Friday, July 29, 2011

Quote of the day II

Telegraph:
A dwarf who appeared in the Harry Potter and Star Wars films...was convicted of indecent exposure last month after a 17-year-old girl told Leicester Crown Court how the actor performed a sex act under the cover of a juggler's hat.

Here's another quote that FLG that's great on two levels:
It is understood that Read has recently been hiring himself out to stag parties, offering to be handcuffed to the stag while dressed as a diminutive fictional character such as a Smurf or Oompa-Loompa.

First, there's the obvious, WTF? But then there's the curious opening phrase. It is understood by whom precisely? The court? Police? The Telegraph? People in the market for Smurf bondage?

Quote of the day

Megan McArdle:
Those of you who are not on twitter, please feel free to fill the comments with complaints about how the kids these days are wasting their lives with electronic gimcrackery.


For the record, FLG is staunchly anti-twitter and considers it utter gimcrackery.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Quote of the day

Robert Jenson via William:
But there are many putative eternities and correspondingly many putative gods. There is, for example, the kind of eternity of which Plato spoke, that is to say, the still point at the center of the wheel of time, a depth of reality in which time simply does not move, a great nunc stans, a standing present tense. At an opposite extreme of sophistication, the point about ancestors in animistic faith is that an ancestor is someone who has gotten so old that nothing surprises him or her any longer, so that in consultation with the ancestor the surprising things that time brings forth are unveiled as not surprising at all.

Holy Fuck Is FLG Pissed

Anti-Climacus links to this "deleted" Lost scene that drives FLG up a freaking wall. FLG gets the feeling that the writers were trying to make fun of themselves, but FLG thinks the entire thing is dripping with contempt for people who want "answers."

FLG agrees with this assessment:
At this point the series' real problem becomes evident to me: the main figures involved are just not very good writers.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Holy Fuck Is It Hot

Here's the Washington Post's forecast for today:
Super awful.

Yes, it's like the sixth circle of hell:
Here like together with its like is buried;
And more and less the monuments are heated.

Now, you might be saying, hey FLG, it's all your fault because isn't the sixth ring of hell reserved for heresy?

Let him tell you something, this ain't FLG's fucking fault.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

FLG is currently listening to

FLG Was Just Thinking

...that sometime over the next five years or so, he's gonna save up enough money, fly to London, and get a bluish-purple bespoke suit made by Ozwald Boateng.

Equality and Excellence

This Noah Millman post about how it is vastly more difficult to improve many schools and many neighborhoods than to improve a single school, school district, or neighborhood, reminded FLG of something that he has written about on this blog before but hasn't in a while -- the fundamental opposition of equality and excellence.

Excellence is always relative to something else. Something else that is less good. To say that students are entitled to equally excellent educations is almost to speak nonsense. Equally excellent educations are just as equally awful educations.

Now, in fairness, we could say that students are entitled to world-class educations, which would mean that students receive an excellent education in relation to the rest of the world, which, by definition, would mean that most of the rest of the world receives relatively worse educations.

But FLG remains skeptical, even in that case, that the level of education given and received within the United States would be equal. To be more specific, he thinks we could, with much difficulty, raise the overall level of educational opportunity in absolute terms, but that the relative level opportunities wouldn't change all that much. Thus, the issue of inequality remains. However, if the law of diminishing marginal returns applies to education, which it should, then there could be some reduction in education because each additional dollar spent at the high-end of the distribution doesn't buy as much additional educational output.

But FLG is getting off-topic. The main point here is that equality and excellence are fundamentally irreconcilable.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

FLG is currently listening to

FLG is currently listening to



FLG has always found something intriguing about the this song, but could never put his finger on it. Just now, he was struck by how Dionysian the lyrics are, but Apollonian the music is. Maybe FLG is overthinking it though.

Breaking Stuff

Back in the day, when FLG lived in a dorm, there was a Marine who lived down the hall and was fond of saying that his job was to kill people and break stuff.

Greg Mankiw posts this quote from Larry Summers:
Never forget, never forget, and I think it’s very important for Democrats especially to remember this, that if Hitler had not come along, Franklin Roosevelt would have left office in 1941 with an unemployment rate in excess of 15 percent and an economic recovery strategy that had basically failed.

