about foreign policy besides the fact that Russia is just across the Bering Strait. She has learned much in a very short period.

And she will learn more. I predict we'll have Sarah Palin to kick around for a long, long time.


Sarah Palin will be a formidable national candidate in subsequent elections. She, however, is also the reason I will not be voting for McCain. The lack of consideration that McCain displayed by picking an extremely talented, yet completely unprepared candidate reinforces my worst concerns about McCain -- that he flies by the seat of his pants and isn't particularly pensive.

Also, McCain is old. He's not too old to be president by any means, but his VP is of added importance because of his age. Choosing a person who clearly wasn't ready, by any objective measure, to become president of the United States on January 20, 2009 displays a huge lack of judgement. Yes, Gov. Palin has made huge strides in getting ready and in all probability will not have to fill the presidential shoes right away, but those arguments are irrelevant. One has to make the decision based upon whether they are ready to be president, and she is not. She is in the midst of an all-nighter to get ready and she's learning fast, but McCain should never have chosen somebody who needed an all-nighter. Period.

On foreign policy, I would be generally comfortable with McCain's judgement. However, the economy and fiscal issues require somebody to sit down and think these things through. McCain resorts to the usual give tax cuts to encourage whatever it is the Republicans want to encourage plan that just ain't gonna get the job done. Furthermore, his deviations from Republican orthodoxy, like the buying mortgages, are terrible ideas. Slashing pork barrel spending ain't gonna make a dent either. I admire the man's bravery and character, and there are worse things than having an honor-loving soul as president. But the honor-loving soul is not what we need right now.

So, I am weighing three options: 1) Throw my vote away and Vote Libertarian as a protest vote. 2) Don't vote in the presidential contest as a protest. 3) Vote Obama.

Quote of the day

Krugman:
one of the high points of the semester, if you’re a teacher of introductory macroeconomics, comes when you explain how individual virtue can be public vice, how attempts by consumers to do the right thing by saving more can leave everyone worse off.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Renegade Motorcycle Daredevil Sex Cult

I've never linked to a post on C.S. Perry's blog, Rooked. I made this decision a long time ago for my readers' safety, but this post is so good that it's worth the risk. Sure, some of you will weep, run in fear, have nightmares, get divorced, left impotent, or be scarred subconsciously for life, but it had to be done.

Texting

I hate texting and think it is ruining our language.

Miss Self-Important, knowing this, graciously gave me Txtng: The Gr8 Db8.

I've only started reading it, but the appendix contains texting abbreviations in eleven foreign languages. Not surprisingly, the French seem to have the most. They love acronyms. "koi29" for "quoi de neuf" made me laugh. At least it's not only English heading for the toilet.

Full review of the book to follow.

Head of the IMF will propose a new world financial governmence structure

Dominique Strauss-Kahn : "Je proposerai au G20 un plan de nouvelle gouvernance mondiale"

Men's Fashion Disappointment

There are two types of people who are interested in men's fashion. The first are interested in the timeless taste of men like Cary Grant. The second are ostentatious dandies. By dandy, I of course mean the original use of the word, not homosexual. Of this latter group, there are three subgroups that I loathe most. 1) pimps, 2) hip hop artists who dress like expensively tailored pimps, and 3) costume dandies. The first two are self-explanatory.

Costume dandies are people who dress up like as if they live sometime between 1919 and 1959. They are, quite simply, playing dress up, like a Star Trek fan or a Renaissance festival participant. However, unlike Trekkies, these costume dandies have convinced themselves that they posses class and taste, when in fact they might as well wear a pair of Mister Spock ears. Nightclub owners can sense the costume dandies, and usually and correctly bar admittance to them. Any decent club should.

Despite my initial hopes that The Aesthetic Traditionalist possessed the same level of sophistication and class as Sir Basil Seal, I fear that he is simply a costume dandy playing dress up, and any sane nightclub owner would lock the doors when he approached.

I heard this one today...

About.com:
Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing. He concludes by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"OH NO!" the President exclaims. "That's terrible!"

His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the President sits, head in hands.

Finally, the President looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion?"


Politics or no politics - that's funny.

There are two bloggers here at Fear and Loathing in Georgetown

GEC posts infrequently, but when he does they are good ones. A recent post by Alpheus over at Athens & Jerusalem made me dig up this doozy about the media:
I've always had a hard time with journalism's pose at fairness. It's a relatively recent thing. Nobody even made the pretension of being neutral in early American newspapers. Now, they cling to the pose. It's not that people can't or don't try to be even-handed in their reporting. But any coherent idea of fairness always comes out of a shared set of real agreements about our moral universe and scale of values. The minute that breaks down, you've got disagreements about what qualifies as equitable in any given situation.

On Culture11

Shawn Macomber:
Admission is cheap enough: Mostly a willingness to hate on the squares you frequently agree with to curry favor with those cool cats who would fit you with fangs & horns if your ideas ever approached anything resembling politically feasibility. At first the approach is kind of a turn-off, but, then…Oh, the way you cut your condescending pretentiousness with knowing pop culture references! And who wouldn’t want to become smarter than everyone else just by saying it is so?


Conor Friedersdorf's response misses the point:
I’ve got to say I find that post very strange, given that the "holier-than-though blogging buddies" that he complains about are the very editors who gladly publish pieces by thoughtful, intellectually honest conservatives like J.P., and indeed by Shawn Macomber himself (at least twice)! Is there a contingent of DC cool cats and hipsters who award popularity points for publishing writers like them? Stranger still is the idea that the writers at The Confabulum possess anything close to unanimity of belief on anything beyond the need for reasoned discourse and an inclination toward the center right. How a site that publishes the range of opinions we do can be called a circle jerk — even as the critic lauds another of our writers with whom he agrees — is difficult to understand.


The issue is not diversity of opinion. It's the young, hipster we-are-remaking-the-world-by-writing-a-blog pretension that is so annoying.

As I wrote back when I was trying to determine if Poulos is a genius or insane:
His basic argument is:
Yes, we are smart and cool, but let's not look down on the idiotic MySpace users who don't know Habermas from Harley Davidson. We are the chosen ones, but it shouldn't go to our head.

There are two possible ways to interpret this argument. First, Poulos actually believes he is superior, but it offends his democratic sensibilities. Second, he does not believe that he is superior, but feels his audience does.

Either way, it is condescending. If Poulos believes he is superior to all the Facebook users becoming Zombies, then say so. Be honest about it. There is nothing worse than trying to hide your contempt.

Or if he fears his readership is a bunch of elitist snobs, then tell them. Don't stroke their egos. Just say: Mixing Rawls and Simpsons references is not that hip or cool by any definition other than the intellectual class of a few major cities and college towns. Get the fuck over yourselves.


NB: I determined Poulos is a genius, in case you were wondering.

Every F-Bomb in The Big Lebowski in a row



I am very easily amused.

More On Code Words

Again, asserting that people are using code words is a dangerous path to go down because one is arguing that the opposition's words don't mean what they mean, and instead are open to the worst possible distorted, tenuous interpretation.

