Saturday, January 31, 2009

FLG Has Lifted A&J's Comment Policy

>>> FLG wants Fear and Loathing in Georgetown to feel like an intellectual food fight. Therefore, he discourages commenters from posting anonymously. Instead, please click the Name/URL radio button and make up a pseudonym. <<<

You can choose anonymous and sign at the bottom like dave.s., Mrs. P, and George Pal as well, but nothing purely anonymous.

La Révolution Commence

BBC:
"Sarkozy is right to be afraid of us," says Marine, a 22-year-old student and member of the League of Communist Revolutionaries in Toulouse.

"We are the ones who are going to break the rules and the control of the old system. We are the new alternative".


I'm so excited.

Marine and her fellow party-member, Hugo, who is 18, do not envisage a violent revolution.

"There is no need for guns or bullets," says Hugo, "just a realisation that the situation is not fair, that all the state's money is being spent on the people who need it the least."


Wake me up when they have made themselves completely irrelevant. On second thought, don't wake me up.

In Movie News

The FLGs watched Vicky Cristina Barcelona today. FLG liked it, but he's not sure why.

Last Culture11 Post

Joe Carter writes:
I'm willing to bet because the hit count was lower than expected.

That's a bet you would lose. The hit count was higher than expected and the investors (unlike the managing editor) were completely pleased with the content.

Sometimes it really is all about the money.


Apparently, my criticism of the site, the whole what-we-are-doing-is-so-cool-and-by-creating-this-site-we-have-influence-and-did-we-mention-that-we-are-awesome-because-we-are-like-so-hip vibe really turns me off, is not the proximate reason it failed. End of discussion.

Culture11 Continued

Freddie writes regarding my Culture11 post:
Yes, that's right-- the fact that investors pulled out and left them without money to pay their staff or tech crew isn't why they shut down, no, it's their "self-referential hipness". Brilliant analysis, friend, brilliant.



Freddie:

Your analysis is myopic and superficial. Yes, the proximate cause was funding, but why was that funding pulled? Presumably because investors didn't think they could make their money back, and why didn't investors think they could make their money back? I'm willing to bet because the hit count was lower than expected. And why was the hit count lower than expected? Because the fucking content sucked. And why did the content suck? Because of their self-referential hipness. You can disagree with that reasoning, but for fuck's sake don't blame it on funding drying up. Fools always do. "If only we had more time or money" is the refuge of losers. So, next time you show up here with sarcasm you'd better think some shit through.

Update: From the Culture11 site on why they failed:
Sometimes we were too insular, referencing the same blogs and writers as if we were at a private party. Sometimes we were too wonky and self-indulgent. Sometimes (especially when I was writing) we were just plain boring.


Sure sounds like the problem was self-referential hipness to me.

More On Lilly Ledbetter

RP Johnson writes:
Yes, I too thought it was not a public issue, but after taking a lot of flak from students, I switched. There are all kinds of disparities in information and bargaining power between employee and employer that make this increasingly an unlevel (is that a word?) playing field. And more and more, the public thinks it IS a public issue. Almost all levels of government maintain an open employee salary policy (in letter, but getting the information is often another story). And this is beginning to be applied to government contracts as well. And aren't we all in favor of "transparency" now? I'm afraid that boat has sailed; save your energy to overturn the ban on the import on the import Roquefort cheese.


Information disparities between potential employer and individual employees irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, race, etc, etc. If we assume that companies want to pay people the least amount of money possible to get them to agree to work there, then this isn't a gender issue. Furthermore, the key metric relevant to the employee, what the potential income for the applicant is elsewhere, would give the advantage to the employee. Not that the employer wouldn't have some idea, but one must assume that a diligent job applicant did their homework about what type of money is out there because it is very much in their interest to do so AND they know their skill levels and abilities far better than potential employers.

I totally disagree with your statement about the public thinking people's income is a public issue. Your example, the government, is an exception, not the rule for several reasons. First, government employees are paid with public funds. So, it makes sense that people would think their salaries were a public issue. Second, I would venture a guess that the vast majority of government workers are unionized, or if not unionized, get paid according to a fix scale that includes years of service and maybe some education. So, if somebody knows Bob's position is GS-9 or whatever, then he makes X. Third, politically elected and appointed officials, again, are paid by public funds and are public servants. Their salaries are usually public knowledge because the public has a right to know their salaries. We know, for example, President Obama makes $400k because the American people pay it.

When it comes to private industry, it is entirely different and I would argue that the American people recognize this fact. Few people are calling for every company to post everybody's salary on their webpage. More to the point, few people want their own salary published.

Now, that I think about it the biggest supporters of transparent salaries would be unions. If we make all salaries transparent, then there will be a move to equalize them. This will be driven mostly by the people in each company who upon seeing that they negotiated a bad deal demand as much money as the next guy or gal. Once everybody is more or less equalized, then nobody can go and get themselves a raise without everybody else going and immediately demanding the same thing. It's de facto collective bargaining. And since actual collective bargaining would achieve better results than de facto collective bargaining that workplace would eventually go union. So, I'm sure unions are all for this transparency in the private sector even though it is a huge violation of privacy.

Lastly, the excellence verus mediocrity argument comes in here. The current private sector arrangement -- individual and privately known renumeration -- has huge benefits. A good, productive worker can get paid more than lazy, incompetent workers, which is how it should be. So, I'm against transparency in this case and won't lay down that position regardless of what public opinion polls show.

PS. I hate roquefort, but I hate trade wars even more. So, yes. Overturn the ban!

French National Pastime Update

IHT:
A nationwide protest against President Nicolas Sarkozy's economic policies drew more than a million demonstrators into the streets of France on Thursday in the biggest popular challenge to the president since he took office in 2007.


Dans la rue contre n'importe quoi, n'importe qui...

Quote of the day

Ross Douthat:
there's also a chance that the Democrats will look back on the stimulus bill as an instance where they gained ground in the short run, but at the expense of their longer-term ambitions.

To talk of many things: Of shoes--and ships--and dishwashers

This graphic reminded me of Phoebe's quixotic quest for a dishwasher:


HT: John Schwenkler

Friday, January 30, 2009

Equal Pay Bill

I have to admit that I'm conflicted on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act.

On one hand, it's unlikely that a person would know within their first 6 months on the job that they are paid less than other workers. So, I understand why we should extend the ability to sue.

On the other hand, remuneration is between employer and employee. If an employee agrees to work for a certain pay rate or salary, then that's what they've agreed to. I'm not entirely convinced that what other people make is relevant. If an employee subsequently determines that other people are making more, then they can go to their supervisor and ask for a raise. I don't see why the employer should have to give them a post-dated raise or why the deals other people cut with the employer should be applied to everybody. It's on the employee to negotiate their pay and then either accept it or not.

Apostrophes

Apostrophes are confusing? Really? I would argue that they clarify whether a word is a plural or a possessive. What the fuck is wrong with England lately?

Random Round-up

Even On More On Excellence Versus Mediocrity

dance writes:
Seriously, FLG, your first post on this was a trick. Equal opportunity isn't the same thing as equal outcomes, as Andrew and Alan have noted. Equal opportunity and excellence aren't mutually exclusive---you randomly conflated the two. Not very honest of you.


True. However, unequal outcomes are almost always cited as the evidence that the opportunities are unequal.

Apology

"It's Mister Stevens (at least get my gender right - Mrs. Stevens is my wife)"

Typo. My bad.

