Friday, April 29, 2011

Whom

Look, FLG isn't perfect. He typo'd Sartre, twice, until The Ancient pointed it out.

Anyway, FLG was calmly driving home when he heard this during a story on book festivals:
It puts readers and authors and bookstores all in the same place. And that's something that no matter how cheaply online retailers sell books for, they aren't going to put you in a room with an author who you admire.

At that point, well, FLG began yelling at the radio:
WHOM YOU ADMIRE! You're manager of a FUCKING BOOKSTORE and you don't know to use whom?! You, subject. Author, object of your admiration. Er-fucking-go, whom!

FLG needs to do a gooder job of keeping his temper.

One Downside Of Knowing French

FLG came across this post that highlighted a video of Star Wars with Sartre quotations for subtitles. They explicitly warned people like FLG:
And obviously this will make no sense if you understand French. If you do know it, hit yourself in the head repeatedly before watching this. And then hit yourself repeatedly when you’re done watching.

FLG couldn't help but be intrigued. What do you mean it won't make any sense? Well, it makes sense. That's not the problem. It's not about no sense making, it's simply unbelievably annoying. The Sartre subtitles are overpowered by the terrible quality of dubbing the actual Star Wars script in French.

Shit. How can FLG enjoy the Existentialism when Darth Vader sounds like a Parisian waiter talking on his cell phone while on the toilet with a cigarette in his mouth? He can't is the answer.

Cursive Can Go

Of all things FLG spent time on in school, by far the most wasteful in terms of time spent on the topic versus how much use he's gotten out of it is most definitely how to write cursive. It's quite simply ridiculous.

The NYTimes is wondering whether its usefulness has ended and whether it needs to be taught in schools. FLG guesses they figured the case against cursive made itself because they only included a defense of continuing to teach it:
Might people who write only by printing — in block letters, or perhaps with a sloppy, squiggly signature — be more at risk for forgery? Is the development of a fine motor skill thwarted by an aversion to cursive handwriting? And what happens when young people who are not familiar with cursive have to read historical documents like the Constitution?

If that's all the pro-cursive camp has got, then it's done for.

Forgery? Pretty soon we'll be signing most stuff with a digital signature. Plus, nobody looks at signatures anymore anyway. In fact, if we want to eliminate forgery the best way is to request valid ID, as they do when things are notarized, not to go by a signature.

Is cursive the only way to teach fine motor skill? FLG thinks not.

And cursive to read historical documents? Seriously? First, the Constitution has been reprinted, emphasis on the printed, a gazillion times. Second, if we are worried about them reading cursive writing, then teach them what cursive looks like, how the letters are formed, and then move on. You don't have to teach students to write in cursive to read cursive.

Basically, FLG thinks cursive should be treated much like Roman numerals. Something anachronistic and not terribly useful, but an educated person should be familiar with. Just as we don't make students do arithmetic in Roman numerals, nor should we make students write in cursive.

Keynes-Hayek Round Two

This has been all over the policy blogoshere, but FLG'll post it anyway:


Again, FLG's Time Horizons Theory comes into play, but that's not terribly surprising given the primary example of focusing on the short run FLG uses is almost always Keynes. However, what did tickle FLG was when Hayek said this:
Econometricians, they're ever so pious.
Are they doing real science or confirming their bias?
Their Keynesian models are top down and neat,
but that top down approach is their fatal conceit.

The link between short run focus and empiricism is too seldom noted. Except by FLG, of course, but he's a motherfucking genius.

The Only Word FLG Can Muster

...is Wow!

That post is so rich with time horizons. It articulates almost exactly what FLG believes is the end goal of Marxim and the modern left.

To be completely honest, the post is somewhat frightening. Look, FLG likes economic and technological progress as much as anybody. He likes when humanity can produce more goods and services that are useful, relevant, and meaningful to people using fewer resources. But the idea that if material necessity disappeared that there'd be a utopia is dangerously naive.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Quote of the day

Nouriel Roubini:
China is rife with overinvestment in physical capital, infrastructure, and property. To a visitor, this is evident in sleek but empty airports and bullet trains (which will reduce the need for the 45 planned airports), highways to nowhere, thousands of colossal new central and provincial government buildings, ghost towns, and brand-new aluminum smelters kept closed to prevent global prices from plunging.

[...]

Eventually, most likely after 2013, China will suffer a hard landing. All historical episodes of excessive investment – including East Asia in the 1990’s – have ended with a financial crisis and/or a long period of slow growth.

FLG has been writing about this since this blog started. He has gotten into several disagreements with his MBA classmates on this issue. FLG may be wrong, but his classmates are merely repeating mantras from the media, not thinking about this with any analytical rigor. (And when there is any analytics at all it's based around linear projections from current trends.)

However, he also thinks that Dr. Doom is, as his moniker would imply, a little too bearish. FLG thinks the problems will arise more around 2015 than 2013. But that's 100% gut, not empirical analysis.

H/T to Buttonwood

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

FLG Would Like To Second Robbo's Rant

found here.

It's not that all tourists are terrible. It's just that they need to stand on the right on the Metro escalators and then, upon reaching the end of said escalator, take a few steps so as not to block everybody coming off the same escalator.

The worst location, by far, of any in the DC area during this Spring touron rush is, without a doubt, the Pentagon City Mall. For some reason, every middle school/high school tour group drops off there. Buses and buses of the kids. And they act like they don't have fucking malls wherever it is from whence they come.