FLG has mentioned this before, but when confronted with an economic policy he dislikes he begins by asking himself two questions. The second question is whether the policy places more emphasis on the short run than the long run, but the first question is whether the proposed policy is akin to the parable of the broken window, which is to say, does this policy destroy wealth to stimulate the economy?

Look, the American economy is a complicated thing. The global economy is even more complicated. But whenever FLG hears somebody point towards WWII and then the post-War boom of the 1950s as vindication of government stimulus on a grand scale, he cannot help but think, uh, yeah, but too bad there was that whole death and destruction thing.

Think of it this way. If we burned down a third of the houses and apartment buildings in this country, then we'd stimulate the heck out of the economy, but we clearly wouldn't be better off as a nation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Savage Monogamy

Anti-Climacus reminded FLG that he meant to post about the Mark Oppenheimer article explaining how Dan Savage believes...
monogamy is right for many couples. But he believes that our discourse about it, and about sexuality more generally, is dishonest. Some people need more than one partner, he writes, just as some people need flirting, others need to be whipped, others need lovers of both sexes. We can’t help our urges, and we should not lie to our partners about them. In some marriages, talking honestly about our needs will forestall or obviate affairs; in other marriages, the conversation may lead to an affair, but with permission. In both cases, honesty is the best policy.

When FLG first read this it seemed to be saying, let's be reasonable, people cheat. In our current age, FLG thinks many people find that reasonable. However, FLG immediately thought of Plato's Phaedrus. That dialogue, like many Platonic dialogues, covers multiple seemingly unrelated topics, in this case love and rhetoric.

Socrates argues that we are drawn toward beautiful people because we see a partial manifestation of the Form of Beauty. That Form is what actually draws us toward them. Now, to be clear, Socrates is talking about a man being draw to a beautiful boy, but leaving the pederasty aside, FLG thinks there's something to this. Basically, our appetites, in this case lust that becomes love as a form of madness, draw us toward the Good, in this case Beauty.

The key moment for Socrates / Plato is the point when both lovers have surrendered themselves to each other:
After this their happiness depends upon their self-control; if the better elements of the mind which lead to order and philosophy prevail, then they pass their life here in happiness and harmony-masters of themselves and orderly-enslaving the vicious and emancipating the virtuous elements of the soul; and when the end comes, they are light and winged for flight, having conquered in one of the three heavenly or truly Olympian victories; nor can human discipline or divine inspiration confer any greater blessing on man than this. If, on the other hand, they leave philosophy and lead the lower life of ambition, then probably, after wine or in some other careless hour, the two wanton animals take the two souls when off their guard and bring them together, and they accomplish that desire of their hearts which to the many is bliss; and this having once enjoyed they continue to enjoy, yet rarely because they have not the approval of the whole soul.

So, given all this, FLG sees Savage as arguing, "Hey, we all have appetites and oftentimes our partners might not be willing or able to satisfy those appetites. Let's be reasonable about this. Maybe we need something other than monogamy."

But, at least in FLG's reading of Plato, this doesn't make any sense. Or perhaps more accurately it's disordered. It's saying let's be reasonable but instead of relying upon our reason and will to apply self-control, as being reasonable would imply, we become a slave to our appetites and passions and thus have a tyrannical soul:
Then you must further imagine the same thing to happen to the son which has already happened to the father: --he is drawn into a perfectly lawless life, which by his seducers is termed perfect liberty; and his father and friends take part with his moderate desires, and the opposite party assist the opposite ones. As soon as these dire magicians and tyrant-makers find that they are losing their hold on him, they contrive to implant in him a master passion, to be lord over his idle and spendthrift lusts --a sort of monstrous winged drone --that is the only image which will adequately describe him.

[...]

And when his other lusts, amid clouds of incense and perfumes and garlands and wines, and all the pleasures of a dissolute life, now let loose, come buzzing around him, nourishing to the utmost the sting of desire which they implant in his drone-like nature, then at last this lord of the soul, having Madness for the captain of his guard, breaks out into a frenzy: and if he finds in himself any good opinions or appetites in process of formation, and there is in him any sense of shame remaining, to these better principles he puts an end, and casts them forth until he has purged away temperance and brought in madness to the full.

Yes, he said, that is the way in which the tyrannical man is generated.