More on Greed and Fear

Megan McArdle links to a post by Ryan Avent, who writes:
But the underlying point is intriguing -- that much of the value of action may be psychological. Even if a government plan isn't directly contributing to public welfare, the idea that something is being done which will improve things will encourage people to spend, businesses to invest, banks to lend, and so on.


As I wrote previously, this is about Fear, which is an emotion and not rational. Not I, nor Megan, nor Ryan, nor anybody else, has any idea whether government spending will lessen people's collective economic fears. My best guess is that it will not, but that's my conservative bias. Ryan is more likely to believe it will because he is more liberal than I am.

FLG is currently listening to

More On Excellence Versus Mediocrity

In light of Mrs Stevens accusations of my mere semantics, I call to the superior intelligence, at least to mine, of J.S. Mill:
In sober truth, whatever homage may be professed, or even paid, to real or supposed mental superiority, the general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind. In ancient history, in the Middle Ages, and in a diminishing degree through the long transition from feudality to the present time, the individual was a power in himself; and If he had either great talents or a high social position, he was a considerable power. At present individuals are lost in the crowd. In politics it is almost a triviality to say that public opinion now rules the world. The only power deserving the name is that of masses, and of governments while they make themselves the organ of the tendencies and instincts of masses. This is as true in the moral and social relations of private life as in public transactions. Those whose opinions go by the name of public opinion, are not always the same sort of public: in America, they are the whole white population; in England, chiefly the middle class. But they are always a mass, that is to say, collective mediocrity. And what is still greater novelty, the mass do not now take their opinions from dignitaries in Church or State, from ostensible leaders, or from books. Their thinking is done for them by men much like themselves, addressing them or speaking in their name, on the spur of the moment, through the newspapers. I am not complaining of all this. I do not assert that anything better is compatible, as a general rule, with the present low state of the human mind. But that does not hinder the government of mediocrity from being mediocre government. No government by a democracy or a numerous aristocracy, either in its political acts or in the opinions, qualities, and tone of mind which it fosters, ever did or could rise above mediocrity, except in so far as the sovereign Many have let themselves be guided (which in their best times they always have done) by the counsels and influence of a more highly gifted and instructed One or Few. The initiation of all wise or noble things, comes and must come from individuals; generally at first from some one individual. The honor and glory of the average man is that he is capable of following that initiative; that he can respond internally to wise and noble things, and be led to them with his eyes open. I am not countenancing the sort of "hero-worship" which applauds the strong man of genius for forcibly seizing on the government of the world and making it do his bidding in spite of itself. All he can claim is, freedom to point out the way. The power of compelling others into it, is not only inconsistent with the freedom and development of all the rest, but corrupting to the strong man himself. It does seem, however, that when the opinions of masses of merely average men are everywhere become or becoming the dominant power, the counterpoise and corrective to that tendency would be, the more and more pronounced individuality of those who stand on the higher eminences of thought. It Is in these circumstances most especially, that exceptional individuals, instead of being deterred, should be encouraged in acting differently from the mass. In other times there was no advantage in their doing so, unless they acted not only differently, but better. In this age the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.


So, to the extent that we are all forced to be equal we have a problem because equal is mediocre.

Equally Excellent

Equality and excellence are opposite. Something or someone is excellent only in comparison to something or someone else. If everybody is equal then everybody is simultaneously awful and excellent because comparisons are impossible.

So, when people talk about an equal opportunity for excellent education I always ask in relation to what? To past educational opportunities? To other countries' opportunities?

Excellence always is relative to something else. Making or saying
everybody is equal makes them, by definition, not excellent. Something has to suck for something else to be awesome.

FLG is currently listening to



Bacony Goodness

Wow! It's like the last one, but with sausage instead of cheese.

It's a sad, sad day for the English language

Chatham House:
Backgrounder: Combating Maritime Piracy


We now have to qualify piracy with the word maritime? Bollocks!

Getting in a boat and stealing the cargo is piracy. Stealing videos, software, music, etc is copyright violation. Therefore, there is only one form of piracy -- maritime -- and the qualification is redundant.

Quote of the day

UD:
In line with tradition, the researchers will stop working and torch the streets of Paris until he shuts up.


Ah, the French National Pastime.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cyberwarfare or Cybercrime?

PCWorld:
A Russian "cyber militia" has knocked the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan off the Internet, a security researcher said Wednesday, demonstrating that the hackers are able to respond even faster than last year, when they waged a digital war against another former Soviet republic, Georgia.

Speculation about why Kyrgyzstan's Internet infrastructure was attacked center around an investment deal that Russia is negotiating the country. Russia has indicated that it wants Kyrgyzstan to oust foreign air forces, including the U.S.', before it will agree to loan the country US$300 million and invest another $1.7 billion in its energy industry


I'm very interested in whether this type of thing ought to be considered cyberwarfare or cybercrime. If Russian hackers are taking actions in the lead up to an military invasion, then isn't that an act of war? But what if there is no military action? Is there a certain threshold regarding the scale that should be required before it becomes warfare? Does it depend on the nature of the targets? Should a military response be permitted to an entirely electronic attack?

These questions aren't rhetorical so feel free to respond. I'm interested in what people think about this issue.

HT: Otto

Correspondence

Your Culture11 note is a mixture of schadenfreude and sour grapes. Jealous you weren't a part of the site?


I realize none of you know me personally. Well, some of you do, but that's not important right now. What is important is that I assure you that I had no desire to be a part of Culture11 or any other culture/opinion site. If you knew me I think it would be hard to think otherwise. I like having my little, absurdly-serious blog and any site like Culture11 would require a bit too much of a compromise toward the seriousness side of the continuum. Not to mention the all too probable requirement that I couldn't fucking swear.

Another important point is that I also realize I am just another asshole with a blog. I'm totally comfortable with that. Perhaps my personal take on what to post is interesting to other people, but I have no authority, desire influence people, or to be famous or important. I post what I find interesting or funny.

I don't really hope to change anybody's mind. Just make somebody think about it differently. All too often the political parties have their rationale, but it doesn't quite fit. I try to examine the topic differently if I can. I'm not clever enough to offer unique analysis all of the time, but I endeavor to offer a fresh perspective on things or interesting rationale for a political position once and a while. But I'm happy with my little blog.

Blogging is like blackjack to me. I enjoy blackjack a great deal. It's fun to go to Vegas for a weekend and play. On the other hand, I would hate blackjack if I had to play it to make a living.

Now, if somebody told me they would pay me 100 grand to blog on this site full-time and I would have full editorial control and never be bothered about anything except having to post once a day or find a sub, then would I take it? Hellzyeah, and that's every other blogger's wet dream too. But a zombie apocalypse is far more likely to occur.

To get back to your email. There's no schadenfreude because I do hope they all find new employment. Also, I truly hope that this failure knocks them of their hip horse not because I was envious, but because it was detrimental to what they were trying to accomplish.

Update: Maybe I will be getting that 100 grand soon.

FLG's Blogging Self-Analysis

I was thinking today that since I've been blogging for a year I should be a better blogger. However, I'm not sure that I am. I'm a better writer, but you probably don't see it. The improvement has been in speed. My first draft of anything is far better than it was a year ago. You may not believe it, what with the complete lack of grammatical and spelling errors on this blog, but about 95% of what is written is posted without review. But as far as comment, argument, etc I'm not sure there was been an improvement.

FLG Hates Segways

They're stupid machines, and this video undermines FLG's faith in karma:

Des Berceuses

I bought Miss FLG a CD of French lullabies. This one sounds pretty, but it's about different colored hens laying eggs in places that rhyme with the color of the hen.

For example, the gray hen lays the egg in the church because grise "gray" rhymes with l’église "church."