When Theory Becomes Too Generalized

FLG laughed at this post over at Duck of Minerva.

we have a President in office who is not an idiot. Assuming that he had the mental agility and inclination, what would we have him read OF THE STUFF THAT ACADEMICS HAVE WRITTEN? This is my challenge to you. The problem is not only the sophistication of the audience; it is that practically every approach and research tradition I think of goes out of its way to minimize any role for agency in foreign affairs. We are telling them: you're not important. My biggest complaint with the field is that there is so little politics in international relations.

That's not actually what FLG laughed at though. It was the combination of the IR theory summaries that followed the passage above and that your humble blogger previously linked to a paper by two Georgetown grad students, entitled "Statesmanship and the Problem of Theoretical Generalization."

What's The Point?

Jaybird posted, without comment, a picture of whatever form of the birth certificate people have complaining Obama didn't release or whatever.

This is what FLG doesn't get? What's the point?

FLG has never doubted the president's birth location, but let's say, entirely hypothetically, that tomorrow definitive proof comes to light that Obama was born in Kenya. Does anybody think a judge is going to kick him out of office or he'd be impeached? What do these people think would happen?

Apples, Oranges, And Salmon

Felix Salmon offered a post a couple weeks back that looks critically at some of Larry Summers recent statements. Summers is broadly-speaking still more pro-financial innovation than pro-regulation.

FLG agrees with the general sentiment that Summers has made some big mistakes that in turn makes his arrogance simultaneously tragic and comical. But this passage bugged FLG:
This is astonishing, given that Summers actually conceded, during his talk, that the biggest economic successes in the world over the past couple of decades, China foremost among them, owe essentially nothing of their success to financial innovation or deregulation.

If one knows anything about macroeconomic growth models, for example the Solow Growth model or has read Krugman's "The Myth of Asia's Miracle", then one would know that China and other high growth countries have the ability to generate that growth by increasing inputs, which basically means in practice that farmers move to the cities and become factory workers and the farmers left behind begin to use machinery. Thus, economic output increases.

However, this route is unavailable to developed nations because, well, people have already moved off the farms and into the cities. Instead of just buying existing equipment and technology and giving it to workers who didn't have it, advanced economies have to wait until new technologies are developed so that economic growth can occur. Thus, saying that financial innovation had nothing to do with the economic success of counties like China is completely irrelevant. The US and China, insofar as what contributes to long-term economic growth, are apples and oranges.

Maybe FLG Will Watch

CBS News again.

FLG Is Glad Dana Milbank Figured It Out

The president's problem is, apparently, that he is too smart, cool, collected, and complex to be a politician.

FLG's Question for Milbank: Did you spit or swallow after this journalistic equivalent of pulling a Lewinsky?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Conversation

Credit Card Customer Service Representative: Hello, Mr. FLG. Thank you for calling the fraud alert line. I'll need you to provide some information to verify your identify.

FLG duly verifies his identity.

Credit Card Customer Service Representative: Thank you, Mr. FLG. I see that you tried to buy a plane ticket for $1,800 just a few moments ago, but it was denied. Is that why you are calling?

FLG: As a matter of fact, it is. I need to buy that ticket.

Credit Card Customer Service Representative: Sorry for the inconvenience, Mr. FLG. But we strive to detect fraud before it occurs.

FLG: I'm totally on-board with that. If I have to call every time I make an $1,800 purchase I am totally fine with that. I'm glad you're keeping my account safe. No problem.

Credit Card Customer Service Representative: Oh, no, Mr. FLG. It wasn't the $1,800 plane ticket. That was simply the first transaction after the fraud. Were you aware of a $9.89 charge this afternoon at 12:47 PM at a place called Sweet-something.

FLG: Yeah, that was the salad I had for lunch. Wait. Are you telling me that the $1,800 ticket? No problem. My salad? Red flags.

Credit Card Customer Service Representative: We have a highly-advanced fraud detection system.

FLG: Right. I think I'd prefer the less advanced system of -- $1,800 international plane ticket? Let's have Mr. FLG give us a call. 9 bucks? No big deal.

Quote of the day

Good people, unfortunately due to circumstances beyond our control, the “clean” version of our new album, The Hot Sauce Committee pt 2 has leaked. So as a hostile and retaliatory measure with great hubris we are making the full explicit aka filthy dirty nasty version available for streaming on our site. We hope this brings much happiness, hugs, and harmony

FLG Would Like To Say Again

NATO delenda est.

FLG Has No Opinion

...on the issue of lawyers wearing wigs in court.

But holy fuck he does have issues with ICC judges who have logic like this:
Judge Trendafilova decided that since wigs are not mandatory, it would be better for all lawyers to have the same dress code – in this case without wigs, she added.

Put another way, anything that is not mandatory is best forbidden?

A Krugman Post That FLG Completely Agrees With

Paul Krugman:
So, what does America gain from the dollar’s special status? One clear gain is that foreigners are holding a lot of pieces of green paper with dead presidents on them — maybe $500 billion worth. That’s in effect a zero-interest loan; in normal times, when short-term interest rates are 4 or 5 percent, it’s worth something like $25 billion a year. Nice, but not a big deal in a $15 trillion economy.

FLG immediately thought of another potential benefit, but Krugman addressed it:
it could be that purchases of Treasuries by foreign central banks keep the dollar stronger and interest rates lower than they would otherwise be. The way to think about this is that Chinese reserve accumulation (say) is a sterilized intervention in the dollar [i.e., one that isn't allowed to affect the money supply]. In general, we tend to think that sterilized intervention is only modestly effective, because it tends to be offset by private capital moving the other way. But maybe there’s something there.