Ross Douthat aruges that even if they are code words, they haven't been effective:
Think about it this way: Maybe the "Joe the Plumber" line is a super-coded attempt to play the race-and-welfare card. Hell, maybe all of the race cards McCain has supposedly played - linking Obama to Paris Hilton; cutting an ad with too many white women in it; cutting an ad with too many black men in it; disrespecting community organizing; calling Obama "disrespectful"; bringing up Obama's ties to a (white) domestic terrorist; describing Obama as "that one"; and so on - have been completely cynical attempts to tap into the white electorate's latent or not-so-latent racist sentiments. If this is your take on the election, though, you should acknowledge that if these were all attempts to play the race card, they've been pathetic attempts - weak, bank-shotting, detached from the major issues of the campaign, and so sub-sub-subliminal (Obama is a celebrity ... Paris Hilton is a celebrity ... Paris Hilton is a slut ... Paris Hilton is a slutty white woman ... sex ... Obama is a black man ... black men are randy ... Obama wants to have sex with Paris Hilton ... Obama wants to rape white womanhood!) as to be more or less pointless.

The Economists Throws Its Hat In With Obama

The Economist does not have a vote, but if it did, it would cast it for Mr Obama. We do so wholeheartedly: the Democratic candidate has clearly shown that he offers the better chance of restoring America’s self-confidence. But we acknowledge it is a gamble. Given Mr Obama’s inexperience, the lack of clarity about some of his beliefs and the prospect of a stridently Democratic Congress, voting for him is a risk. Yet it is one America should take, given the steep road ahead.

Standing in the Shadows of Motown

If you haven't seen it, you should.

Firehoses 5 - Pirates 0

CNN:
"Even when shots were fired during two of these attacks, the crews of commercial shipping vessels conducted evasive maneuvering and used fire hoses to repel their attackers," the Combined Maritime Forces, a U.S.-led naval coalition involving several nations, said in a statement.

Podcast

I would like to reiterate my appreciation of the BBC World Service's Global News Podcast.

Idle Threats Aren't Harmless

Roger Cohen's piece in the NYTimes had this quote from Obama:
Part of our capacity to lead is linked to our capacity to show restraint.


This is precisely my problem with neoconservative foreign policy reasoning. Neoconservatives believe, although Iraq has tempered some of their enthusiasm, that the United States should use all of its diplomatic, economic, and military resources to promote freedom around the world. Promoting freedom and democracy is always and everywhere in the national interests of the United States. Therefore, we need to press despotic regimes and, most importantly, protect fragile, burgeoning democracies around the world.

Withywindle recently offered some advice to Republicans in preparation for an Obama presidency:
Above all, we must be measured in our opposition to Obama's foreign-policy--as much as possible, support him; make our critiques in measured tones; try not to lend aid and comfort to our enemies abroad by our criticism of our president; wish him well in his service of the interests and the ideals of the United States.

Some humility is called for. And, yes, I note that the overwhelming reason people have rejected Republicans is precisely the muscular foreign policy that I prize above all other strands in Republican policy, that I am unlikely to change my belief that a muscular foreign policy is necessary for the survival of America and the West, and therefore that I am not precisely the best example of such humility. But still, it is called for.


These are wise words. Indeed, I think that these are wise words not just from a domestic political tactics point-of-view, but as a guideline for how to adjust the muscular foreign policy Withywindle believes, as I do, is right.

I believe Georgia is the best example of the problem I have with the muscular foreign policy, neoconservative establishment. Georgia, a burgeoning democracy, screwed up and pissed off its next door neighbor. Was Russia waiting for a provocation, any provocation? I believe they were. Nevertheless, the democracy poked the bear because they wrongly believed that the US or NATO or somebody would back them in the event of an attack by Russia. This was a huge miscalculation.

As I have said before, the United States has a stake in promoting freedom and democracy around the world. We should provide moral, diplomatic, and effective economic support to all those who yearn for freedom, but we cannot build true democracies through invasions and we cannot give every democracy carte blanche to call the United States military to save their ass.

Force must only be used in cases where the strategic interests of the United States are threatened. Moreover, the threat of the use of force must only be used in cases where the other side reasonably believes the US might use force. Therefore, the threat of the use of force must only be in cases where the strategic interests of the United States are threatened.

Many people might dismiss the talk of engaging militarily in the Georgia fiasco as harmless, empty rhetoric. I, however, vehemently disagree. We cannot threaten to use force or even talk idly about using force in support of some meta-narrative about protecting democracies. The democracies will believe we mean it. If our bluff gets called by the other side it can only result in two things, neither of which are beneficial: 1) We lose blood and treasure in a fight that wasn't in our strategic interest. 2) We don't respond and we look like chumps.

So, yes. Let's be a friend to all democracies and freedom loving people. Let's support them economically, diplomatically, and morally. But we must only use our military power to further the strategic interests of the United States of America. Oh, but when we use that military power we play for fucking keeps. No pussyfooting around.

Do I think Obama's idea of restraint is the same as mine? No. Is it possible that his idea of restraint is a Carter-esque idiocy? Yes. But he does have a point. Just because the United States can do something militarily to support a democracy does not mean that the United States has to do something militarily to support a democracy. Even though the US didn't truly get involved militarily in the Georgia-Russia battle, there are people who regret not doing so.

NB: I expand this idea that restraint can be a virtue to domestic politics as well. Each party would benefit from curbing the instinct to use every ounce of power and political capital to press their agenda as far as possible after winning an election. The 1994 Republican revolution was, in my view, a response to Clintonian overreach on health care. The 2006 Democratic congressional shift was a response to Republicans pushing too hard. 9/11 distorted the normal give and take between the two parties and the public and delayed the shift. If Obama and the Democratic congress push for every inch of their agenda as forcefully as their partisans want, then the Republicans might well be back in control of congress in 2010. If Obama reins in the most liberal tendencies of his party, then he will be okay. My guess is that he makes the same mistakes as Clinton. He pushes too hard. Is chastened when the congress unexpectedly flips Republican, and then governs more toward the center as a result of both the public's evident displeasure and the governmental impediment of a Republican congress.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hey McCain Supporters

Just as Obama is not going to part the seas, he is not going to bring about the end of days either. I mean, shit, he can't possibly be worse than Carter, can he? And we made it through those years.

Alright, Mr. Dawkins

Telegraph:
The prominent atheist is stepping down from his post at Oxford University to write a book aimed at youngsters in which he will warn them against believing in "anti-scientific" fairytales.

"I think looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious affect on rationality, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's something for research."


You're kidding me, right?

We need to defend what makes life worth living from the humorless scientific, Enlightenment fascists at all costs. Oh, and Mr. Dawkins, taking on God is one thing. People figure he can handle himself. But I would think twice before making an offensive on The Lord of the Rings.

FLG is currently listening to...

this. I'm not sure why music companies disable video embedding. It's annoying and counterproductive to selling records.

FLG fears and loathes the wrapping of partisan hackery

...in religious terms.

I'm sure the author really believes she is justified and that her position is correct, but the assumption that civil law must prohibit that which is prohibited by God's law is the fundamental flaw of religious right. It is currently, and will be in the future, the primary reason for the downfall of the Republican Party, not as Rush Limbaugh has argued recently -- moderate Republicans.

Furthermore, and what really offends me, is the assertion that a person has to vote for one party to be a Christian, and presumably a good person.

FLG is now listening to...