Correspondence

What is the deal with the French song you posted the yesterday?


It's a version of "Complainte de la Butte" by Rufus Wainwright from the movie Moulin Rouge. FLG enjoys that film immensely.

The lyrics with translation are here. It's about Montmartre, near where the Moulin Rouge is located. It's very hilly with long, steep staircases and at the top of the hill, la butte Montmartre, is Sacré-Cœur Basilica. However, Wainwright didn't write the song. FLG has no idea when it's from originally, but it's an old song.



Correspondence

flg,

I sent you an email a few months ago that expressed my utter confusion at Fear and Loathing in Georgetown. (You may remember posting the message and correcting my use of the word "peak.") It took several months, but I get it.


Took you long enough.


Dear FLG:

You shouldn't be such a dick to Alan. He makes some good points.


Perhaps, but know a few things. First, he's a big boy and can take it. Second, it's not like I delete his comments or anything. Third, if I didn't like him or think he had something worthwhile to say I wouldn't help him with his website and blog. In fact, I think his blog looks better than mine right now.

Economic Policy

Mrs. P points me to an Op-Ed by Rush Limbaugh in the WSJ:
Keynesian economists believe government spending on "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects -- schools, roads, bridges -- is the best way to stimulate our staggering economy. Supply-side economists make an equally persuasive case that tax cuts are the surest and quickest way to create permanent jobs and cause an economy to rebound. That happened under JFK, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. We know that when tax rates are cut in a recession, it brings an economy back.

Recent polling indicates that the American people are in favor of both approaches.


From a strictly economic perspective, it's a question of time. In the very short-term, a tax rebate is the most effective. We will get about 0.75 actual economic stimulus for each dollar of rebate. In the medium-term, say 1-2 years or so, we will get the most bang for our buck from shovel-ready projects. About 1.5 dollars of economic activity for every dollar spent. However, in the very long-run, I dunno 2+ years, a permanent cut in tax rates would be the best thing for economic growth.

Why is a permanent cut in tax rates the best thing? Well, it sets expectations in people's minds that they will have more money and they make decisions about how much and what to save and consume accordingly. The argument in favor of long-term benefits from government spending centers around externalities. Health care and education offer positive externalities. Your education makes me better off because you are more economically productive and a better citizen. Likewise, if you are healthy you are more likely to work and less likely to make me sick. If we invest in education and health this makes us all better off in the long-run. The issue is the government doesn't really know how much to invest in health and education to optimize the economic and social return. Nor are they particularly good at being efficient. So, it is, all told, better to let individuals choose what to invest in.

Oh Yeah, That Apology Thing Ain't Gonna Happen

The Corner:
President Ahmadinejad, speaking in Kermanshah, responds to Obama's desire for change with demands that the U.S. end its military presence everywhere in the world outside the borders of the United States, and cease any support for Israel "rootless, uncultured, illegal, phony, murderous, killer of women and children, killers of babies"


I'm glad we have a good faith negotiating partner who tries to understand the other party like Alan wants us to do with them.

Women In Science

Heather Mac Donald:

Which is it? Are women “strong”? Or can they be crushed by fears of a permanent bad hair day and inspired by something as superficial as Hollywood fashion? Given the amount of time and money that most women spend on applying makeup, blow-drying their hair, shopping for clothes, and gullibly attending to preposterous wrinkle-cream ads in women’s magazines, Angier’s claim that girls could be thwarted by a TV comedy is not wholly unreasonable. It just happens to contradict the usual feminist claim that women are just as tough as men.

The evidence to date suggests that the highest-level math skills—those required for research physics—aren’t evenly distributed among men and women. Men greatly outnumber women at the very highest and lowest ends of the mathematics aptitude curve. As Christina Hoff Sommers has documented, men also show greater interest in abstract, non-empathetic careers than women. Of course, the conflicting demands of raising a family and pursuing pure science undoubtedly influence women’s career paths as well. If scientific pursuit can be made more family-friendly without in any way damaging its essential strengths, such changes should be contemplated. But the fertility clock and women’s greater involvement with their babies are not chauvinist plots; they are biological realities.

Despite what some readers may think, I have always believed that men and women have equal talents and worth. Furthermore, I whole-heartedly want women to pursue whatever career strikes their fancy. However, I also believe men and women are different.

Men aren't as represented in ballet classes or dance majors, yet we don't freak out. Is it socially constructed or genetic? I don't know and don't care. Women choose dance majors more than men. Fine. Does it really matter if most of our physicists are men? Will the physics we learn be somehow tainted? Why must be that if women aren't equally represented in a field that the only explanation is discrimination?

There are a whole host of differences between men and women that influence choices. Women are more risk averse than men. There might be chauvinism in race car circles, but I don't think that's the reason women aren't as well represented. Women drive slower and more safely on average in real life too. Women are physically smaller and weaker than men. I'm convinced that talking about problems makes women feel better but has the opposite effect on men. Then there's the maternal certainty versus paternal ambiguity horse that I won't beat again.

Where there is explicit bias I am all for stamping it out. Where the complaints are that jobs are too time consuming, competitive, or stress-filled for women I say tough shit. Suck it up. Is it fair that women have a biological clock? No, but it is what it is. It's not socially constructed and it ain't changing.

Do these general differences mean that any individual woman should be discouraged from pursuing any career because of her gender? Fuck no! However, we have to realize that women and men may make different choices as groups and that these choices may result in non-representative outcomes in certain professions. Let's not blame it on malevolent, yet amorphous cultural forces.

Say No To Global Cap-N-Trade

BBC:
The European Commission has called for a global carbon trading market as part of a plan to tackle climate change.

The EU is already committed to expanding its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), but now it is urging other industrialised countries to join in.

The commission says that by 2015 it wants to link the ETS to other carbon trading systems. The goal is to include emerging economies by 2020.


A global cap-n-trade system is the worst idea. A standard, worldwide carbon tax would be much better. Theoretically, the cap-n-trade system would achieve the exact same results as a carbon tax if it worked perfectly, but it won't work perfectly.

There are two problems as I see them with carbon trading. First, one doesn't know the cost until after the policy has been enacted. Second, it creates rent seeking.

A carbon tax is decided in advance. The government states it and then implements it. The results of that action will be government revenue and carbon reduction. We don't know the exact level of carbon reduction, but we can raise and lower the tax every month if need be until we get to the desired carbon output. Each of those choices to raise and lower can be made using some cost-benefit analysis.

On the other hand, a cap-n-trade system specifies the amount of carbon, but the cost to the economy is unknown until after the system has already been implemented. The permits are issued, and then the trade part determines the cost of carbon amid the artificial scarcity created by the permits.

This is beneficial to politicians because it doesn't have the dreaded tax word in the policy, but it's actually worse because the results will be the same as a tax except we don't know how expensive a tax until afterwards. Recently, I've even heard financial industry types jumping on the bandwagon. They want to get in on the action of trading these permits. One of the arguments they use is that it will determine "a market price of carbon" as if this prices were some magic number the market tells us. In fact, the price would not be an actual market price at all. It is the price determined by the artificial scarcity imposed through the issuance of limited permits. This argument about a market price actually misses the point about a market. Markets are primarily beneficial not because they determine a price, but because the prices influence behavior. Therefore, a carbon tax would use the market mechanism as well.

In fairness, a price determined by a market can be a very powerful tool to gather information. For example, election betting markets were probably more accurate than polls during the election. However, in this case the information we are gathering is how expensive the policy will be, but the market will determine that AFTER the policy has been implemented. That's not the type of idea that should be considered a benefit to a policy.