So, this supposed realistic and reasonable approach to the realities of marriage is, at least, in FLG's reading of Plato, far from virtuous and is a form of tyranny.

Quote of the day

Norman J. Ornstein:
a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget would be disastrous.

Yes, yes it would.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Time Horizons Theory: Oakeshott Edition

FLG hasn't gotten gotten around to reading Michael Oakeshott yet, although it is on his list. But this quotation Jason Kuznicki pulled out flies in the face of FLG's Time Horizons theory and FLG doesn't like it one bit:
The general characteristics of this [conservative] disposition are not difficult to discern, although they have often been mistaken. They centre upon a propensity to use and to enjoy what is available rather than to wish for or to look for something else; to delight in what is present rather than what was or what may be. Reflection may bring to light an appropriate gratefulness for what is available, and consequently the acknowledgment of a gift or an inheritance from the past; but there is no mere idolizing of what is past and gone. What is esteemed is the present; and it is esteemed not on account of its connections with a remote antiquity, nor because it is recognized to be more admirable than any possible alternative, but on account of its familiarity (“On Being Conservative,” in Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays).

No, no, no, no, no. FLG gets what Oakeshott is saying here. Conservatives esteem what exists rather than what could be. But FLG in no way agrees conservatives esteem the present. It's the liberals who esteem the short-run. And don't you forget it.

Looks like FLG'll have to get around to reading Oakeshott sooner rather than later.

FLG is currently listening to

In Light Of Recent Discussions Here At Fear And Loathing In Georgetown

...FLG found this article extremely fascinating.

Here are a couple of excerpts:
There can be no human dignity, no inviolable person, no end in herself, without the supposition of the human as sacred, and therefore as a godly creation.

There is no meaning to human rights under divine commandment. A deep acceptance of divine authority — and that is what true religion demands — entails a renunciation of human rights if God so wills.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

An Outing

The FLGs saw Rock of Ages last night. It was a fun time.

The most amazing thing was the amount of women in their forties who showed up looking like they were going to a Poison concert in 1988. FLG is contemplating the creation of a PSA to explain that there's a point when you're not old, but too old to be wearing skintight leopard print.

Can FLG Get An Amen?

Consumer agency won’t be led by Elizabeth Warren

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Conversation

Miss FLG: Tell me a story, Daddy.

FLG: Okay. How about one with pirates in it?

Miss FLG: And princesses!

FLG: And princesses.

Miss FLG shifts around.


Miss FLG: I'm ready!

FLG: Once upon a time, there was a princess named...

Miss FLG: Belle?!

FLG: No, but close. Buttercup. And she had a friend named Wesley.

Miss FLG: Why?

FLG: Why was he named Wesley?

Miss FLG: Uh-huh.

FLG: Because that's what his parents named him.

Miss FLG: Why?

FLG: I don't know, sweetie. They just did. Anyway, Wesley loved Buttercup, but had no money.

Miss FLG: Why?

FLG: Because he lost it all at the track. Anyway, Wesley went away. Years went by and Wesley hadn't come back.

Miss FLG: Why?

FLG: We'll get to that. So, Buttercup agreed to marry a mean prince, named Humperdinck. But before they could get married she was kidnapped...

Miss FLG gasps.

FLG: ...by a giant. This giant tossed Buttercup on a boat. As he was making his escape, however, the giant noticed that he was being chased by a pirate.

Miss FLG: Argh, matey!

FLG: Egg-zactly! It was the Dread Pirate Roberts! And when he caught up with the giant's ship, the Dread Pirate Roberts subdued the giant and rescued Buttercup. At first, Buttercup was afraid, but then the Dread Pirate Roberts revealed himself to be...Who do you think he was?

Miss FLG: I don't know.

FLG: That's right, Wesley. They got married, honeymooned in the Fire Swamp, and lived happily ever after. The End. Time for bed.

Miss FLG scurries into her bed.


Mrs. FLG: What the heck story was that?

FLG: Seriously? Come on.

When The History Of Blogs Is Written

They'll probably mention Andrew Sullivan, Matt Yglesias, Daily Kos, Glenn Reynolds, Ezra Klein, Nick Denton, Mike Arrington, etc, etc. But FLG holds out hope that true students of the medium will recognize his contributions.