Two things:
1) Jump to the 1:00 mark.
2) Yes, that's Salma Hayek(s) in the sexy nurse uniform(s) at the 2:45 mark

Archaic Word

FLG was re-reading John Locke's A Letter Concerning Toleration, which one must read if one truly wants to understand the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

FLG almost forgot the main point of this post. He always giggles when authors use the word Mahometan to refer to Muslims. It's just such a strange word.

Quote of the day

The Times:
Only women have “careers”. Men have jobs, to get money, and if we could stop and have babies while someone else earned the loot, believe me, we would. We don’t need a “career” to feel validated. We don’t want to feel validated. We just want to feel boobs. As many as possible. And then, at the last minute, quickly have babies and then die.

I am becoming increasingly convinced

...that every male in Great Britain's bollocks have been chopped off and replaced with manginas. Yes, it's a portmanteau of man and vagina.

Telegraph:
A man who spent £600 on Hallowe'en decorations for the outside of his flat has been told to take them down because they are too scary


For prior evidence, see here and here.

Bad, bad idea

James Surowiecki:
A couple of weeks ago, economist Brad DeLong suggested (at least semi-seriously, I think) that now might be a good time to “take the Social Security Trust Fund balance out of Treasuries and move it into equities.” As he put it, “Buy low, sell high after all. Just saying…”

This idea was proposed by the Clinton Administration, but didn’t get much traction, in part because Alan Greenspan opposed it for what, in retrospect, looks like largely ideological reasons, namely his disbelief that the government could own U.S. equities without interfering with corporate behavior. This isn’t entirely a red herring, but it’s hardly an insuperable obstacle, either. And given the massive government interventions we’ve seen in the past few months, having the government invest in index funds hardly seems like some intolerable transgression of free-market principles, either. (That’s not even to mention the fact that the sovereign wealth funds of myriad foreign governments have already bought major stakes in American companies, without any obvious disastrous effects.)


A nontrivial difference exists between taking stakes in banks to resolve a global financial crisis, and government investment in equities for the long-term. Yes, relative to the current bank equity plan, the idea of investing in an index fund appears less invasive. However, the time horizon for the government stake in the banks is relatively short - 2-3 years is what I've heard - while social security would be a permanent position in private enterprises. The risk to meddle in corporate governance when Uncle Sam holds a huge position in our largest corporation is just too high.

On the last point, about sovereign wealth funds, I am not sanguine that all of the consequences have been played out. Much of the growth of sovereign wealth and investment has occurred this decade. Given the investment horizon of an entity such as a government, I seriously doubt that the full impact has been felt. It will take decades for us to witness and comprehend the impact of sovereign wealth. Also, there's an important difference between sovereign wealth funds' investments and federal government investments. Namely, that when a foreign sovereign wealth fund invests in an American company, the United States Government can act as a check on their behavior. If worse truly comes to worse it could freeze, condemn, or appropriate the assets invested in the United States by any fund causing serious problem.

Again, the government is like the Marines. You want it there in a crisis, for a short period of time. But it is terrible at making the millions of decisions required to effectively solve large, complicated, lengthy problems. Trying to solve the social security shortfall by putting it into the equities would be a horrible mistake because it assumes the government will 1) be able to resist the lure of meddling and 2) if it does meddle will do so intelligently.

Dear Robot Overlords

Danger Room is reporting that the Pentagon is developing robots that sound an awful lot like f-ing terminators.

Please remember that I have been on your side since the beginning.

Sincerely,
FLG

Chocolate

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Crack In My Originalist Thinking

Apparently, the meaning of the words of the constitution were pedantically debated before the Bill of Rights was even passed. Indeed, the lawyerly, self-interested interpretation was used to stall debate on the Bill of Rights:
But I have two other reasons for opposing this motion; the first is, the uncertainty with which we must decide on questions of amendment, founded merely on speculative theory; the second is a previous question, how far it is proper to take the subject of amendments into consideration, without the consent of two-thirds of both Houses? I will submit it to gentlemen, whether the words of the Constitution, "the Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments," do not bear my construction, that it is as requisite for two-thirds to sanction the expediency of going into the measure at present, as it will be to determine the necessity of amending at all. I take it that the fifth article admits of this construction, and think that two-thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives must concur in the expediency, as to the time and manner of amendments, before we can proceed to the consideration of the amendments themselves.


If the people who passed the stuff can't agree on the meaning of what is is then how the heck are we supposed to know what they meant when they passed it? I'm sure I will change my mind on this in the morning.

Google Stuff

Many people don't know that Google works as a calculator.

Examples:
2+2
4*pi
3 squared
sqrt(2)
Natural log of 17

It also does conversions:
Tablespoons in a gallon
100 kilometers to miles
50 Celsius to kelvin
the number of seconds in a year

FLG's Rambling Take On Human Nature And Its Political Consequences

Sir Basil's recent post, much of which hit a bit too close to home for comfort, reminded me of something:
You also have the academic grad student type blogs where they are so fey and pretentious that they actually deserve rude comments. As with all college students, their ideas have never been thought of by anyone before, so they become miffed if one is not suitably impressed by their quite original brilliance and obviously correct opinions. Of course, their plans to change human nature for the better are also original and perfect. “Better” meaning to get rid of all the evil white male oppressors, of course, see what I mean. Best to avoid these sites except that they are useful for brushing up on your swear word vocabulary and locating the latest in “Che” fashion wear. Smart people seem to cuss a lot and look like Che.


I used to think the primary question was whether human nature was good or bad, but as of late I have changed my mind. It just is. What I once thought of as the secondary question, but now believe to be the primary question, is "How malleable is human nature?"

My conclusion is that human nature is pretty darn immalleable. I reached this conclusion after reading enough material from across enough cultures and centuries to realize that irrespective of the particular milieu, most of the important concerns, questions, and issues arise over and over again. Cultures choose different ways of answering and resolving these questions and issues.

Sometimes the solutions are very similar, as is the case with extremely common existence of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. Yes, yes. Exceptions and nuances exist across time and place. Greeks had homosexual lovers. Polygamy appears throughout history. Kings had harems. Yada, yada, yada. Yet, none is as common as heterosexual, monogamous marriage as the basis of society.

Other times, cultures choose to answer eternal questions and issues in vastly different ways. Creation myths, for example, are strikingly different from place to place. (There is a surprising recurrence of great floods in those stories though.) Nevertheless, all cultures have one. The desire to know where we came from is universal. The answers may have been socially constructed, but the question was not. Or even if the question was socially constructed who cares? If it is socially constructed over and over it might as well have a biological basis.

I'm rambling on, but my point is that if you read any literature or view any art from any culture, all of them deal with fundamental human emotions, questions and issues: Love and beauty, good and evil, light and dark, children and education, individual versus society, selfishness versus charity, etc and etc.

No amount of re-education is going to remove selfishness, pettiness, greed, or envy from human nature. But to think that these are the root of all human problems is foolish as well. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Father Schall wrote a fantastic piece in The Hoya at the beginning of this year about how idealism is the root of political problems:
The account that Plato gives of the situation of his own formation is memorable. “I thought of entering public life as soon as I became of age.” He had many connections, relatives in high places who gave him preferred positions. At first, he had no scruple about working for them. “I thought they were going to lead the city out of the unjust life she had been living and establish her in the path of justice.” As we read these lines that are familiar to our souls about the supposed ease with which we can change the world, we catch an ominous sense of irony in Plato’s words. Plato kept his eyes open. “As I watched them (the new politicians) they showed in a short time that the preceding constitution had been a precious thing.” The revolution, the election, produced something not better, but worse. Aristotle later warned about the same thing. It often happens. “Why?” we wonder.