Another problem is the initial allocation of the permits. An efficient auction would be fine, but the temptation to allocate these permits to favorite industries (in the developed world) and to cronies (in the developing world if they sign on) will be huge. But let's say that the allocation is an efficient auction, the only reason a market will be created is because the initial allocation was sub-optimal. An optimal allocation would give everybody who needed permits the exact number of permits they needed. If that's the case, then nobody needs to buy and sell permits and no market needs to exist. Given that the initial allocation will be suboptimal, people, strangely, want to use the exact same bankers they are calling reckless and greedy for screwing up the housing market to reallocate these permits?

A carbon tax allows anybody to emit as much carbon as they want, but they have to pay a political imposed cost that attempts to mimic the environmental cost. It is actually using the market in the best way, using the price to influence behavior, not to determine a price. With a carbon tax there is no allocation problem.

All this is to say that a carbon tax is simpler and therefore easier to implement successfully than a cap-n-trade system. Then again this might all be a hugely expensive but futile endeavor.

BBC:
A team of environmental researchers in the US has warned many effects of climate change are irreversible.

The scientists concluded global temperatures could remain high for 1,000 years, even if carbon emissions can somehow be halted.

"People have imagined that if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide the climate would go back to normal in 100 years, 200 year - that's not true," said researcher Susan Solomon, the lead author of the report, quoted by AP news agency.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Quote of the day

Arethusa:
It's actually about time someone asked for an apology for the Persian Wars.

Stop the Discrimination

Telegraph:
Men do not dominate chess competitions because they are better at the game but simply because women do not like it

"At primary school level, when there are an equal number of boys and girls playing, there's a level playing field."


We must find the societal discrimination that makes women not like chess as much as men and stamp it out. If need be we need to create outreach programs until the number of top players are equal. Because just as women must like and be as good as men at the highest levels of math, science, and engineering so must they be at chess.

Culture11

Mrs. P informs me that Culture11 has shut down.

I hope for two things:
1) The writers at Culture11 all find new employment, especially Poulos.
2) That they recognize the failure was a result, not of the sagging economy, but allowing their self-referential hipness to get out of control. It went to your heads like a nerd who becomes a popstar overnight.

Godspeed.

Idiot Round Up



FLG is currently listening to

Bullshit

FLG wrote:
If the blame lies with either the United States "as result of our actions to overthrow Iran's democratic government" or "All Iranians," then it's All Iranians. It is fucking bullshit to blame actions that occurred 1953 for Iran's 2008 government.


Alan writes:
Actions by the British crown in 1774 still affect our government today. The hostage-taking in 1979 affects our approach 29 years later. The current Iraqi government came to power that year, 26 years after Operation Ajax. People hold on to their history and allow it to drive their actions and responses. That seems pretty normal.


Actions in 1774 and even prior affected and affect our government, but it is fucking idiotic to say that anybody other than Americans are responsible for their government in 2008. Likewise, Iranians, not anybody else, are responsible for their fucked up government in 2008.

It is also normal to resent the actions of an outgroup and blame them more than blaming oneself. Being realists, we have to engage with that condition when we interact with the Iranians. It is fruitless to engage with our image of idealized Iranians when they do not exist. Bush has proved that.


So, we should treat the Iranians like children because they like to live under the delusion that "out groups", read the Great Satan and Zionist, are actually responsible for the sad state of their once great nation? NO! We must forcefully argue that their leaders, Iranians, are responsible. We cannot give their shit government a pass.


Ahmadinejad is a lame duck. We need to talk past him to the Iranians. An apology for 1953, long desired and still unexpected, would further swing the Iranian public to support for the United States. Again, Head Wind was instructive.


I'm sure they are still waiting for the Greeks to apologize for the burning of Persepolis as well.

The Crimes

Per Alan's request,

IHT:
[Ahmadinejad] went on to list so-called "crimes" stretching back 60 years, including the effort to halt Iran's nuclear program and actions following the Islamic revolution in 1979. Some news reports said Ahmadinejad also demanded that America apologize for its role in supporting the 1953 coup that ousted the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh and installed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi who ruled until he was ousted in 1979.


I stand by my initial statement that he needs to apologize for taking hostages. Think that's unreasonable? Well, at least I'm not asking for an apology for the Greco-Persian Wars.

Note To Self

Read the Laws soon.

Dear Alan:

I prepared a mock-up of the new title font. I have no idea how to do it right now, but this is what it would look like. The problem is that I have to actually create an image and then insert it where the title is because if it is just a normal font then everybody who reads the site would need to have the Jefferson font installed, which they won't. No Jefferson font installed on their computer, then it just reverts to Times New Roman or some shit.

Sincerely,
FLG

Obama's Magic Pixie Dust Doesn't Work On Iran

BBC:
President Obama has offered to extend a hand if Iran "unclenched its fist".

Iran's president has responded...by demanding an apology for past US "crimes" committed against Iran.

The US "stood against the Iranian people in the past 60 years," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during an address in the western region of Khermenshah.

"Those who speak of change must apologise to the Iranian people and try to repair their past crimes," he said.


I take it that's a "No" ? Or is saying "sorry" the magic word ?

I'll be expecting the apology for taking our hostages first you bloviating cocksucking motherfucker.

Doc, there's a problem with my Yo-Yo Mas

BBC:
A top doctor has admitted her part in hoodwinking a leading medical journal after inventing a medical condition called "cello scrotum"

The spoof was inspired by a similar report of a phenomenon called "guitar nipple", which happened when the edge of the guitar was pressed against the breast, causing irritation.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Missile Launcher

Anybody else want one? Or two?

FLG and Language

FLG finds language fascinating. In fact, as of the completion of this post he will have tagged more posts with "language" than "pirates." Astonishing. He knows.

You may remember the post with two clips from A Bit of Fry and Laurie.

Well, FLG was watching a relatively recent clip with Mr. Fry. Apparently, Mr. Fry wrote a kind of howto for poetry and in this interview he contrasts how we teach people piano with how we try to teach people to write poetry. Great point. FLG sucks at poetry, and truth be told wishes he could improve his prose writing as well, so the idea that writing instruction is to blame is very appealing.



Continued...


For the record, FLG is against the existence of the word chillax on an aesthetic basis. It's harsh sounding.

Greed and Fear

A post by Will Wilkinson reminded me of something:

The New York-based blogger for The Economist’s Free Exchange replies to my lament by arguing that economists do have a theory of the psychology of coordinated expectation. They do, sort of. But they don’t have the kind of theory that I have in mind. Harvard’s Gregory Mankiw admits as much when he blogs:

Yale’s Bob Shiller argues that confidence is the key to getting the economy back on track.

I think a lot of economists would agree with that. The question is what would make people more confident. Bob thinks that confidence would rise if the government borrowed more and spent more. Other economists think that confidence would rise if the government committed itself to, say, lower taxes on capital income. The sad truth is that we economists don’t know very much about what drives the animal spirits of economic participants. Until we figure it out, it is best to be suspicious of any policy whose benefits are supposed to work through the amorphous channel of “confidence.” [emphasis added]

In what macro textbook can one find references to empirical psychological work on confidence? On individual-level variability in confidence, on the conditions under which the confidence of various personality types is affected by economic variables, on the relationship between changes in condfidence and changes in economic behavior, on the social “infectiousness” of changes in confidence, etc.

I have a lot of respect for Shiller, but Mankiw is right. Shiller doesn’t have any real evidential basis for claims about what policies will induce confidence. And neither does anyone else.



The reason economics doesn't have an explanation for confidence is because Fear is an emotional, irrational motivation.