If those other bloggers are more akin to Chaplin, Hitchcock, Welles, Godard, Fellini, Scorsese, Kurosawa, you get the idea, then hopefully FLG will be something like Luis Buñuel. Some sort of surreal mélange of Plato, Alexander, pirates, object sex, what FLG is currently listening to, and vicious antipathy toward NATO that nobody full comprehends, that is often painful to watch, but totally awesome.

As evidence of FLG's tremendous influence, which like that of many great artists goes largely unappreciated here in the States but not in Europe, here is Maximum Leader pointing us to Nazi object sex.

Mispronunciation

Look, FLG has a lot of linguistic faults. He can't spell for shit. His command of grammar is questionable. For whatever reason, and even though he speaks fucking French, has to consciously tell himself every time that facade is not pronounced fa-kade. (Although, if it is spelled correctly, with a cedilla, façade, then he doesn't have a problem.)

But he did cringe when he heard this.

And, for the record, FLG loves Chan-U-Kah.

Correspondence

Liberty At Stake writes:
What is FLG's considered opinion on calling the President's bluff?

FLG assumes this is in reference to the debt ceiling.

Well, this is the classic game of Chicken. From that very Wikipedia article, we have this game theory analysis:
Because the loss of swerving is so trivial compared to the crash that occurs if nobody swerves, the reasonable strategy would seem to be to swerve before a crash is likely. Yet, knowing this, if one believes one's opponent to be reasonable, one may well decide not to swerve at all, in the belief that he will be reasonable and decide to swerve, leaving the other player the winner. This unstable situation can be formalized by saying there is more than one Nash equilibrium, which is a pair of strategies for which neither player gains by changing his own strategy while the other stays the same.

So, it makes strategic sense in this case to signal that you are crazy. If your opponent thinks you are crazy, then they think you won't swerve and instead they swerve.

That's all well and good, but assumes perfect knowledge of the payoffs for all parties. What worries FLG is that the players in this budget stand-off don't really have the payoff information. Oh, they have the political payoff information insofar as they understand it, but the financial and economic payoff information and the political fallout from that? FLG is far less sanguine. This post by Megan McArdle spells it out nicely:
There are people in Washington who get Wall Street, and people on Wall Street who get Washington. But they are a small minority in both places--and in both places, outcomes depend on the majority. I submit that this disconnect is dangerous. Wall Street is giving us too much rope to hang ourselves because they don't really understand the barriers to achieving fiscal sanity--and Washington is taking it, because they don't really understand how Wall Street thinks, and what the bond traders will do when they finally decide that we're likely to default.

FLG's Sorry

...but did Withywindle just accuse him of believing the eschaton can be immanentized?

Because that's 1) a huge misreading of FLG's stance and 2) crazy talk.

Quote of the day

Roger Ebert:
Watching [A.I. Artificial Intelligence] again, I asked myself why I wrote that the final scenes are "problematical," go over the top, and raise questions they aren't prepared to answer. This time they worked for me, and had a greater impact.

FLG finds the new reading odd. FLG steadfastly insists Kubrick would've, rightly mind you, ended the movie with David staring at the blue angel. Spielberg's penchant for Deus Ex UFO ruined the movie.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Long Comment By Andrew Stevens

FLG has long known Andrew Stevens is way smarter than him. Today, he saw this comment by Andrew over at A&J and felt the overwhelming urge to repost it and muck it up by adding his own less than two cents:
1) I reject Divine Command Theory and I see no point in theology for that exact reason. There may be a God who created the Universe and perhaps he is even omnibenevolent and would be very helpful in helping our moral judgment if we could but communicate with him, but the existence of God is irrelevant to my theory of morality. Once I determined that the existence of God was irrelevant to morality, I stopped caring very much whether or not there was such a being.

FLG, probably to the horror of some of his readers, agrees that God is irrelevant to his theory of morality, but doesn't quite understand how Andrew goes from not caring whether such a being exists to his atheist stance that such a being does not exist. FLG sees no reason to deny that such a being exists. Moreover, FLG believes deeply that one does exist and that free will necessitates that such a being does not interfere to the extent even that we have to discover morality on our own. Which probably doesn't makes much sense to people, but there you go.