It’s really hard, though, to see how the benefits of the dollar’s reserve status could be more than a fraction of a percent of GDP. It’s not a trivial issue, but it’s not among the things that should be a key driver of economic concern.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Amy Chua And Book VIII

Phoebe writes:
Chua's contribution, "Chua" defined as an amalgam of the phenomenon as understood by those who did and did not read the whole thing, was to say a) that it's OK to want certified-wonderful offspring, and b) that amorphous, milieu-propelled, 'privilege' alone is not enough to get them there. Oh, and c) that, absent the kind of obstacles that the kids we generally think of as less privileged (more specifically, children of immigrant families) experience, young people have no drive to succeed, so if you want your privileged kids to stay that way, you have to create an artificial atmosphere of absence-of-privilege. Not just stuff like, no designer handbags in 8th grade, but more like, if you get a B, you will starve to death in the gutter. Basically, Chua's innovation was rethinking the concept of privilege, both in terms of declaring it acceptable to perpetuate hard-won high-status, and in terms of pointing out that we-as-a-society overestimate the extent to which simply having educated and well-off parents guarantees class maintenance across generations. To put it another way, aka to repeat myself, we're used to thinking of social mobility in terms of its inadequacy as a way of propelling people upward; she's reminding us that it functions decently well in propelling some downward.

FLG immediately thought of Book VIII of Plato's Republic; wherein Plato describes how regimes regress, but, as regular readers know, FLG believes is actually more about the soul and so more about raising children. Aristocracy (rule of the best) becomes Timocracy (rule of the honor-loving) becomes Oligopoly (rule of the wealth-loving) becomes Democracy (rule of the freedom-loving) becomes Tyranny (rule by one, or rule of the self-loving).

The Aristocrat can't fully pass on the full conception of The Good. Instead, his son focuses solely on honor and becomes a Timocrat. The Timocrat is, in turn, unable to pass on the full conception of honor to his son, and raises an Oligarch, who believes the status from wealth to be superior to honor. In an Oligarchy, "the young men of the governing class, are habituated to lead a life of luxury and idleness both of body and mind; they do nothing, and are incapable of resisting either pleasure or pain." Thus, they become Democrats. The Democrat's son, raised on the wine of freedom, pursuing his appetites without regard, becomes the Tyrant.

What's FLG's point here? Well, the way in which Phoebe is describing Chua's parenting, and as FLG understands it as well, is somewhat like being an Oligrach trying to prevent his children from becoming a Democrat. Instead of a life of luxury and idleness, Chua is creating an artificial micro-polis of intense necessity to pass on the virtues of Oligarchy amidst a Democracy. And FLG means Democracy in the Ancient meaning, more negative connotation.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Comings And Goings

The FLGs spent some time at the beach. Unfortunately, the PGA decided, entirely without consulting the FLGs, to hold a tournament about two miles down the road.



We also visited Savannah in the Great State of Georgia for an afternoon and lovely dinner.


Quote of the day

It's from a few days ago, but FLG was not reading blogs on vacation.

Megan McArdle:
This is why I am so steadfastly unconvinced by people who point to our low interest rates as evidence that the market thinks it's safe to borrow. When higher real interest rates come, they will not be a timely signal of problems ahead unless we change course--they will be the problem. The term structure of US debt is pretty short, with an average maturity of under five years, and Republicans are complaining that we've been issuing too much short-term debt lately. If interest rates climb significantly, our interest expense will start putting a lot of pressure on an already weak fiscal position. Arguing that we're fine because interest rates are low is like arguing that the Titanic must be safe because it hasn't run into an iceberg yet.

Monday, April 18, 2011

FLG Isn't A Political Theorist

...but this seemingly innocuous passage gets his hackles up:
[Nancy Hirschmann] argued that our ability to do political theory will be enhanced through attention to politics--to facts and to the real world. Political theory that is engaged with particular circumstances, according to Hirschmann, produces better, more precise political theory. (It's hard to argue with this--it's so Aristotelian.)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Big Assumption -- Cryptography Edition

Regular readers will know that one of FLG's many pet theories is that the vast majority of people hold The Big Assumption, which simply stated is "The experiences that constitute my individual life are representative of the entire human condition."

Here's a quote from Bruce Schneier:
It's not that people believe they can create an unbreakable cipher; it's that people create a cipher that they themselves can't break, and then use that as evidence they've created an unbreakable cipher.

Holy Fuck

So, FLG was sitting in class listening to his classmates asking all sorts of questions about the eurobond markets, as if they're masters of the universe, but they were actually pretty stupid questions. But the really kicker was that not five minutes later these same fuckers couldn't calculate the price of a bond.

FLG doesn't know exactly why he was so angry about this. There's that he has taken a bunch of finance classes, so that was all pretty rudimentary. Then there's his classmates trying to ask questions that they think sound sophisticated, but really made them sound stupid. And then there were finance guys who couldn't explain anything in plain English. Whatever it was, it drove FLG batshit nuts.

Deficit, Crisis, and Time Horizons

Unsurprisingly given FLG's interest in time horizons, he found this essay by Jim Manzi on the government's debt problem fascinating.

The rational goal is to push the point of crisis out well beyond the current planning horizon. There is no “long-term solution” that can ever be achieved by any budget deal. In the end, the ballast in the entitlement and budgeting system that prevents it from going haywire in the long run is the good sense of the American electorate. That’s why neither the conservative emphasis on the character of the people, nor the progressive focus on maintaining social consent for the capitalist system, is entirely misplaced.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Couple Of Quick Thoughts

FLG was watching Bill Maher while working out.