Economic jargon and financial lingo obscure that all investment decisions are the result of a tug-o-war between two primal human motivations – greed and fear. Reason is in there too, but only as a referee. Fortunately, this competition between avarice and apprehension usually results in outcomes that approximate rational decisions. When these relatively rational outcomes are pooled together in the financial markets they come ever nearer to strictly rational results as investors who are too fearful sell to buyers whose greed tells them to buy. But every so often one of these motivations wins out and the market becomes seriously distorted. So, when they talk about confidence or moral hazard recognize that what they are really talking about is Fear or lack of it.

Incidentally, a dearth of Fear, not Greed, was the proximate cause of the current financial crisis. People overestimated the diversification provided by mortgage securitization and accuracy of computerized risk models. Add to this the moral hazard created by the Long Term Capital Management bailout in 1997 and you have people who aren't afraid enough. People thinking they had nothing to fear overreacted and have become too fearful. We need to remove that fear through government guarantees and spending.

As Will mentioned above, the Economist blog tries to explain as best as they can. I've decided to translate:
So what is the cause of the micro fear? There was a sudden exogenous change to individual expectations.


Why are people afraid? Something came out of nowhere and scared the shit out of them.

First wealth fell (because of the housing crash and falling share values). This meant that saving stocks fell, generating cutbacks on consumption to bring saving back to the desired level.


Home prices and the stock market fell. That was scary and they decided to save.

Also many people calibrated wage and asset risk based on Great Moderation variables (that is, low levels of wage and asset volatility). Asset market declines and increased job insecurity forced many people to recalibrate their perceived asset and wage risk (both permanent and transitory).


People didn't think they had anything to fear, so they partied like it was 1999. Then, holy shit!

When people perceive more risk they desire an even larger stock of wealth. When they experience uncertainty they cannot even assign a probability distribution to expected shocks and they hoard even more resources—a few weeks ago we cited a paper that showed that growing up in a risky environment alters investment behaviour (you crave less variable assets).


People freaked out. Realizing that the world was still a dangerous place, they started stocking up on cans, buying ammo, and heading for the hills.

How does this all aggregate? Well, a structural change means everyone experiences a shock to their perception of risk and initially there is uncertainty, so we would expect a fall in aggregate demand and deleveraging. Aggregate demand will plummet when there is so much uncertainty, but will recover to a lower level under the new, riskier regime. By how much exactly will consumption fall? Unfortunately, the data does not yet exist to calibrate the new riskier regime (we are still in the uncertain phase).


What happens when everybody runs for the hills? Well, there's a traffic jam. Eventually though, some people will realize that everybody is heading for the hills and it may be better to go back home rather than waiting in traffic. Others will return too and they'll all buy alarm systems for their houses. That's obviously better than living in a hut in the mountains. But we have no idea when this will happen. Everybody is still heading for the hills.

Economists hope that if the government provides some guarantee, then at least some uncertainty will be resolved and we will feel more inclined to save and lend.


Economists hope that the government can tell people it's safe to go back home.

Great News From Paris

Apparently, Sarkozy hasn't given the go-ahead for France to re-enter NATO's integrated military command.

Bruno Le Maire, the new French minister for Europe, speaking last week at a symposium in Paris on relations with the Obama administration, said three things that were not readily understood by all of France's allies.

First, that Europe had to have "our own doctrine on Iran"; that NATO must be redefined in April "so that we know what organization we're entering"; and that a Europeans-only military operational headquarters in Brussels "had been agreed to in principle."


Here's hoping they don't join and it is the first step toward the deconstruction of NATO. FLG cannot understand for the life of him why so many people still think NATO a crucial organization when nobody, including itself, knows what it is for.

Withywindle makes the strongest arguments FLG's seen in favor of it, but he still isn't convinced that NATO shouldn't be destroyed. Forget expanding or empowering it.

Tintin News

BBC:
British actor Daniel Craig, best known for playing secret agent James Bond, has signed up to play the villain in the new Tintin movie.

The 40-year-old has landed the role of Red Rackham opposite Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell, who will play the intrepid young reporter Tintin.

Filming for The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, directed by Steven Spielberg, has already begun.

Zimbabwe

According to Le Figaro, 56,000 people in Zimbabwe have contracted cholera and 3,000 people have died from it.

Mugabe is a fucking bastard.

Monday, January 26, 2009

FLG is slightly concerned

Strategy Page:
The BulletFlight software is available at the iPhone software store, and it performs the calculations needed to account for atmospheric conditions (wind, temperature, humidity, altitude and barometric pressure) for long range shooting. The output tells you how many clicks to adjust your scope to make the shot more accurately. Before use, you input basic data like rifle type and bullet weight.

Now a highly experienced sniper can do this in his head. There are similar dedicated devices that cost about $7,000. But BulletFlight is affordable, does the job and appeals to inexperienced snipers, hunters, recreational shooters and those who are just curious.


Gives Blue Screen of Death a whole new meaning.

Political Theory

Anti-Climacus:
it's also worth spending time with his post asking Of What Is Political Theory a Subset? It's unusual to think of oneself as "at home" in a political science department, through some combination of the direction taken by political science as a whole and the uncertainty of what exactly it is that political theorists are supposed to do. The strongest pull for most is to philosophy, which has the kind of rigor (if you're analytic) or flexibility (if you're continental) to which theorists sometimes seem to aspire. Among the grad students here at Duke, I'd say the strongest pull is to English or Literature (in part because the interests of the Literature and English programs have strong political theory dimensions), though I know people for whom the answer would be History or other possibilities.

I'm with Levy in his commitment, which is to say that the departmental affiliation of political theorists is no accident: theory always turns back to questions concerning how the world already is. Some of these questions are best given to those who do more empirical work, but many of them belong to the theorists. As any good social scientist will tell you (it's important to take them seriously when they say this, because they often do not follow through), all the data in the world is useless without good theory--and the theory needs to come first.

There's more to say about it, but I'm left with one question: why should we think of political theory as a subset of anything? One can ask the question, in a productive way, of what literatures, approaches, figures a political theorist most needs to engage. To ask "of what is political theory a subset?" frames the question in a way it can respond directly to the post-Rawls contention that political theory is a subset of moral philosophy or ethics, but it also presumes that the hierarchy involved is the correct way to think of these things: it's not clear to me that's right.


I found this fascinating. I never really asked myself why political theory should be in the political science or government, as Georgetown and I think Harvard like to call it, department, but then again I'm not a political theorist.

Dear Fear and Loathing in Georgetown Readers:

Thanks for remaining civil today and over the last year. I say some crazy shit sometimes. I'm glad people keep it under control so that I don't have to delete comments. You guys and gals rock.

Sincerely,
FLG

Let's Not Shift Ground Here

Linda wrote:
Morals? This is about morals? Excuse me while I puke. After eight years of the most morally corrupt government in U.S. history, you have a problem with family planning programs to help lower income women? Unbelievable. And, guess what? Atheists have morals, we just don't believe in fairy tales.


First, the Bush Administration is not relevant to this discussion. Pointing the finger at somebody and saying they're worse than me or people I support is relativistic shenanigans. Pelosi is either right or wrong on the merits of this issue, not in relation to Bush.

Second, I never said I have a problem with family planning programs. The Catholic Church does, and she claims to be a Catholic. Therefore, she is either a hypocrite or an imbecile. Perhaps both.

Third, family planning does nothing to help with economic growth. If one myopically focuses on short-term state budgets, as she is, then perhaps, maybe there is a benefit. But those are more than outweighed by the long-term fiscal and macroeconomic consequences of decreased population growth.