Most people, and I believe each generation, think that the world sucks because the people before them were stupid, selfish, or petty. If they could just change a few things, then the world would be perfect. Once they have their chance things will improve. But, alas, many things never change.

I think Plato's explanation of how his just city in the Republic falls is instructive here:
Shall we follow our old plan, which we adopted with a view to clearness, of taking the State first and then proceeding to the individual, and begin with the government of honour? --I know of no name for such a government other than timocracy, or perhaps timarchy. We will compare with this the like character in the individual; and, after that, consider oligarchical man; and then again we will turn our attention to democracy and the democratical man; and lastly, we will go and view the city of tyranny, and once more take a look into the tyrant's soul, and try to arrive at a satisfactory decision. -- The Republic, Book V III


Concern for the Good becomes concern about Honor becomes obsession with Wealth becomes a demand for Freedom becomes a demand for Power. Each of these is more and more focused on the individual. One must be honored by society, so it's primarily outward focused. Wealth is usually important relative to others' wealth, but does not require the approval of others. Democratic man wants to be free from the constraints imposed by others. A tyrant is the most selfish, and in a sense is trapped in a prison of absolute freedom.

In fact, this is a microcosm of most every politician's career, and the plot of every movie about politicians. The idealistic dogooder is motivated to set things right in Washington. Then they become enamored of the attention they are getting. Then they start focusing on getting money to get reelected. Then they get the freedom to get things done. Lastly, they want to protect what they have and destroy all threats to their fiefdom. Ah, but our hero doesn't fall into the trap, and at the last moment uses his wits and rhetorical skills to shame those who have.

This story occurs everywhere and always. Whether it was eunuchs in China, Aztec priests, or American politicians the story is always the same. Human nature cannot be changed.

The truly diabolical things happen when people try to change human nature, and inevitably fail but place blame on those who weren't changed rather than accepting the impossibility of the goal. History is littered with the corpses of people on the wrong side of the illusion that human nature is perfectly malleable.

The beauty and genius of The United States Constitution is that it accepts human nature as a given, even with all its failings. In fact, it uses human nature's worst instincts to keep the other branches honest. The founding fathers knew that petty rivalries and fiefdoms, not an enlightened sense of honor and duty, would be the only timeless method to curb the constant desire for more power.

To recap:
Human nature has good and bad parts. People who think it can be changed are both crazy and missing the point. The founding fathers were geniuses.

Dear Aesthetic Traditionalist

I'm sure you will agree that this is timeless fashion.


Sincerely,
FLG

Worth reading

Anne Applebaum's WaPo piece.

Fate

FLG believes that everything in his life happens for a reason. Sometimes he gets upset, like when he didn't get into any b-school. However, time and again, everything turns out for the best. No MBA right now is a perfect example:
This year's recruiting season may feel longer, more competitive, and more painful for soon-to-be-minted MBAs than any in recent memory.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Mrs. FLG wants to see the movie. FLG wants to read the short story.

David Brooks Sounds Like Hobbes

Brooks:
Roughly speaking, there are four steps to every decision. First, you perceive a situation. Then you think of possible courses of action. Then you calculate which course is in your best interest. Then you take the action.

So perhaps this will be the moment when we alter our view of decision-making. Perhaps this will be the moment when we shift our focus from step three, rational calculation, to step one, perception.

Perceiving a situation seems, at first glimpse, like a remarkably simple operation. You just look and see what’s around. But the operation that seems most simple is actually the most complex, it’s just that most of the action takes place below the level of awareness. Looking at and perceiving the world is an active process of meaning-making that shapes and biases the rest of the decision-making chain.


I know you are thinking. Psychology tells us this stuff. What's the big deal? Ah, but the political implications of it are important. Isn't this pretty much what Hobbes articulates in the first three or so chapters of Leviathan?

This is the point where I should explain myself with a bit of exegesis on David Brook's recent calls for authority and compare that to Hobbes' Leviathan, but, alas, I am too lazy and have too little time to make the connection. So, I leave it to you, my dear readers.

But I will say this: The thing that brings about the Hobbesian mindset is fear. Whether it's fear of the financial markets, politics, or the nation next door; it's always fear. So, David Brooks is afraid of something, probably the financial markets because he can't make sense of them right now.

Monday, October 27, 2008

In regards to my recent post

...The China Illusion, I give you an article from this week's Economist:
HOMEOWNERS in a middle-class district in northern Beijing are angry. The developer of their block of flats has slashed the prices of new flats now on sale. China’s housing market, barely existent a decade ago, is undergoing its first big downturn after years of boom. The earlier buyers want their money back.

Weaned in unremitting good times, China’s fledgling middle class, whose support the Communist Party sees as crucial, is entering uncharted territory.


I am so smart. I am so smart. S-M-R-T. I mean S-M-A-R-T.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy

BBC:
US Senator Stevens found guilty


He, like every appropriations chairman ever, is a corrupt, cocksucking motherfucker.

Chase Covington

FLG noticed that Chase Covington visited today at around 10 am. He hadn't been seen lately, or at least not from any internet location FLG associated with Chase.

Yes, FLG is a cyberstalker. Well, he happens to know some addresses from when there were only a handful of readers here at Fear and Loathing in Georgetown. So, he doesn't really cyberstalk so much as peruse the logs and some addresses he remembers from earlier this year.

On a related note, dave.s., I've been meaning to ask you, do you work where I think you work? I would never have pictured you there, except maybe for the bike riding.

Dear Alan

At least you don't have to pay for Fear and Loathing in Georgetown.

-FLG

Rousseau's Opera

I'd forgotten that Rousseau wrote (composed?) an opera.

Ancient Greek History And Sundry Other Topics

One of my first posts was on online courses. Yale still has the best production value on their free online courses, and there are several new additions that interest me.

Introduction to Ancient Greek History

Game Theory

France since 1871

Still mean to watch the course on Death.

I really liked the Introduction to Political Philosophy, but most of it was review, sometimes for the third time.

HT: Tyler Cowen for pointing out the Game Theory class.

Raffles



FLG would like to stay at the Raffles Hotel. However, he lacks sufficient funds for transport, food and lodging. Donations are welcome. He'll need a lot of them, or one incredibly generous one. But he's patient.

For Mrs. FLG



Awww...so cute. But why does owning a dog in the 21st century sometimes feel like being mugged?

Disconcerting Obama Quote

Telegraph quotes Obama as having said:
One of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organising and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.

A Trip to Mudville

For no good reason.

Correspondence

I found your blog while conducting some preliminary research on Islamic political thinking. Google first brought me to your explanation of siyasa verus shari'a, followed by your Februrary 1st article on Islamic political theory. These writings, the latter especially, lead me to believe that Fear and Loathing in Georgetown was full of insightful analysis. I was surprised to find links to vibrators and copious amounts of profanity on the main page.


The email continues, but I have edited for brevity's sake.

Dear sir:

You are not the first, nor will you be the last to express this sentiment. I get it all the time. I still don't understand why everybody is so confused that a single person can write serious, sometimes thoughtful pieces, only to produce a swear-filled pirate having sex with a robot rant the next post.