2) I've never been sure that I have any understanding of what Gadamer via Withywindle is saying. I can't make a lot of sense out of this, but it sounds like some species of a subjectivist metaethics. For what it's worth, if there was a God who was perfect in reason and perfect in benevolence and was interested in communicating with us, this would actually be useful in resolving complex moral issues in my philosophy. But he would have the same role as he would in resolving difficult economic or scientific debates, so I don't know whether that is helpful to you.

3) If you believe that three was a prime number even before there were any humans to think about numbers or to define what prime means, then you are some sort of realist about universals (even if only about numbers, as was the case with Quine), as I am. My sense is that the majority of mathematicians and scientists fall into this camp (sometimes without realizing it), but that the vast majority of people in the humanities regard this belief as on a par with believing in witchcraft or angels or something.

Same difference, but FLG always likes to point out Pi. Pi existed before people began to think about circles or geometry or calculus. Humans didn't invent it; they discovered it. It has always existed and will always exist.

4) My general ethical philosophy is deontological, not consequentialist, so it may or may not be amenable to your concerns. However, I also pretty firmly believe that it is the only ethical theory which actually accords with our common sense ethical views. (Indeed, it is because of this that I believe it to be true.) I follow W.D. Ross in that I believe we have a number of pro tanto duties - duties of fidelity, reparation, gratitude, non-injury, harm prevention, beneficience, self-improvement, and justice (this is not meant to be an exhaustive list and it's possible that even very important duties have been omitted). In any moral dilemma, we generally find two or more pro tanto duties in conflict with one another and we must engage in a delicate balancing act to determine which duty is the more important in that case. In the case of the Alpheovore, this is a pretty easy balancing act to resolve. Some of them are not remotely that simple.

Virtually all other ethical theories that I am aware of simply do not accord with our ethical intuitions. You've mentioned the problem with Kantian ethics. Utilitarianism leads to the absurdity of cutting up perfectly healthy people in order to save the lives of five geniuses. Even philosophies which are generally sensible seem to agree that a person's concern for his children ought to be overridden by concern for the poor in Africa. As far as I am aware, only Ross's theory of duties can handle all of these problems and resolve them the way you and I (and everyone else) know they should be resolved.

FLG tries to approach things deontologically, rather than consequentially, as best he can. Mostly because, given his Time Horizons theory, he'd rather proceed taking the long-term view and deontological arguments are long-term given that we're talking about universal rules. Consequentialist arguments are, almost by definition, so circumstantial and short-term.

Alexander And A Fuckwit

As readers know, FLG is a great admirer of Alexander. In fact, if there's anything that gets FLG's blood boiling more than dissing Plato, then it's dissing Alexander. So, this post over at The Duck raised his blood pressure a bit:
The urge to project humanist ideals onto Alexander and his brethren is odd but enduring. Oliver Stone has dabbled in it, as did W.W. Tarn, a classicist and liberal gentleman who saw his own liberal and gentlemanly values reflected in the world conqueror, whom he recast as the forerunner for twentieth century dreams of enlightened internationalism.

This is odd, because Alexander’s activities and temperament were not exactly in the spirit of the League of Nations at prayer. This was a man who annihilated Thebes. In the name of Pan-Hellenic vengeance he went on a murderous and enslaving blitz through the Persian empire. Beyond winning consent and obedience, he showed little interest in the art of government, was only turned back from his endless expansionist project by a disgruntled army whom he punished by force-marching through a desert, and who was so unbothered about the long-term stability of his new multi-civilisational empire that he refused to name a successor. The man who fancied himself a god-king who reincarnated the spirit of Achilles was not centrally driven to the cause of human emancipation.

In short, he was a conqueror and bringer of death on an epic scale. Sure, his exploits might have excited some philosophers to dream of the unity of mankind, but the lived experience of his rampages might have tasted a little different.

Look, people take the idea of Alexander's fusion policy, as it's usually called, too far. As far as FLG is concerned, Alexander wasn't a cosmopolitanist as we understand it today, by which FLG means Alexander didn't view the world through anything like a Kantian lens.

Likewise, Alexander did some things that strike FLG as downright vicious, cruel, and sometimes completely irrational. As FLG has written multiple times on this blog, the burning of Persepolis doesn't make much sense beyond Alexander, who was 26-27 and drunk, acting like a frat boy. But this Patrick Porter guy is also off-base.