So, I am not against family planning. I'm actually for it. What I have an issue with is a person who claims to be a self-professed Catholic advocating a policy that is both contrary to the basic teachings of her Church, i.e. she's a hypocrite or an idiot, and furthermore that the policy in question does not, in fact, make long-term economic sense.

Lastly, I am extremely uncomfortable, and I think everybody should be as well, with arguments involving birth control, euthanasia, or life in general even hinted at as an economic question. Because, as I tried to make clear through reductio ad absurdum, that's a fucking slippery slope.

I'm Speechless

Drudge:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?

PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So no apologies for that?

PELOSI: No apologies. No. we have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.


She does claim to be Catholic, right? Then the better cost savings for the same moral abhorrence would be to kill old people. They're expensive and the government pays for all of their healthcare.

Can we all admit that Pelosi is a fucking moron now? Even if it's true, didn't she just make the worst political and most morally questionable argument possible in support of her position?

HT: arethusa

FLG is currently listening to

FLG is currently listening to

FLG is currently listening to

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Figure Skating

FLG had never heard of Kiira Korpi until today.

There's Too Much Porn

There is simply too much porn in the world today. Oh, this isn't the opinion of some televangelist. No. This is the porn industry's conclusion.

Paul Fishbein:
...and this is the first time I can honestly say the adult business is not recession-proof.”

There’s too much stuff out there. The economy is bad. And there is a lot of free porn. So it’s a perfect storm that is affecting everybody’s business.

Museums in France

French presidents always found an art museum. It's something like their version of presidential libraries as far as I can tell -- a legacy for the ages. In fact, can we start doing this in the states? I would way prefer a new art museum every 4-8 years than a museum to the greatness of a former president in some backwater.

Anyway, Sarkozy has decided art ain't his thing. French History, however, seems to be.

Le Monde:
Ce musée, a-t-il précisé, aura vocation à "questionner notre histoire de France dans son ensemble". Insistant sur sa "cohérence", le chef de l'Etat a souhaité que celle-ci ne soit plus abordée "par petits bouts", à travers ses "pages glorieuses" ou ses "pages un peu plus délicates", mais comme "un tout".


Translation:
This museum, [Sarkozy] specified, will have the mission "to question our French history in its entirety." Insisting on its "coherence", the Head of State wished that this no longer be approached in "small increments" , through its "glorious pages" or its "more delicate pages" , but as "a whole."

Now, my French may be off here, but I have no fucking clue what he is talking about. Then again, he's French, and they're silly-talkers.

Tax Havens

David Cay Johnston:
In 1983 just 10 percent of America’s corporate profits were funneled through places that charge little or no corporate income tax; today more than 25 percent of profits go through tax havens. The Obama administration could tell the Caymans—now fifth in the world in bank deposits—to repeal its bank secrecy laws or be invaded; since the island nation’s total armed forces consists of about 300 police officers, it shouldn’t be hard for technicians and auditors, accompanied by a few Marines, to fly in and seize all the records. Bermuda, which relies on the Royal Navy for its military, could be next, and so on. Long before we get to Switzerland and Luxembourg, their governments should have gotten the message.


Balko:
I happen to think countries that offer secret banking and tax shelters serve an important function. Their value may not be as apparent to everyone in the U.S., but I’d imagine even a skeptic like Johnston might see things differently if he lived in a country where the government was more callous about how it appropriated its citizens’ possessions (which isn’t to say there’s nothing callous about taking money from taxpayers and, for example, using it to help failed financial houses pay out bonuses to their executives).

It’s also pretty arrogant to think the U.S. government should simply impose its own laws on the rest of the world, be it with military force or by restricting the ability of its own citizens to engage in voluntary trade with the citizens of other countries.


FLG has tons of doubloons stashed with the Swiss Banking Gnomes so this hits close to home. On a more serious note, I completely agree with the statement above.

Mr. Johnston was being facetious, but simultaneously revealing something very important about taxation. Taxation is the taking of money from citizens by the government with force. At the far end of the taxation regime, hidden behind the forms and BS like voluntary system, are guys with guns. Don't pay your taxes long enough and they will show up. I promise you. His humorous foreign policy proposal reveals in astonishing clarity that truth. The guys with guns now require the ability to go anywhere and everywhere on the planet.

It's too bad that banking secrecy has become a thing of the past in the United States. The teller at your bank is required to report any suspicious activity to the government without letting you know they are doing so. Your bank accounts are an open book to almost anybody who wants to see them. And all of this was in the name of stopping organized crime, then the drug war, now terrorism, when in truth the issue has always been about collecting taxes. So, not only are taxes backed up by force, but income taxes also require the complete removal of any and all financial privacy to enforce.

Jurisdictions that offer banking secrecy will always appeal to tax cheats, but there are two important things to note. First, as taxes go up the benefit from moving money offshore becomes larger. Lowering the legal tax rate lowers tax cheating. Second, as Mr. Balko notes, there are good reasons for allowing banking secrecy.

Obviously, taxes are a necessary evil. However, trying to close down offshore banking because some of our citizens use it to avoid paying taxes is a terrible idea. I realize people like the idea of government providing services and of using the tax code as a redistribution tool. However, it's not just taking from the rich and giving to the poor, it's doing so with a gun and by looking in their underwear drawer.

FLG Is Shocked and Appalled

...that Rooked has a fucking Adult Content warning. What the fuck?

'Member The Virgin?

Remember not too long ago when the virginity discussion kicked off a bunch of debate? Well, XX Factor over at Slate, God Bless Them, has a follow up.

Apparently the young lady wrote an essay explaining herself:
This all started long before September. In fact, it started in college, where my eyes were opened by my Women’s Studies professors and fellow classmates. I came to understand the role of "woman" spanning culture and time. At the university level, I was given permission to think differently and form a moral code of my own design. College opened my eyes.


XX Factor:
Until today, this sexual spectacle's onlookers have been attempting to discern where Dylan is coming from, personally and politically, but her essay makes it more than clear that her pseudo-feminist blathering is little more than a misguided attempt to conceal her mind-boggling idiocy.


Her essay is just logical enough that I am saddened Women's Studies so mindfucked her.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

These Guys Owe FLG Some Royalties

Illegal Immigration

WaPo:
Several hundred immigrant supporters and religious leaders from across the country marched to the Southwest Washington headquarters of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency yesterday, strumming guitars, beating drums and waving colorful homemade banners exhorting President Obama to halt immigration raids and promote legislation offering illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.


I'm glad the euphemism of choice, undocumented worker, was not used in this passage. It makes stupid people think -- Why don't they have documents? That seems easily fixed; give them some documents.

I admit that the illegal immigration issue is complicated. Furthermore, I agree that most of the people who come here illegally are coming for work. However, that does not change the fact that they are breaking the law by coming here. If I rob a bank to pay for my daughter's heart transplant that is a better reason than for a Ferrari, but I still robbed a bank.

The correct argument is to say that immigration law should be made looser in the future, not to justify the breaking of the law in the past. The law is the law. Disagree with it or not.

The respect for the law is, in fact, one of the things that makes our multicultural, immigrant nation work. If we remove that respect for the current crop of immigrants we are undermining precisely what makes and has made this country great. So, arguing in favor of illegal immigrants not only undermines the law, but by extension the country and what will appeal to future immigrants.

Oh, sure. There'll still be immigrants who want to come here simply for work. But the ones we really want, the ones who admire American values, of which one of the most important is respect for and equality under the law, will be disheartened and discouraged.