It's quite simple actually. I am educated, yet immature. Superficially interested in everything, but deeply interesting in nothing. Most importantly, I'm very, very lazy. I'm high in the running for laziest worldwide.

Oh, and I think you meant led, not lead.

-FLG

Dear Alan

You've said a lot of things, but nothing as stupid as what you wrote in the comments here.

You see, the Church was 1) aware of the evidence and 2) put a lot of thought into it. Your examples are not exceptions. The Roman Catholic Church, like all institutions, even ecclesiastical, is populated with humans, who, as you might have missed, are fucking fallible. Oh, and don't go down the papal infallibility route with me buddy because that is a very circumscribed status. The pope is not always, nor often infallible.

On all matters, at all times, the Church put more thought into anything and everything of import than you could ever do in your lifetime. It was not, is not, will not ever be perfect because human beings are involved. So, stop being a petulant ass. Any insitution that has existed for 2,000 fucking years is going to have made some mistakes.

I'm not even a fucking Catholic. There's just something about the hubristic intellectual temperament of atheists that really sets me off.

Oh, and one more thing. I have no idea what you are talking about re: "I do not know how to reconcile an open church "mind" with the sacking of Alexandria's store of human knowledge, either." Last time I heard, the library of Alexandria was burnt prior to the birth of Jesus. Or perhaps there is some other sacking of which I am not aware.

Oh, and one more one more thing, Galileo wouldn't have been shit if monks hadn't hoarded books.

FUCKIN' A!

Sincerely,
FLG

The China Illusion

NYTimes:
As those industrial economies sputter, China is now in a position to pick up some of the slack: selling more of its own goods at home and buying more from the rest of the world.


China's growth is an illusion, a figment. Two things combine to create that illusion. First, the peg of the yuan to the dollar. Second, the Chinese penchant to pour concrete.

On one hand, some of the growth of China is undoubtedly real. The middle class is burgeoning. On the other, the peg artificially stimulates the economy even with sterilization. Sure, they're producing stuff. No doubt about it. Toaster ovens and plastic thingummies.

Oh, and they are building skyscrapers and ports and roads. That's what everybody finds so impressive. Those delightful, futuristic buildings. They're tangible and beautiful. But remember property booms are fantastic for making everybody think the economy is gangbusters. The Asian financial crisis started in the Thai real estate market. The current global financial meltdown started in the US housing market.

Furthermore, I believe this global slowdown will put huge pressure on the Chinese economy in a way that reveals the underlying weakness. It is not the dragon everybody believes, and the unwritten contract between the communist regime and the people -- technocratic ability to grow the economy in exchange for power -- might be broken sooner than many think.

For the long-term, Americans will need to start worrying when the Chinese start building stuff that we can't. That's a long, long way off. As I have been saying for a long time, do not take the projections that the Chinese economy will overtake the US by 2020 or even 2050 seriously. Those projections are a combination of dilettantism, fear, and anti-Americanism.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Catholic Intellectual Tradition

Sir Basil's priest video reminded me of something that I learned at Georgetown. Catholics have thought, pondered, written, rewritten, critiqued, dissected, and postulated about, of, or on every possible theological, spiritual, philosophical matter or question the human mind has yet conceived. The Roman Catholic Church did not arrive at its current position on any issue, large or small, without an unbelievable amount of serious thought.

If you have an issue with the church's position on something, then fine. But know two things: 1) The Roman Catholic Church is not ignorant of any evidence or reasoning you can bring to bear. 2) A lot more thought has gone into the church's position than yours.

Fear and Loathing in Georgetown Brownies

I took this recipe from Gourmet Magazine, and replaced unsweetened chocolate with semisweet. I also specify the brands of chocolate.

* 6 ounces Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate, chopped
* 2 ounces Scharffen Berger semisweet chocolate, chopped
* 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 2 teaspoons vanilla
* 4 large eggs
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 cup Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate chips (You can use milk chocolate if you are really crazy.)


In a metal bowl, set over a pan of barely simmering water melt the bittersweet chocolate and the unsweetened chocolate with the butter, stirring until the mixture is smooth, remove the bowl from the heat, and let the mixture cool until it is lukewarm. Stir in the sugar and the vanilla and add the eggs, 1 at a time, stirring well after each addition. Stir in the salt and the flour, stirring until the mixture is just combined, and stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into a well-buttered and floured 13 by 9-inch baking pan, smooth the top, and bake the mixture in the middle of a preheated 350 degrees F. oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out with crumbs adhering to it. Let the mixture cool completely in the pan on a rack and cut it into 24 bars.

A Very Short Conversation

The FLGs are in the kitchen making lemon chicken.

Mrs. FLG: I want to eat at Rao's one day.

FLG: I want a unicorn.

Polo in China

I don't know how well the aristocratic sport sits with the nominal communist regime. This is probably a bad idea.

On Hawaiian Shirts

There’s only two kind of guys who wear those shirts: gay guys and big, fat party animals, and Bart doesn’t look like a big, fat party animal to me! -- Homer Simpson


FLG has a small collection of Hawaiian shirts. His favorite is a Tommy Bahama number, but TB shirts get a bit pricey. Most of his Hawaiian shirts are from Hilo Hattie. They are less expensive, but also not as well made. In particular, the buttons tend to pop off. FLG is a good button repairman, so this problem doesn't matter all that much.

Oh, and FLG is a big, fat party animal, not a gay guy. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

A Very Short Conversation

Mrs. FLG is watching some drug rehab show. FLG walks into the room.

FLG: I'm glad I never acquired a drug habit.

Mrs. FLG: Of course you didn't, dear. You can't even do Robitussin.

GRE

Alright, so FLG is studying for the GRE. He thinks he will be able to break the 90% percentile on the GRE relatively easily.

He has already put in more time toward GRE studying than LSAT studying. The math is way easier than the GMAT, on which he got over the 90% percentile. He always rocks verbal sections. Even on the LSAT, he only got two wrong on the reading type sections. He got almost every one of the logic games wrong. And since the GRE has no logic games as far as he can tell, he is pretty confident that he will do well. On the other hand, he is not happy about analogies. He has not run into a word he does not know during his studying thus far, so that is helpful.

Some of you may think, wow, that FLG guy is a real asshole. Who thinks, "oh, no big deal, I'll score 90% percentile. Who the fuck does he think he is thinking he is so smart?"

Well, I would like to say that I happen to be really good at standardized tests. Very little studying and I usually do really well, LSAT aside. These tests aren't about how smart you are. I just get them for some reason. I've seen extremely smart people struggle, and stupid people do surprisingly well.

Also, to answer another question that might arise: FLG, you just took the LSAT and now the GRE? What the heck do you want to do? Therein lies the rub. I have no fucking idea. Well, I have some idea, but far less than a man my age should.

Anyway, I told GEC a few month back that I wanted to get the education that a Bond villain would need, but to use it for good. In truth, I think he had been subliminally implanting the idea to get a Bond villain's education all along with the intention that I could help him with his plot for world domination. I think he wants to delegate smaller tasks, like conquering Asia, to me while he deals with more pressing matters. My conscience keeps getting in the way of his plan. Nonetheless, I will be applying to a program that should, if done correctly, allow me to reach cartoonish archvillain status upon completion.