Thought #1:
The first guest was that airline pilot who safely landed in the Hudson River. Apparently, he appeared before Congress testifying about the poor level of pilot remuneration and the demands of the job. It used to be better, he argued.

FLG's thought was, look, the fundamental economics of airlines suck. There's high fixed costs and low marginal costs. If a scheduled flight is going to leave with empty seats, then it makes economic to let people fly fro $1 than to let it go empty. This type of economic structure is simply terrible and should lead to consolidation.

Why hasn't it? FLG would argue the glamor of travel. All sorts of rich, hubristic people think owning/running an airline has some sort of cache and that everybody else in the business is dumb. Somewhat oddly, given the high fixed costs, the barriers to entry arent' all that high considering that new entrants can lease jets rather than buy them. (Although, landing slots are precious in a variety of locations. So, that should keep people out.) Likewise, there's lots of people who think being a pilot and flying are glamorous. Thus, you have a relatively large of pilots, especially considering the relatively high training and skill requirements.

Unless you regulate the industry, as it was back before the 70s, then the fundamental economics aren't that good for owners and employees of airlines. So, then we should regulate? Well, not quite. The overall good to society isn't served by ensuring the financial well-being of the owners and employees of airlines. Instead, it comes from the ability to travel. Therefore, the lower prices that come with this competition, FLG would argue, make society better off overall, even if owners and employees are worse off.

Thought #2:
Maher argued that the way to solve the budget problem was to "get rid of our empire and tax the rich" because nobody would feel any pain. He argued our citizens won't notice if our troops aren't overseas anymore. Indeed, they'd probably be happy about it. And the rich won't feel much pain because they already have money. No downside, or so thinks Maher.

FLG thought this, pain minimization, was a thoroughly modern way to think about a problem. But, needless to say, FLG also thought that pain minimization is a short-term thing. To tell you the truth, Maher is one of the best examples of FLG's observation that many liberals can't even fathom beyond the short-term.

Yes, this would probably minimize pain right now. Rich people pay more taxes, which all things considered FLG agrees would minimize pain in the short-term. Even if people who make over $250k a year think they aren't rich, a tax hit doesn't change their lifestyle as much as cuts to social services to poor people, again, all things being equal. Likewise, in the short-term, cutting defense and pulling back troops stationed overseas only has benefits.

But what about the long run? FLG would argue that taxing the rich, especially treating capital gains as ordinary income, will impede investment, again, all things being equal. Likewise, pulling back troops will save money in the short run and their families and loved ones and the American people will all be happy to have them home, but what about the long run? Would this prove to al-Qaeda and sundry bad guys that we don't have the resolve to see our commitments through? Wouldn't it create a power vaccuum that would be filled by China, Iran, or other regional powers? Perhaps that doesn't sound like a big problem now, but it might be, again, in the long run? In fact, Maher even mentioned pulling troops out of South Korea? Entirely, FLG wondered? Is pulling back from the border of the enfant terrible of the non-proliferation world a good idea in a strategic, long-term analysis? FLG sure doesn't think so.

What struck FLG is not so much that Maher was wrong. Maher, FLG, everybody can be wrong. What struck FLG was how sure, how certain that Maher was about his preferred policies. That there's no possibility that a reasonable, rational, and informed person could even see the slightest downside.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Almost Makes FLG Want To Run For Office

Telegraph:
Congresswoman Donna Edwards uses her time on the floor to chide Republicans uses lyrics from a White Stripes song.

FLG would so love to get up and say:
Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes of my time to my colleague from Indiana. But to my fellow members of the house, I'd like to say.

Boy you can't fuck with me
So when I'm in your neighborhood, you better duck
Cuz FLG is crazy as fuck
As I leave, believe I'm stompin'
but when I come back, boy, I'm comin' straight outta Compton

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

For Anne Applebaum's Keyboard To God's Ears

Anne Applebaum:
here was no NATO discussion of the operation, no debate, no vote, no joint planning. Technically, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization operates only in the wake of an attack on a NATO member. The war in Afghanistan followed such an attack and was, in the beginning, widely perceived as a war against a common enemy. Libya is different: There was no attack, there is no common enemy, and now there is no consensus.

[...]

If Britain and France run out of planes, fuel, money or enthusiasm, it’s over. And NATO — an organization that, I repeat, did not plan for, prepare for or even vote for the Libyan operation — will shoulder most of the blame. The use of NATO’s name, in Libya, is a fiction. But the weakening of NATO’s reputation in Libya’s wake might become horribly real.

Use of NATO's name was not a fiction; NATO is a fiction.

FLG has said it before and will say it again until people wake the fuck up. Many people wrongly believe that NATO was instrumental in winning the Cold War. NATO was merely a vessel through which the West could win the Cold War. Western democracies were faced with an existential threat which they could not ignore. They needed a apparatus to systematize and coordinate strategy, tactics, logistics, etc in their response to this threat. It served that purpose.

Insanely, people think that since we have an existing institution that worked for one very specific purpose that it can be repurposed to coordinate strategy, tactics, logistics, etc amongst 28 member nations, none of whom face an existential threat nor perceive lesser threats in the same manner, in any number of other situations.

NATO was successful in the Cold War because the member nations were forced together to focus on a common, existential threat. The removal of that threat some two decades ago took with it not only the justification for the alliance, but more importantly removed its ability to function as a strategic enterprise.