Second Annual Fear and Loathing in Georgetown Film Awards

Rules:
Films released in the previous year, which FLG has seen, are eligible for awards. Two exceptions to this rule are the Paul Newman Lifetime Achievement Award, named for the first recipient of the award, and Artemis Award, which honors the movie FLG most regrets not seeing. Awards will be announced on or before January 31st each year. There will be no nominations. Only winners will be announced. Winners are selected upon receiving one vote from FLG. Categories are subject to change without notice from year to year. Free stuff from studios will be accepted, and will affect selections. Winners shall be provided a paper certificate commemorating their honor upon receipt of an autographed photo of the winner and a self addressed stamped envelope. Fear and Loathing in Georgetown retains the right not to explain, discuss, or debate the selection process or the outcomes.

New Feature
FLG's Note: 2008 was worst year for movies in a long time.

Winners
Paul Newman Lifetime Achievement Award: Martin Scorsese
Artemis Award: Revolutionary Road
Best Visual Effects: Iron Man
Best Sound: The Dark Knight
Best Adapted Screenplay: Doubt
Best Original Screenplay: In Bruges
Best Foreign Film: Il y a longtemps que je t'aime (I've Loved You So Long)
Best Animated Feature: Wall-E
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams (Doubt)
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
Best Actress: Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married)
Best Actor: Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon)
Best Director: Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight)
Best Film: The Dark Knight

Envoys

Newsweek:
Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the appointment of two permanent envoys to major trouble spots—George Mitchell to the Mideast and Richard Holbrooke to Afghanistan and Pakistan...Anything short of relentless diplomatic efforts will fail," Clinton said, making it clear that Holbrooke and Mitchell would each be spending much of the next four years away from home. Both men, Holbrooke and Mitchell, gained fame by ending what seemed to be intractable conflicts, Bosnia (Holbrooke) and Northern Ireland (Mitchell). "There is no such thing as a conflict that can't be ended," Mitchell said.


Holbrooke's importance in ending the Bosnian conflict is grossly overrated, not least of which by himself. Operation Deliberate Force, you know, bombing the shit out of the Bosnian Serb military, was the primary motivator for peace. Sure, Holbrooke did some negotiation, but let's be honest, he pretty much negotiated terms of surrender.

Mitchell's role in the Good Friday Agreement is far more impressive. And Mitchell, by most accounts, isn't as big of an asshole as Holbrooke, which wouldn't matter to me either way, but I think Holbrooke is going to be a disaster in his newly assigned role.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Dati Stepping Down

BBC:
French Justice Minister Rachida Dati, the first politician of North African origin to hold a senior cabinet post in France, is stepping down.

President Nicolas Sarkozy did not explain why she was quitting...


Probably because the reason is fucking obvious:
Earlier this month she came under fire from women's groups for returning to work just five days after giving birth.

Women in France are guaranteed by law 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, but the French labour code does not apply to ministers like Ms Dati.


Do women's groups really want the Justice Minister to take 4 months off because of child birth? If she had, then wouldn't some people question whether women of child bearing age should even be appointed to such an important position? Is it unfair to women? Completely. But I would start asking a lot of questions if the Attorney General of the United States went on leave for 4 months for whatever reason.

I don't know what the answer is. She should probably have taken more than 5 days, but less than 4 months. Perhaps 1 month would have been good. Why one month and not two? No particular reason. Arbitrary.

Dear GRE Writers:

Apparently, I'm the asshole. Sorry.

Sincerely,
FLG

Correspondence

Flg,

Did Delilah get stuck in your head because of Christopher Walken's rendition in Romance and Cigarettes?

No. In fact, I had never seen the movie or the clip until now.

This Song Is Stuck In FLG's Head

...and he wants it out in the worst way.

Dear dave.s.

When I took the LSAT you said don't become a lawyer. When I take the GRE, you warn me about becoming a professor. Incidentally, that's not my intention. Nevertheless, what would you have me do? Ski instructors only work for part of the year. Piracy is a dangerousprofession. I ain't goin' the Fred Garvin route.

Sincerely,FLG

FLG is currently listening to

A Few Points

..on a Hoya editorial:

The university has offered a fair share of oddball classes over the years, including Witches and Witchcraft, Knights of Old & Harry Potter and Sexing the Past, among many others.


Witches is a great class, one of the best I took at Georgetown, but Sexing the Past? Is that like sexing the borders?

We admit that the average Georgetown student doesn’t need a class to learn how to drink, but we nevertheless urge the university to create a wine tasting course similar to Cornell’s. Such a class could teach students how to approach wine in restaurants and retail stores, how to pair wines with particular meals and how to shop for wine intelligently. It would almost certainly attract a large number of students, and would likely promote further interest in cultural studies. The university prides itself on educating the “whole person” — doesn’t that include taste buds?


Let me get this straight. You want to pay approximately $3,000, rather your parents to pay $3,000, to taste wine? You should be kicked out of Georgetown for fucking stupidity. Here's a tip -- go to a free wine testing. Morons.

I'm Sick Of This Shit

Telegraph:
North Korea's main newspaper has renewed the threat of military action against South Korea, and warned that the rogue state does not indulge in "empty talk".


Nuclear powers should not make irresponsible threats. I've grown weary of their bullshit. The preemptive annihilation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea looks ever more appealing. It would solve both the North Korea issue and all future proliferation issues. Unfortunately millions of innocent people would have to die.

Pet Peeve

Add the use of "no one" when a writer means "nobody" to my list of pet
peeves.

Obama's Magic Pixie Dust Now Improving Test Scores

NYTimes:
Now researchers have documented what they call an Obama effect, showing that a performance gap between African-Americans and whites on a 20-question test administered before Mr. Obama’s nomination all but disappeared when the exam was administered after his acceptance speech and again after the presidential election.


Wake me up when:
  • He walks on water.
  • He heals leprosy.
  • He cures blindness.
People have completely lost their fucking minds. The statistical analysis used to prove this is so suspect I can't believe it. Furthermore, it scares me that somebody was delusional enough to think there might be an improvement in the first place.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

FLG's Dread Pirate Roberts Plan

FLG has long fancied a Dread Pirate Roberts-esque succession plan. He assumed it would be relatively easy to recruit and train a new FLG to take his place. However, it hasn't gone smoothly. In fact, it has gone nowhere at all.

The original requirements no longer apply and were too stringent. Perhaps the current manifestation of the blog is too all over the place. FLG is amenable to slowly transitioning Fear and Loathing in Georgetown to a niche of your choosing. Within reason.

So, the new requirement is the ability to write sentences in English and a commitment to post daily. Please send applications to the email address listed to the right. All submissions become the property of the current FLG.

Thank you,
FLG

Two Oddities

Oddity One:
The Georgetown Five Guys Burgers and Fries lists the hot dog as 100% kosher. Call me crazy, but isn't kosher kinda an either/or thing? The website lists it as "kosher style," which I think is even funnier because of George Carlin:

Sometimes the advertising people realize that 'homemade' sounds too full of shit, so they switch to 'home-style.' They'll say something has 'home-style flavor.' Well, whose home are we talking about? Jeffrey Dahmer's?


Oddity Two:
The driver's window in the new presidential limo rolls down three inches to pay fucking tolls? Surely you can't be serious.

Dear GRE Writers:

I forgot to write you yesterday.

Eleemosynary? Are you kidding me? You really expect people to know the meaning of that word?