127 Years Ago Today


The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Saturday, October 25, 2008

58 - 0 ?

Fifty-eight to nothing, zip, zilch, nada, the big goose egg, zero, null, aught, nil?

Boys, let's pack it up. No try again next year. Just pack it up.

Object Sex Jackpot

10 things to know before buying a vibrator.

FYI:
Women over 40 need more powerful vibrators

Josh Mitchell

Former Georgetown professor, acting Chancellor of the American University in Iraq, and general badass.



If the embedded link doesn't work, just click here.

Current Reading

I decided to read all of the James Bond novels in order, so I have added a few to my current reading list.

Please stop now.

Telegraph:
Cambridge University has launched a campaign to recast them as "new men" with an interest in grooming, fashion and poetry.

Academics claim that the old stereotype is damaging, and want teenagers to be more appreciative of the Vikings' social and cultural impact on Britain.

They say that the Norse explorers, far from being obsessed with fighting and drinking, were a largely-peaceful race who were even criticised for being too hygienic.


Let's not remake them into metrosexuals. Why does academia insist on pussifying history? Do FLG a favor and leave alone the perception that every male Viking's dream was to die in combat and arrive in Valhalla.

Arrested For Fragging

Telegraph:
A woman in Japan has been arrested after she murdered her virtual husband in a computer game.

The 43-year-old piano teacher became so angry about a divorce from her online husband that she logged on to the MapleStory computer game with his password and deleted his digital persona.

FLG's tips for doing well on the LSAT

Study more than the 3 hours he did.

In fairness, his 161 with an 84% percentile is not too shabby considering the time he put in, but it's not the 165 he was hoping for. He was really never terribly serious about the endeavor, which was probably the root of his motivation to study problem. He did get an excuse to visit Waffle House out of it though.

That is all.

First World Versus Third World Problems

The Third World's are way worse.

Lose-Arrs

NYTImes:
Longtime pirate enthusiasts, the 17th-century historical re-enactors who take their hobby seriously, find themselves sharing festival grounds with legions of would-be Captain Jack Sparrows dressed, more or less, in accordance with the big-screen version.

Are they pretend pretend pirates? Traditionalists tend to view this new family-friendly theme thing with a sort of dismissive acceptance.

At the Ojai Pirate Faire in California last month, a crew of pirate history zealots disarmed an unwitting Jack Sparrow, put him in a stockade and demanded a ransom of two harlots (a blonde and a redhead), Ms. Lampe said.


Uh, hello. You are both groups of people pretending to be pirates. Some do take it pretty damn seriously though:

Like Civil War re-enactors, many of these latter-day pirates pursue historical authenticity — down to their home-sewn underwear, pistol ribands and molded tricorn hats. Some have even hired blacksmiths to reproduce halberd axes from photographs. They can discuss their exploits without breaking character.


Maybe the serious pirates should cut the insouciant pirates a break. I mean, unless the serious reenacters are actually raping and pillaging, then they are posers too. It is a simple matter of the level of poseosity. But the Jack Sparrow pirates at least acknowledge that they are just playing fucking dress up.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Correspondence

Flg,

You were an international economics major, right? Do you see any international opportunities during this crisis? China maybe?

Paul


Dear Paul:

Yes, I was an international economics major. No, I don't particularly see any international opportunities. Other countries are going to be worse off than the US. The old adage about the US sneezing and the rest of the world getting a cold still applies. And China scares me too much to put a lot of money there.

Actually, let me take this opportunity to articulate my investing strategy. Again, I am not a professional and caveat emptor. This is what I do, and might not be correct for your circumstances.

Around the time of my birthday on years that are divisible by 5, I figure out two things. I subtract my age from 100 and add 20. That's how much I will put in equities. I put the remaining percentage in a highly rated bond fund.

Then the issue is how to invest in equities. My goal is to minimize risks. There are two types of financial risk -- systematic and unsystematic. Unsystematic risks can be eliminated through diversification in a broad portfolio of assets. I do this by purchasing index funds that try to replicate the entire stock market. I am not trying to pick individual stocks, but a piece of all of them. That way I don't have to pay attention to any individual company's quarterly reports, their legal troubles, etc.

Systematic risk cannot be eliminated through diversification. However, it can be minimized by diversifying internationally. So, if the Europe has trouble, your Asian stocks might still do well. I determine each continent's percentage of world GDP, well, except Antarctica. Ideally, I would do this for every country, but that is just too time consuming and is more work than probably would be worth the time. I invest my money according to the percentage represented by each continent. If Asia is 25% of the world economy, then 25% of my equities will be invested in Asia.

I then buy and sell ETFs to reconcile the current percentages to what I need them to be. Every five years my bond percentage will increase and I will readjust my equities to account for economic growth in different continents. Since I only trade every five years, my commission charges are exceedingly low and I don't worry about what the market does every single day.

Oh, I find the market interesting as an intellectual matter, but it does not concern me monetarily. Perhaps I will be more concerned when I am closer to retirement, but I believe the system will work well to manage my downside risks.

One last thing. Yes, I've taken a bath in this crisis like everybody else. A global credit crisis is a systematic risk that cannot be diversified through international exposure, but I am too young to keep a huge amount of money in cash and bonds.

-FLG

Things Might Be Worse Than I Thought

$1 causes frenzy on the NYSE.

Is it just me?

I realize the rack was a terrible device used to inflict unbearable pain, but am I the only person who thinks the first second or two of tension would be the best back relief ever?

Megan McArdle asks and answer an important question

McArdle:
But what's the point of disagreeing with Naomi Klein? It's like having an argument about economic policy with an eight year old. To have an interesting discussion, you would have to explain too many facts to the eight year old--facts that the child does't have any interest in learning. And the eight-year-old lacks a coherent intellectual framework into which to fit those facts; his reactions are pure instinctive emotion.


Megan makes a good point -- that both sides have to agree to a reasonable, intellectually honest common ground of empirical fact. It's impossible to have a debate without it.

On Cause and Effect and The Big Assumption

Ryan Avent exemplifies precisely what I was referring to in my recent post.

As I get older, I find there are two competing forces that define how one experiences contemporary events. On the one hand, the reservoir of previous experience upon which I can draw for context and perspective is steadily increasing. I can observe that I have or have not seen things like this before, and further, I can recall how other individuals and groups responded to previous events...This pool of experience provides, on the whole, a moderating effect...The difference, in what I know and what I’m able to know, between me then and me now, is incredibly vast.

God Help Us!

I can see the self-empowerment embassy dinners now. Oh, and the book club, I almost forgot about the European book club.

A recommendation

The Hoya:
One by one, jocks, nerds, artsy-fartsies and the rest of the milieu would “discover” the enjoyment possible by way of alcohol.


Milieu means environment, surroundings, or background. Since the trees on campus are not clamoring to get a drink at Rhino's, I am not sure that was the best word choice. One could use the word to mean social setting, which I believe the author is trying to do here. But milieu is the setting in which one acts and does not act itself. Furthermore, a milieu is a whole that should not be divided into parts. Let's drop that part of the sentence altogether:

One by one, jocks, nerds, and artsy-fartsies discover the enjoyment of alcohol.


See how much better that is? Short. Direct. To the point. The quotation marks around the word discover are not necessary because the entire article is about the author's doubt of the benefits of alcohol. In that context, the author's use of quotations marks appears snarky and condescending.