Don't get FLG wrong, Alexander is responsible for tons of deaths. But if Alexander was never born it's not like the ancient world would've been peaceful. Or that it was peaceful before him. Moreover, in this light, some of his cruel and vicious streak isn't, in fact, irrational.

The Siege of Tyre offers an example here. Alexander demands Tyre surrender. Tyre refuses. Alexander orders a land bridge, a mole, constructed. Alexander's troops are harassed while building it. Long story short, however, land bridge works, Alexander's naval forces show up at the same time as it's completed, Tyre is taken. Everybody in Tyre, with a few exceptions, is killed or sold into slavery. It's horrible. But only if you look at the proximate death and destruction.

Seeing what Alexander had done at Tyre, everybody else capitulated to him on his way to Egypt. Thus, the bloody and horrific precedent may have actually resulted in less loss of life and brutality overall.

FLG has found that this argument does sway some people. But they then ask by what right did Alexander embark upon this conquest in the first place?

Well, that's a bit trickier. The simple answer is that powerful civilizations in proximity, especially in the ancient world, ended up in conflict. It's not like Alexander picked conquering Asia out of the blue. Let's not forget that there were battles between Greeks and Persians long before Alexander.

Also, it bugs the shit out of FLG when people apply their modern norms to those that came before them. (Rufus over at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen is the worst at this. His entire series of posts about the canon does this and is consequently insufferable.) When Porter writes that Alexander was a conquer, he's using it with the modern connotation that this is wrong and immoral. But, at that time and for a long time afterward, conquest was viewed far more positively. Roman Triumphs weren't earned for basket-weaving.

The big issue with Alexander is this -- his story is both history and myth. Plus, it's got a little bit of everything. Therefore, people can see whatever it is they want to see. In large part, that's why FLG thinks Alexander is such a towering figure. His story is so powerful and so amazing that it has this sort of universal relevance, in an admitted weird sort of way, that he is representative of Western civilization. Throughout time people focus on the aspects that they want to focus on. So, for British imperialists, Alexander's legacy was one of spreading Western culture. For others, Alexander aspired to fuse a multinational, multicultural world upon the foundation of rational, Greek culture. For others still, he's a blood-thirsty, petulant conquer who exemplifies all that is wrong with Western civilization.

Did he kill lots of people? Certainly. See any chronicle of his life.

Was he a conqueror? Yes, in fact, the greatest conqueror, as conquerors go, ever. See a fucking map.

Did he act like a drunken frat boy? Yes. See Persepolis and the murder of Cleitus the Black.

Was he a great leader? He almost certainly was. Sure, as Porter mentions, Alexander didn't stop conquering until his army basically mutinied. But they mutinied only after Egypt, Persia, Bactria, and crossing the Hindu-Kush and Indus river for fuck's sake. Now, maybe great leader and frat boy aren't exactly mutually exclusive, but Alexander had something going for him.

Was he an egotistical maniac who believed himself divine? FLG doesn't know if Alexander really thought he was divine. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. But FLG has got to say that when a person conquers most of the known world before thirty, then they've got something to be egotistical about. Nevertheless, see proskynesis. See proclaiming himself son of Zeus Ammon.

Did Alexander have a fusion policy? Yes. See proskynesis again. See proclaiming himself son of Zeus Ammon again. See dressing in Persian fashion. See marrying Roxanne. See having his companions marry Eastern women.

Did he spread Hellenistic culture? See Alexandria. See the artifacts from the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom. See the importance of Greek speakers in the East, even through the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates. Obviously, not all of that can be attributed solely to Alexander, but his conquest cannot be considered insignificant.

Why didn't he focus on governing? Why didn't he appoint an heir? Great questions. Maybe he was an egotistical nutjob. Or maybe, as FLG is wont to believe, Alexander was focused on conquest. He was still a young man, he'd have time to consolidate his conquest later. Until he could consolidate them, either because he was an egotistical nutjob who believed himself divine or from a sound analysis of the matter, he believed he was the only person that could hold his kingdom together. As you can probably guess, FLG thinks it's the latter. And, in fact, his empire immediately fractured. Given the difficulty that the successors had keeping their smaller empires together, it's hard to believe anybody but Alexander could keep it together.