Sincerely,
FLG

For Miss Self-Important:

I received a 161 on the LSAT, a 690 on the GMAT, a 1380 on the GRE. I have a 3.5 GPA. Can you please chance me for a joint MD/JD/MBA/PhD at Harvard? I want to study patent law of neuroscience biomedical technology companies in the developing world. Will schools hold it against me that I volunteered in sub-Saharan Africa instead of working in IB? OMG, does that mean I have worth as a person?

PS. Should I mail a professor a sheet of imported Belgian chocolate with a letter indicating my desire to attend Harvard and my awesome recommendations? Perhaps a tasteful papier-mâché bust of my head would be better.

I'm so freaking out that I haven't slept in two months.

FLG is currently listening to



FLG is currently listening to



Quote of the day

Adam Elkus:
Anti-Americanism as a whole is an emotional reaction to geopolitical and cultural aspects of American primacy. And it will not go away no matter how many concessions a President makes to world opinion.


Alan requested this one, which I think merits inclusion:
Of course, a vital aspect of the inauguration is keeping the president and spectators safe, but no terrorist would have waited in line for five hours to be frisked; only regular Americans were subjected to that.

FLG is currently listening to



Actually, he's listening to the Sinatra version, but he couldn't resist posting Brando.

GRE Results

Since a couple of people asked:
720 quantitative, 660 verbal. I have no idea what that means in context, but according to GEC I'm in good shape. Well, except for my GPA, but fuck that noise.

Tough Questions

Le Monde:
Réagissent-ils en tant qu'Arabes ? Mais ils sont français, et en quoi un Français est-il impliqué dans un conflit international, sinon au nom de la justice universelle ? Réagissent-ils alors au nom de la justice universelle ? En tant qu'êtres humains ? Mais alors, pourquoi ne se révoltent-ils pas quand on massacre les Indiens du Chiapas, les Tibétains ? Pourquoi les centaines de milliers de morts, les inconcevables cruautés perpétrées au Darfour ne les jettent-ils pas dans les rues ? Tout de même pas parce qu'elles sont le fait des milices d'un régime islamiste ? Pourquoi ne trouvent-ils pas étrange que les communautés juives aient quasiment disparu de tous les pays arabes, après persécutions et spoliations ? Pourquoi ne réclament-ils pas, au nom de la justice, le droit au retour des juifs chassés ?


Very Rough Translation:
Do French Arabs react so much? But they are French, and what does Frenchman imply in an international conflict, if not in the name of universal justice? Do they react then in the name of universal justice? In so much as human beings? But then, why don't they revolt when one massacres the Indians of Chiapas, the Tibetans? Why the hundreds of thousands of deaths, the inconceivable cruelties perpetrated in Darfur throw them don't in the streets? Not the same thing because they are they are in fact conducted by Islamist militias? Why don't they find strange that the Jewish communities almost disappeared from every the Arab countries, after persecutions and spoliation? Why don't they claim, in the name of justice, the right of return for driven out Jews?

Dear Roger Cohen:

In your article today, you write that George Bush took "fundamentalist positions on issues like stem-cell research." You are either misinformed or a complete nutjob.

Mr. Bush, contrary to popular belief, did not ban stem-cell research. The policy only affects government funded research. Privately funded research in the field has not been effected at all. In fact, Harvard and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute are spending millions, if not billions, on stem-cell research. No, President Bush's policy was that government would only pay for research on stem-cell lines that had already been created; thereby avoiding the tricky moral issue of public money paying for what some believe to be the destruction of potential life.

Now, one could argue that this limitation places undue burden on scientists or that he was trying to have his cake and eat it too by paying for research on cell lines where the morally questionable threshold had already been crossed. But it is ridiculous to state that his position on stem-cell research is fundamentalist. Unless, of course, you believe that any concern over the morality of destroying embryos is by its very nature fundamentalist. In which case, I would argue that you are a fundamentalist of a different stripe.

Sincerely,
FLG

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fairness

Yglesias:
nobody comes out against fairness.


Bullshit. I've decried fairness frequently and vociferously. If he meant nobody of consequence comes out against fairness, then okay.

Pardon the lack of posting

I'm taking the GRE later today.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Shipping

Telegraph:
A report by ING yesterday said shipping activity at US ports has suddenly dived. Outbound traffic from Long Beach and Los Angeles, America's two top ports, has fallen by 18pc year-on-year, a far more serious decline than anything seen in recent recessions.

It became difficult for the shippers to obtain routine letters of credit at the height of financial crisis over the autumn, causing goods to pile up at ports even though there was a willing buyer at the other end. Analysts say this problem has been resolved, but the shipping industry has since been swamped by the global trade contraction.


Perhaps Linda can tell us what inbound traffic is like. Would you agree with this assessment?

Letters of credit were probably the first international financial instrument, for those of you who are interested in that type of thing. Amsterdam became the world's first international financial center issuing, accepting, and trading letters of credit.

Education Today

The products of American high schools are illiterate; and a degree from a famous college or university is no guarantee that the graduate is in any better case.


Well, not today. Late 1950's actually.

Plus ça change...

Sarkozy's Personal Trainer

The Times:
Julie Imperiali, 26, comes to give Nicolas Sarkozy his workout, applying her patent method to make him stretch, sweat and run. Putting the President in touch with his pelvic floor, the former dancer and gymnast sculpts his shape and boosts the famous energy that earned him the name “Speedy”. She has been doing the same for Carla Bruni, the recently installed Première Dame, for the past four years.



Excoriation of the day

C.S. Perry:
I have enjoyed this blog for so long now that I can’t really recall what it might have been like to start a day without catching up with FLG. But I can recall my own youth and how excited I was when I first discovered “Treasure Island” and realized that the whole adventure began in Savannah Georgia; practically my back yard. I, like all young boys, was keenly interested in Pirates and it’s the sort of thing that doesn’t die easily. There will always be a few spare axons and dendrites that tingle and quiver in the cortex of every man that make him say, occasionally, weird things like, “Shiver me timbers,” “Land ho!” or even “Hoist high the Jolly Roger.” And these seeming anachronisms are fine and most people just shake their heads and know that another lost soul still longs for the days when filthy, drunken men managed to live by their Own Rules and society, as a whole, was better able to understand that a certain amount of rapine was just something that had to be dealt with.

But now…this. I really must protest. I’ve grown exceedingly tired of how hip vampires have become. This genre has been done to death, or better yet, done to undeath. Vampires, as far as subject matter for films, books, television, comics, stage plays, clay-mation or anime goes, are Done. I’ve had more than enough of them. There’s no need to incorporate them into the Fine and Noble history of Piracy. How many times can we re-tell this story? How many new avenues can we explore? How many times can the Magical Glitter Machine try to ride the coat tails of one success story by tacking another one to them? I can see it now…some executive in his office, thinking to himself…”Well, all the rubes seemed to love ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and they eat up these damn idiotic, juvenile vampire pictures (read as: Twilight) so…if we just combined the two…we’d really clean up!” Sure. And, of course, the Rubes will come running. But you can see how it’s just a short cut to an imagined success that has nothing to do with creativity or originality. There is so much rich and fecund ground in the Actual History of piracy that any number of fine novels or films could be produced about them without having to resort to this kind of cheap chicanery.

Vampires stopped being cool when Anne Rice hit the scene and they are even less cool now that every hack in Hollywood has taken a swipe at them. Pirates are easily cooler because: A: They’re Real. B: They drink Rum. And C: They drink rum. To Hell with vampires.

Stay Pure and True FLG. Find a Code and live by it. Pirates can stand on their own legs, or possibly one of their own legs and a wooden peg. But you can bet you ass that you won’t catch any of them ever refusing wine or wearing some faggoty-ass, silk cape.
 
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