Quote of the day

Krauthammer:
I stand athwart the rush of conservative ship-jumpers of every stripe -- neo (Ken Adelman), moderate (Colin Powell), genetic/ironic (Christopher Buckley) and socialist/atheist (Christopher Hitchens) -- yelling "Stop!" I shall have no part of this motley crew


Socialist/atheist conservative? he, he.

Oh, and as Mrs. P pointed out, and Ali G would said, "that's racialist!"

From the No Shit Sherlock Files: NYTimes endorses Obama

NYTimes:
Mr. Obama has met challenge after challenge, growing as a leader and putting real flesh on his early promises of hope and change. He has shown a cool head and sound judgment. We believe he has the will and the ability to forge the broad political consensus that is essential to finding solutions to this nation’s problems.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quote of the day

The Times:
Every man should have a dark-blue single-breasted suit. It is the little black dress of the male wardrobe...In a dark-blue suit, you never look overdressed — and, this side of a white-tie banquet, you never look underdressed, either.

Ali G

I'm willing to guess that many of my readers don't like Sacha Baron Cohen's Ali G. However, these two interviews are hilarious. I have a long-standing, personal beef with Andy Rooney, so him getting played the fool is okay with me. I do feel sympathy for the doctors in the second clip, but it still kills me.




Equilibrium

A former co-worker and I were very excited to see Equilibrium a few years back. Neither of us were free the first week, and we decided to see it the following weekend. Unfortunately, it was out of theaters after one week. It has awesome fight scenes though, and is worth seeing if you like that kind of stuff.

Dear Alan

You are a douchenozzle.

Sincerely,
FLG


(FLG would like to thank C.S. Perry for bringing this word to his attention.)

The Beat Generation

I'm enamored with Jack Kerouac's prose. Unfortunately, his plots go nowhere and the dialogue is borderline insane philosophizing. For some reason, I thought of Neal Cassady's Joan Anderson letter to Kerouac today. It turns out that Cassady is a good writer himself. But my primary concern was that nobody writes letters any more. Perhaps I have a romantic notion of people agonizing over every phrase before sending their precious creations through the post, but I have to think the great letter writers did choose each word carefully. As I wrote recently, I have terrible email manners. There's something about email that lends itself to poor writing. Don't get me started on the foulness that is texting.

On a related note, Cassady's letter was made into a movie called The Last Time I Committed Suicide. It has a great line, where Keanu Reeves, tells Cassady, portrayed by Thomas Jane, to rescue two ales from the evil beermonger.

Jews and Lizards

From Miss Self-Important:
Then I stepped back and thought about this and realized I was kind of behaving like the lunatics who call my office and tell me that they have "some very urgent papers I need to send you that will reveal how a select group of Jews and lizards have orchestrated this financial crisis from their UFO palace on Mars!"


I consider this definite proof in favor of my May 5th post that at the bottom of all the conspiracies, even completely fucking insane Masonic-reptilian alien conspiracies, it's always the Jews -- always.

PS. Miss Self-Important, if you read this, I have some very important papers to send you. Oh, and on a more serious note, what was that book you told me about a few weeks ago? Texting something or other?

FLG is currently listening to...

What FLG is listening to...

Sinatra had great hats:


Incidentally, I hate Sid Vicious for this:

FLG is currently listening to...

Merde!

The Times:
Nicolas Sarkozy risked blowing apart the European consensus over how to deal with the financial crisis by proposing today that each country launch sovereign wealth funds to take stakes in key industries to stop them falling into foreign hands.


Sarkozy's economics policy is some sort of unholy, logically inconsistent amalgam of nationalist glory bullshit. Sometimes it results in good ideas (see: les trente-cinq heures), and sometimes it produces terrible ideas like this one.

What FLG is listening to...



What it's like at FLG's job



This is not idle whining, but quantifiable fact. I have never, ever worked at a place staffed by so many incompetent buffoons.

John Stossel asks, What would Brian Boitano do?

He does ask it eventually....

Smurf-tacular!



Happy 50th Anniversary to the Smurfs!

Smurf yourself something nice.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chère Première Moisson

Mrs. FLG fell in love with your jams when we were in Montréal. You should sell them on the internet because, well, we want to buy them.

Ce sont très, très delicieux!

Cordialement,
M. FLG

Correspondence

Dear flg,

I have two questions for you. How does your theory about the incomprehensibility of the universe reconcile with The Big Assumption? They appear contradictory. The second question is "are you mad?" You've been jumping around from articles about Aristotle in French to posts about Paris Hilton. That's a stretch even for you.

Bob
Bristol, TN


Dear Bob:

I am but mad north-north-west; when the wind is southerly I know shit from Shinola. Wait, that's not what he said.

To answer your second question my identification of The Big Assumption, I think, follows logically from my understanding of the incomprehensibility of the universe due to the nature of the human mind's ability to interpret the world solely through the principle of cause and effect. That isn't the best sentence I've ever written.

Okay. New knowledge is discovered through cause and effect. Much of the knowledge we posses was passed down to us as facts or theories in school, through reading, etc, but the original idea and support for the idea were through cause and effect. The Big Assumption is the hubristic idea that the experiences of our individual life have provided enough data of causes and effects to permit us to comprehend The Truth.

The location where we are born and raised shapes and distorts the causes and effects that we witness. People who have only lived in urban areas their entire lives have difficulty conceiving of addressing problems, like homelessness and hunger, through any means other than the state or structured non-governmental institutions designed specifically for those purposes. However, a rural dweller might not understand why the person's church is not helping. Smaller communities have closer ties, and ideally work to help one another. Larger communities lack this communal bond.

For example, New Yorkers are proud to be New Yorkers. I love New York, and I love New Yorkers. But they don't have the same feelings toward each other that the people of a small town in Kansas do. How could they when they pass several thousand people a day on the street? Because of this lack of connection New Yorkers tend to view social problems as only solvable by government intervention. That small town in Kansas might view government intervention as an impediment or interference into what they view as a community matter.

This is not to say that either is right or wrong, but they are shaped by effects and the causes that they have observed. The causes and effects of urban versus rural living shape their perceptions of what is Truth. We all do this to some extent. The issue is when people cannot conceive that the other party could arrive at a contrary conclusion with pure motives and reason. Furthermore, the laziness of attributing new effects to familiar causes exacerbates the problem.

So, The Big Assumption is simply one obstacle to comprehending the universe, which is ultimately incomprehensible anyway. It's an obstacle that has political and public policy consequences. I find that my realization that the universe is ultimately incomprehensible renders me intellectually humble. This humility allows me to recognize that I never have all the relevant information, and therefore cannot be completely sure of my positions at all times. Dialectic helps to reinforce my beliefs, and I hold many beliefs very strongly. Nonetheless, I no longer attribute ulterior motives to every person who disagrees with me. In short, my conclusion that the universe is incomprehensible is an antidote to The Big Assumption. (It also makes me suspicious of arguments that any technocratic bureaucracy will immanentize the eschaton, or indeed solve any problem of much complexity.)

That was probably a much longer answer than you wanted.

-FLG

Terrorists and Child Porn Redux

Looks like I'm not the only one who thinks it's absurd:
Of course, terrorists and strangers preying on our children are two of the things that cause the most fear in people. Put them together, and there's no limit to what sorts of laws you can get passed.