Okay, but "what about the tactical level?" Doesn't NATO facilitate our international military exercises and standards to ensure that the member countries' troops can interoperate? Sure, but you don't need a formal, legal mutual-defense pact to make that happen. Does anybody seriously believe that if NATO were disbanned tomorrow the US wouldn't still train with the UK, Canada, France, Germany, or whomever? We crosstrain with a variety of allies, including many who aren't in NATO.

Look, NATO has been vainly searching for a new justification for its existence for two decades. FLG can only hope that people recognize, after this current situation, that it is a zombie institution that needs to be put down.

NATO delenda est.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Director Themes - Aronofsky Edition

So, James Cameron's theme is man's technological hubris, Lynch's is the poet as imitator and illusionist, and Steven Spielberg's is Aliens Ex Machina.

Well, FLG finally saw Black Swan last night. FLG has now seen five Aronofsky films, Pi,Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, The Fighter, and Black Swan. It's pretty clear that the theme running through all Aronofsky movies is a focus on the extremes obsession/addiction, which FLG would argue are largely one and the same for Aronofsky, people. For Aronofsky, it's often to the point of insanity.

Anyway, viewed in this context, Black Swan is probably his best work. Also, it also explains to FLG why he always thought Aronofsky would've made a great Batman: Year One.

UPDATE; Just wanted to clarify that Aronofsky did NOT direct The Fighter, but was, in fact, an executive producer.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Conversation

This post by UD, and the following passage in particular, reminded FLG of a conversation he had recently:
With the advent of the computer and PowerPoint, we got lazy. Instead of using the slides to present visual images of what we were talking about, we used them more as notes we could share. In short, we increasingly read the bullets off the slides and forced the audience, who likely could read much faster than we could talk, to read along with us.


FLG's coworker: FLG, I need your Powerpoint deck for the presentation you are doing.

FLG: Why?

Coworker: The boss asked me to get all the details in order. First priority was a copy of your Powerpoint presentation.

FLG: I wasn't planning on having one.

Coworker: What? But...but..you have to have one!

FLG: Why? People gave presentations before Powerpoint. Heck, do you see Obama up there with a Powerpoint presentation? No.

Coworker: But everybody will expect a Powerpoint presenation. They'll be wondering where it is.

FLG: That's even better because they'll be paying triple the attention to what I am saying. First, because they won't be reading the stupid slides. Second, because they'll be wondering if I am going to explain where the slides are.

Coworker: No, no, this just won't do. You must have a Powerpoint deck.

Coworker shuffles off, returns with Boss.

Boss: What's this I hear? You want to give a presentation without Powerpoint?

FLG: Correct, as I explained to coworker here, the president doesn't use Powerpoint. Before Powerpoint was invented people didn't use Powerpoint, yet they still have presentations. I don't need Powerpoint. I'm just going to talk.

Boss: No, no, no. You need to have the slides so they know what you are talking about?

FLG: You mean rather then listen to me actually talking?

Boss: Yes, plus, we're going to provide printouts of the slides so that they can have a reference of what was said.

FLG: So, what you're telling me, just to be perfectly clear, is that you want me to prepare a bunch of slides so that people can read off the slides while I also read of the slides, and then you believe, after this presentation, the audience will go back and read the very same slides that I read to them as they read them silently to themselves as reference?

Boss: No, I'm saying give an engaging presentation, but have Powerpoint slides that say what you are saying so that we can provide them for later reference. I don't think all of them will look at them again. But if one does, then it was worth it.

FLG: Not to sound contrary here, but maybe it would be more effective if I provided an engaging speech such that I clearly and effectively communicate to the people while engaging them while they're in the room. If I engage the whole audience, isn't that better than having reference material that maybe one person doesn't throw away five minutes later?

Boss: Did I tell you to be boring?

FLG: No, but you're telling me to use Powerpoint in a manner that is basically the same thing. Presentation materials and reference materials are two different things. Trying to serve both purposes will serve neither.

Boss: Just do it.

FLG: How about I prepare the slides and you can include them for reference, but they won't be up while I'm talking?

Boss: That's a great idea.

Sure as shit, when FLG showed up to do the projector was lit with the Powerpoint deck. He simply ignored them.

A Quick Couple Of Thoughts

This post over at Duck of Minerva was slightly baffling. Apparently, there's a campaign to get rid of incendiary weapons and explosives in warfare.

Why is this baffling to FLG? Well, fire's been a weapon since, well, we've had weapons. He didn't need a report to tell him the following:
Regardless of their type, targeting, and delivery mechanism, however, incendiary munitions cause cruel and lasting injury to people as well as start fires that can destroy property. The munitions produce exceptionally painful thermal and respiratory burns, which can lead to complications such as shock, infection, and asphyxiation. People who survive often suffer long-term physical and psychological damage.

Obviously, just because a weapon has been around for a long time doesn't make it right to use in any and all cases or even any specific case, but FLG finds the idea of trying to ban something as elemental as fire in warfare quixotic to say the least.

The same post also links to a report by Landmine Action (now Action on Armed
Violence), one of the examples of an organizational mission creep that bugs FLG, first land mines, now all armed violence?, that explains:
When used in populated areas, the impact [of air-dropped bombs, rockets, and missiles to improvised explosive devices and grenades] can be devastating, causing large numbers of direct deaths and severe injuries, displacement, and long-term psychological, social, economic, and infrastructure damage. These impacts can be more severe where heavy explosive weapons are used or where use is sustained over time. When used in populated areas, the effects of explosive weapons tend to be indiscriminate – harming civilian men and women, children and the elderly, as well as any combatants.

Look, FLG gets the problem with land mines. They stay in the ground long after the conflict. Plus, they don't really offer much benefit on today's modern battlefields. So, this is one place where constructivism can make a huge difference in changing how people view the world. There's really no downside to stop using landmines militarily and a bunch of upside on the humanitarian front.

But fire and explosives? FLG gets that these cause serious harm to civilians, but do these people really think they'll be able to make any headway here? Might as well try to ban war writ large. As long as there is war fire will be used. As long as there are air forces bombs will be used.

This is one of those times when FLG thinks that constructivists are a bunch of hippies who think if we sat around and sang Kumbaya together the world would be fine.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Thought

Wouldn't it be funny if FLG added a self-promotion section here on Fear and Loathing in Georgetown that linked to a random collection of works, none of which were his?

Instead, FLG resolved to return to his series of reviews of nonexistent books.

Rationing

Matt Yglesias writes:
What I never understand about this is that all “rationing” is self-rationing. If we have a single-payer system that’s only willing to pay for certain services, then citizens are still free to pay out of pocket for other things. The fact that Medicare won’t pay for a MacBook Air doesn’t mean that grandpa can’t buy a MacBook Air, it just means he has to spend his own money on it if he wants one.

This type of argument always bugs FLG.

If a decision is made to increase taxes, it necessarily means that the government will decide what to do with the money. The citizens affected by this tax increase then have to decide how to adjust their spending, which FLG guesses you could call self-ration. But if a citizen's after-tax income goes down, and then they can no longer afford to buy any number of goods or services, then that's not self-rationing except in the most myopic of analytical modes.

So, imagine this admittedly hypothetical situation:
Single-payer goes into effect. A middle-class person who was previous covered by private health insurance through their employer for say $5000 a year now has to pay $6000 a year in taxes instead. So, they are $1,000 worse off per year. Now, let's say that they want some sort of medical procedure or medicine that costs $500, but the government single-payer plan won't cover it and they can't afford it. But it's entirely possible that they could have under the previous, private plan.

Would you say that this is self-rationing? FLG doesn't think so.

To offer an even more stylized example, if you live in FLG-Ville where FLG is king and he passes a law that increases your taxes to everything but $1 of your income, but then offers to provide you bread and water, a yurt, medical care, etc for free, would you agree that when you can't buy a thick, juicy steak or an iPod that you are merely self-rationing. Come on, you can buy them with your after-tax income.

Look, FLG understands that there are a bunch of assumptions in the middle class health care scenario and he is grossly exaggerating the second one, but he hopes that it illustrates the fallacy of Matt's argument.

FLG's Stream-of-consciousness

FLG read the following headline:
First homosexual caveman found

...and immediately thought to himself:
How do they know that? They find a Cro-magnon's petrified cock in his mouth?

Turns out the man was buried like a woman, which could also mean the deceased was transgender or third gendered.

FLG is currently listening to

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sponsorship Changes

FLG has learned that our sponsor, the Two Guns Gas Station, has been out of business for years. In fact, Two Guns is literally a ghost town, which explains why payment was never forthcoming but does raise the question of who FLG was negotiating with.

Luckily, FLG has been able to arrange new sponsorship -- the SeaLand Tourism Board.

Correspondence

Oddly, this post isn't about emails FLG has received, but rather about a bunch of replies he hasn't received. A whole host of people have decided to ignore FLG. Just so you know, he's a busy man. If he emails you, then you really ought to feel very privileged.

FLG was wondering what he might have done to offend so many people. It's not like he's done anything to cause Beavergate III. (For those interested, background on Beavergate I & II can be found here and here. While FLG is on this topic, here's a video with the creator of the vibrating beaver. FLG learned something. Who knew there was a National Masturbation Month? )

Anyway, then FLG was thinking, hey, maybe if he started appending "Respond to this email and I'll send you a vibrating beaver," then he'd get more responses. Cuz who doesn't want a vibrating beaver? But at $45 a pop, that's a bit pricey to encourage email responses.

Quote of the day II

Danger Room:
In the event pirates are able to get close enough to try and board, Triton offers a high-pressure hose system to push them off and an unnamed chemical that, when sprayed onto pirates, makes the vomit.

Correspondence

Dear FLG,

Were you invited to the kauffman Foundation's economic bloggers forum?

Well, first, FLG, as he has said before, is not an economics blogger. Plus, if you are reading this, then Fear and Loathing in Georgetown is the least influential blog you've ever heard of. (Alternatively, it could be the most influential blog you've never heard of.)

But it still hurts. Like salt in a wound. Just imagine as FLG walks into a room full of econ bloggers, which is one step below a Star Trek convention on the social desirability scale, wearing an eye patch, peg leg, and a parrot on his shoulder. Plus, think of the profanity laced tirade FLG would launch into when somebody is overemphasizing the short run.

Awesome is the word that comes into FLG's mind.

A Caricature

In his mind, FLG has this caricature of the worst type of denizen of academia. A person who writes lengthy, languid, caveat-filled, esoteric jargon laden prose that is so abstracted from reality it ultimately contains no meaning and possesses no relevance anywhere outside of a journal article; yet, complains that their very serious and important thoughts are neglected by the mainstream not just of society, but their own discipline. A person incredibly insecure about their status and takes criticism very poorly; who becomes intensely defensive and responds to any perceived slight on their status or criticism, valid or invalid, with appeals to the authority of their numerous credentials, and when that doesn't work, for example because the critic has equivalent credentials, retreats to pettiness and backbiting. The type who upon seeing that the world is lacking a Wikipedia entry that describes their incredible contributions to the world, would write one themselves.