FLG's Issues With Georgetown SFS In Qatar

In 2005, a branch of Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service opened in Education City, Qatar. Several other American universities, including Northwestern, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon and Cornell, also offer programs at the location. Fear and Loathing in Georgetown, however, thinks Georgetown's presence was and is a huge mistake for a variety of reasons.

The ability to offer a classroom experience equal to the main campus is a concern. If some of the best professors from Washington, who have been part of the environment on the Hilltop, are sent to Qatar to teach at the branch campus, then necessarily the main campus in Georgetown suffers. If Georgetown sends only the weakest of Georgetown professors, then the education in Qatar is subpar. Either way one of the campuses suffer from the expansion. Prior to 2005, Georgetown professors both shaped and were shaped by the intellectual culture on the Hilltop. If Georgetown hires professors specifically for the new campus, even if these professors are of the academic and professional caliber required by Georgetown, they still have never been a part of the academic community in Washington. Furthermore, many of the world-famous practitioners that teach classes at Georgetown will never teach in Qatar.

The students in Qatar will have an entirely different experience outside of classroom. The environment on the Hilltop is unique. It cannot be recreated. I'm certain that a lively academic culture and environment can or has been created in Education City, but it will never be the Hilltop. The shared experiences of our time on the Hilltop is what binds Georgetown alumni together, and yet in the future some Georgetown alumni will have never set foot on campus. It may seem trivial, but, for example, they will never have enjoyed a chicken madness.

I have no idea how the School of Foreign Service's presence in Qatar benefits either the university or the school in a strategic, long-term sense. As far as I can discern, the school is a glorified finishing school for the royalty of Qatar and the surrounding Gulf States. The small size only goes to reinforce this in my mind. Yes, there are non-royal students, but in my mind they are window dressing. Perhaps Georgetown will have an influence on the statecraft of the Qatar and the Gulf States through this endeavor, but perhaps not. A recent article in The Hoya mentioned that most Qatari students are unprepared for the rigors of a Georgetown education. Either way, I don't particularly care.

In conclusion, the campus there cannot recreate the Hilltop. The negatives far outweigh any potential non-monetary upside. (The Qataris chipped in the capital to start the campus and some extra.) A liberal arts education takes place both inside and outside the classroom. Therefore, a degree from SFS-Q can never be the same as one from the Hilltop. Can it be the equal of an education on the Hilltop? Possibly, but it will never be the same. I would be less concerned if the campus was offering a Masters of Science in Foreign Service rather than the Bachelors.

The campus culture is far less important for a professional program. Yet, Georgetown has no intention of offering the MSFS anywhere except in Washington. Perhaps they worry about the ability to maintain the high standards of the MSFS curriculum. While it seems easier to offer a quality undergraduate education when looking at the ability to provide instructors for the courses, classrooms instruction is by no means the only important criteria in an undergraduate education. So, I would argue that it is more difficult to create a quality environment for undergraduates then it is to gather the faculty expertise and strength to offer a world-class professional program.

I sincerely hope that Georgetown recognizes its mistake soon.

A Triple Alliance?

China Daily:
Iranian Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari said Tuesday that Iran, Russia and Qatar would cooperate on gas market, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Nozari said the three countries with natural gas reserves "will earnestly pursue the formation of an organization of gas exporting countries."

According to IRNA's report, the officials discussed means to set up a center for financial affairs of the three-nation cooperation in Doha, Qatar, a technical center in Tehran and a market survey center in Moscow, Russia.


Europe had better wake up soon. They have the most to lose from this.

A Conversation

India just launched its first moon mission. A manned mission is still years off, but Fear and Loathing in Georgetown, soothsayer extraordinaire, knows exactly what is going to happen.

Astronaut: Hello. Tech Support?

Support Tech: Hello, Indian Moon Rocket technical support. This is Raj, uh, I mean Roger. How may I be assisting you today?

Astronaut: There is a problem with our moon rocket.

Support Tech: Okay. May I have your name please?

Astronaut: Buzz.

Support Tech: Okay, Buzz. What moon are you trying to reach?

Astronaut: What moon? The Moon.

Support Tech: I see. Typing sounds. I will be needing the serial number of the rocket.

Astronaut: Where's that located?

Support Tech: It should be on the box the rocket arrived in.

Astronaut: It didn't come in a box.

Support Tech: Let me check something. Please hold.

Hold music.

Operator: Hello. Mr. Buzz?

Astronaut: Yes?

Support Tech: Have you found the box?

Astronaut: I told you. It didn't come in a box.

Support Tech: In that case, the serial number is etched onto the rocket.

Astronaut: Great. Where? I don't see it on the control panel.

Support Tech: You will need to look on the outside of the rocket by the engine.

Astronaut: You're kidding, right?

Support Tech: Please check the outside of the rocket by the engine.

Astronaut: We are in space, and the engine is on.

Support Tech: Are you unable to find the serial number?

Astronaut: No, we are unable to find the serial number.

Support Tech: Please keep looking.

Muffled in the background, the two astronauts have a conversation.

Astronaut: He wants me to find the serial number.

Astronaut #2: Where is it?

Astronaut: Outside, by the engine.

Astronaut #2: Is he nuts? Tell him you can't find it.

Astronaut: He says keep looking.

Astronaut #2: Tell him it's scratched off.

Astronaut: Good idea.

Astronaut picks up the phone.

Astronaut: Roger?

Support Tech: Did you find the serial number?

Astronaut: Yes, but it's scratched off.

Support Tech: Oh, no. Read me what you can.

Astronaut: Okay. Um. TK421.

Support Tech: ZV421?

Astronaut: Yeah, ZV421.

Support Tech: That doesn't match any known records. Do you have a support contract number?

Astronaut: No, I don't.

Support Tech: One moment.

Hold music.

Support Tech: What version of rocket are you using?

Astronaut: I don't know. Listen, we are having trouble with the lithium hydroxide air scrubbers.

Support Tech: Have you tried rebooting?

Astronaut: Rebooting the scrubbers?

Support Tech: No, the rocket.

Astronaut: I don't want to reboot the rocket while I'm in it.

Support Tech: Okay. Do you see the green button at the top right corner of your screen?

Astronaut: Yes.

Support Tech: Click that button.

Astronaut: What is that going to do?

Support Tech: It will be rebooting your rocket.

Astronaut: I just told you. I don't want to be rebooting my rocket. I want to fix the scrubbers.

Support Tech: Hold please.

Hold music.

Support Tech: Thank you for holding. Do you see the two blinking red buttons in the center of the control panel?

Astronaut: Yes?

Support Tech: Please press both of them for five seconds.

Astronaut: Is this going to reboot the rocket?

Support Tech: No.

Astronaut: Are you sure?

Support Tech: Absolutely.

Astronaut: Okay. One...Two..Three...Four...Five.

Loud bang.

Astronaut: What the heck was that?

Astronaut #2 in the background: You just ejected the air scrubbers into space!

Support Tech: You will be needing to remove the scrubbers from the external panel on the bottom quadrant of the rocket. Also, may I please have your postal code?

Astronaut yelling: Why do you want my postal code?

Support Tech: Your replacement lithium hydroxide scrubbers will arrive in 5-7 business days.
 
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