"Wait," you say. "That's not fair. No person like this truly exists."

Au contraire. FLG points you back to the continuing saga of Laura Sjoberg.

Lengthy, languid, caveat-filled, esoteric jargon laden prose that is so abstracted from reality that it ultimately contains no meaning or relevance? Double Check

Complains that their very serious and important thoughts are neglected by the mainstream not just of society, but their own discipline? Check.

A person incredibly insecure about their status and takes criticism very poorly; who becomes intensely defensive and responds to any perceived slight on their status or criticism, valid or invalid, with appeals to the authority of their numerous credentials, and when that doesn't work, for example because the critic has equivalent credentials, retreats to pettiness and backbiting? Check and check.

The type who upon seeing that the world is lacking a Wikipedia entry that describes their incredible contributions to the world, would write one themselves? Unknown, but FLG's working assumption is Check.

Look, FLG may be an asshole in his underwear, but he knows that. Now that he thinks about it, maybe FLG objects to people who take themselves so seriously that their existential tension is almost palpable. There's a shitload of those people in the Academy.

FLG

...reader of Plato...defender of Latin...admirer of Alexander...he who opines on things Tarantino...stickler for good grammar...must admit that he is giddy like a school girl for this movie:

The Lantern

FLG found this article about bookstores in DC interesting. Mostly because FLG likes perusing the shelves of The Lantern every once and a while. In fact, on his desk right now, is a copy of Hugo's Quatrevingt-treize in French that he bought there for $2. Funny story about that book. When he opened it up an Air France boarding pass from 1987 fell out.

Quote of the day

IPEZ:
For all its human rights happy talk, the truth, dear readers, is this: the United States is a miserable place to be a kid.

FLG usually enjoys IPEZ, but this post bugged him. Don't get FLG wrong, he couldn't care less if the UN leaves New York, although FLG's father worked right around the corner for years and FLG toured UN HQ countless times, but the post still bugged him.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Not Unfunny

A few days ago The Georgetown Metropolitan linked to a Vox Populi post complaining about the names chosen by trivia teams at The Tombs.

Ok, look, FLG will admit that most of those names are in very, very poor taste. But he also keeps chuckling at random times throughout the day when "More like Gay-daffi" pops in his head.

Vox Populi tries the time-tested method of making things unfunny by over-explaining sarcastically -- "It’s funny because … gay!" But here the strategy doesn't work. Because it's not funny because it's gay. It's funny because it's so stupid.

FLG Has Some Odd Files In His Dropbox

Some examples?

Anti-Climacus' dissertation.
Yuval Levin's dissertation.
An article by Arethusa.
An article by Withywindle.
An article entitled "Why Abortion is Immoral" from The Journal of Philosophy.
Plus, 184 files, articles mostly, on the political economy of international finance.

FLG reluctantly arrived at the conclusion that he is a gigantic dork. No offense intended toward those whose works are listed.

Quote of the day

The Ancient:
Perhaps someday he will only be lionized in France.

Like Jerry Lewis or mimes.

Wait Just A Gosh Darn Second

FLG was calmly reading the WaPo, when he came across this sentence:
Yielding to political opposition, the Obama administration gave up Monday on trying avowed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged henchmen in civilian federal court in New York and will prosecute them instead before military commissions.

In real-time this took about two second, but FLG will spell it out.

Political pressure, eh? This reporter is carrying a hell of a lot of water for the Obama Administration. Holder, a fucking moron who has no business being the Attorney General, had to backtrack on something he and the president made a massive deal over, and they chalk it up to political pressure? Wait, I have to assume the reporter was trying to sugarcoat the news for the administration, but this actually, if you think about it for more than one second, which I am doing right now, makes them sound horrible.

If they are bowing to political pressure on something that they made such a big fuss over, than they are fucking pussies who lack commitment, dedication, and the tactical skill to execute. Moreover, and even worse, it is a explicit acknowledgment that the entire judicial process for these terrorists is overtly political, which is not exactly the ideal of justice, now is it?

Fucking Keystone Cops, Obama, Holder, and the AP reporter.

Church And Culture

Anti-Climacus writes:
for about six years when I was approximately teenage-ish, my family attended a (conservative) evangelical church (on the Willow Creek model, if that means anything to you). The church was good to fine in most respects, with the odd exception of its approach to culture. It had been a standard part of evangelical thinking up through the 90s that to be Christian meant to be not secular: one should only read books by Christian authors with explicit Christian themes, only listen to music performed by Christians about Christian themes (the discerning reader may have sensed a pattern already), etc etc. I remember sermons that specifically inveighed against Nirvana, and being told that listening to Jimi Hendrix was morally dubious, at best (let's not even get into their reaction when I read The Stand in junior high).

This reminds FLG of a story.

Back when he was a wee lad, 'round 2nd grade, say seven years-old, FLG was at church with his father. It was a Baptist church, if that matters to anybody. Anyway, there was an announcement that a guest would be speaking downstairs after the services about the Care Bears. Now, FLG was a bit too old for the Care Bears at this point, but his little brother was way into them. Positively loved them. FLG's father, who knew FLG's brother liked the Care Bears but didn't know much about them, decided to stay and listen. Needless to say, Wee FLG was not happy. Well, that was until the guest speaker started up.

According to this speaker, parents of the congregation should not let their kids watch Care Bears. FLG's ears perked up.

"The Care Bears claim to teach love and caring, but they never mention God. Therefore, it's a false love because all love comes from God. The Care Bears love isn't love at all. Their power is a rainbow, and we all know what that symbolizes."

FLG even then had a low tolerance for idiocy. He leaned over to his father and said, "this lady's crazy." Unfortunately, he must have said it too loud because some people turned around and the speaker zeroed in on Wee FLG.

"Do you watch the Care Bears, young man?"

"No, but my brother does."

"So you don't like it?"

"Not really. I'm too old. But it's not bad or evil or whatever you are saying. It's just a bunch of bears telling kids to be nice and caring."

Then her tone became a bit too condescending even for Wee FLG.

"You're too young to understand, sweetie."

That's when FLG's father chimed in.

"I don't think it's my son's youth that's the problem. It's that you aren't making any sense. Your complaints against Care Bears, the reason you call it evil, is because it doesn't explicitly mention God as the source of all love and because it has rainbows. So, basically, if I may cut to the chase, you're saying that Care Bears, a cartoon, is trying to turn our children gay. That's laughable.

But even if it were true, who cares? It's not going to work. Aren't we taught as Christians, and you yourself made perfectly clear, that the source of all love is God? If so, then doesn't the Care Bears' love emanate from God anyway? Who cares if they specifically mention God each time they express love?"

"But homosexual love is not true love, it's lust and an abomination."

"If you say so, but the Care Bears aren't lusting. They're just cute, stupid bears on a cartoon telling kids to be nice to each other. Oh, sure. They've got rainbows. But they've got lucky clovers and suns and hearts and cupcakes, too. This is the worst kind of paranoia. Come on, FLG, let's go."

"Daddy, I don't want to go to that church anymore."

"Me neither, FLG. Me neither."

As Much As FLG Loved The Sound

...of Big East Champion.

National Champion is even better.

Monday, April 4, 2011

FLG is currently listening to

Fucking Bikers

It's no secret to regular readers of this blog that FLG hates bikers. Oh, but FLG, it's better for the environment and you shouldn't blame the bad behavior of a select few on the entire population. Bullshit, FLG replies. It's not just a select few. A great majority of bikers are fucking crazy. They

A while back, FLG doesn't quite remember why, Ryan Avent offered a defense of bikers, and in particular there was one accusation FLG remembers Ryan defending bikers from, which was that they don't obey the rules and laws of the road. He wrote that people don't get as worked up about jaywalkers, so cut bikers some slack.

Well, today, on the way to work FLG remember this defense because some fuckhead biker blew through a stop sign about 20 mph because the bastard didn't want to lose the momentum he had going downhill. He almost smashed into FLG's car, which had stopped at the stop sign. Yet, fuckhead had the audacity to get mad at FLG.

And that's where the crucial difference between jaywalkers and asshole bikers arises -- jaywalkers can stop and start at a dime and don't travel at high speeds.

Math And Science To Compete In The Global Economy

FLG has long been a critic when it comes to the idea that math and science are what the nation needs students to study to compete in the global economy. But let FLG be the first to say that he's fully supportive of making Algebra II a requirement to get a high school diploma. It was at his high school and FLG took it his freshman year.

Correspondence

FLG received an email over the weekend from a student lucky enough to be accepted by both Georgetown SFS and Harvard asking for insight/advice.

FLG's response was this:
Georgetown is a great university and SFS is a unique school. FLG is sure you'd get a great education at either place, but this is his advice: If you have something specific in international affairs that you want to study and pursue a career in, then definitely SFS. You'll be able to really tailor your education and do related internships during the school year.

If you aren't sure, if you just want to go to a good school then go into investment banking or management consulting, or you just like the idea of having an internationally-focused career because it sounds like traveling on your company's dime, then go to Harvard.

Georgetown's name open doors in a whole host of industries, and in certain places Georgetown SFS is as good as it gets, but Harvard's is going to open doors in more. And if you are anything like FLG was, then what you thought you wanted to do at 18 will turn out to be all wrong. Better then to be at a place that offers more options both in terms of academic programs and name recognition.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Quote of the day

Aristotle:
Style to be good must be clear, as is proved by the fact that speech which fails to convey a plain meaning will fail to do just what speech has to do. It must also be appropriate, avoiding both meanness and undue elevation; poetical language is certainly free from meanness, but it is not appropriate to prose. Clearness is secured by using the words (nouns and verbs alike) that are current and ordinary.

FLG would like to reiterate his strongly held belief that students are far too seldom introduced to Aristotle's On Rhetoric.

FLG's Least Favorite Three Words To Hear In A Classroom

"Break into groups."

FLG always thinks, "Great, here goes 20-30 minutes of my life that I'll never get back."

Look, FLG is aware of all the pedagogical nonsense that says people learn better in groups and whathaveyou AND FLG is a self-proclaimed anti-social jerk. So maybe he's wrong.

But the fact remains that the professor is supposedly the expert on the topic. Given that there is an expert in the room, WHY THE FUCK DOES FLG WANT TO HEAR WHAT THE FUCKING JACKASS SITTING NEXT TO HIM THINKS ABOUT THE TOPIC? Might as well just walk out to the street, pull some fucker into the class, and tell them to teach the class for 20-30 minutes.

Les Seins Sont Trop Gros?

Incroyable.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Quote of the day

Dr. Boli:
If the church belongs to one of the disorganized evangelical sects, however, little will be accomplished by a formal protest, and your only recourse may be cautious vandalism.

h/t
 
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