For example, Ptolemy ran for Egypt. Why? Because it was wealthy, defensible, and had a great internal communication network. That was smart because his empire lasted the longest of any of them.

If he had named an heir or had his son already been born, then would it have made for a better transition? Perhaps. But FLG is doubtful. It's one thing to pay homage to a man who has conquered the known world by the time he was thirty and was undefeated in battle.

Alexander wasn't perfect, but to dismiss him as merely an evil madman or a bringer of death, is to see but one part of the picture -- the bad part. And applying certain modern norms without any attempt to understand the contemporaneous ones.

Lastly, as FLG mentioned before, he thinks what people see in Alexander actually says more about them than it does about Alexander. Consequently, this Patrick Porter guy is a small-minded, myopic fuckwit.

FLG is currently listening to

This.

For some reason, whenever Brian Wilson appears it always makes FLG laugh.

FLG is currently listening to

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

FLG is currently listening to

Dear Withywindle:

You are so on double secret probation:
* Started reading Plato--what else to follow up Montaigne with? Have read Euthyphro; perhaps ancient Athenian courtesy mistranslates, but Socrates seems awfully snide. Not a death-penalty offense, I suppose, but I do want some sort of Athenian Blackadder to mock him. Oh, right, Aristophanes, been there, done that.

Sincerely,
FLG

Monday, July 11, 2011

Time Horizons

Here's Paul Krugman.

Quote of the day

Flavia writes:
Maybe I should be pleased to open my inbox and see an email from a former student with the subject line "Platonism." But I'm not. I'm just not.

Hey, Plato is fucking awesome!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fucking Moron

Here's Ryan Avent explaining, far more nicely than FLG would, to Matt Steinglass that he hasn't even considered the relevant information.

Back in September 2010, FLG wrote:
FLG Doesn't Understand...why the Economist hired Matt Steinglas. He's so focused on the present and proximate, that his analysis is invariably God awful. In fact, I've never read something by him that I didn't think could be intellectually eviscerated by a drunken baboon, as long as their frame of analysis included something more than 15 minutes in the future. On economic questions everything he writes subtracts for the sum of human knowledge.

It still stands.

Time Horizons

You all know FLG's Time Horizons Theory by now. Liberals have short time horizons, conservatives have longer horizons. Thus, liberals give far more value to the present over the future than conservatives. FLG has also offered a simultaneous related observation that liberals also are more empirical and conservatives more theoretical. FLG considers this theory more positive than normative.

A more normative conclusion that FLG has mentioned several times is that liberals are entirely blind to this to the point where they think concerns about the future are, quite literally, irrational.

As if he were trying to prove FLG's theory single-handedly, here's Matt Yglesias:
This kind of thinking seems dangerously prevalent in Washington. Like voters are standing around here in the summer of 2011 saying to themselves, “well life is pretty good in America under Obama, but I’m really concerned about the long-range CBO projections so I might vote against him.” But that’s nuts. Obama’s vulnerable because conditions in the country right now aren’t very good.

To be clear here, FLG also thinks his other pet theory -- The Big Assumption -- is at play. Matt, a liberal, values the short-term a lot. Therefore, everybody must value the short-term a lot. Everything to the contrary is crazy and wrong.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Raising A World Leader -- A How-to Manual

A while back FLG proffered a theory that most American Presidents had an absent or abusive father. The release of a new book about Obama's father reminded FLG of this theory.

But if you look at other great leaders in history, FLG thinks this broadly holds. Augustus' father died when he was young. FLG isn't quite sure, but believes Julius Caesar's father suddenly died when Caesar was young as well. Most near and dear to FLG's heart, Alexander had a tumultuous relationship with Phillip who then died when Alexander was 19.

Okay, FLG, what is your point? Glad you asked.

FLG's theory is that the relationship with the father, for whatever pop psychology reason you want to attribute, makes them extremely ambitious to live up to their father's expectations or exceed their father's accomplishments or to prove their father wrong, take your pick.

Okay, great FLG. Still, what's your point? Again, glad you asked.

Having this ambition isn't enough. They need to have ambition, but also opportunity.

So, Alexander hated Phillip. Perhaps was even involved in his murder, but then was also able to take advantage of the totally awesome army Phillip had built. Likewise, Octavian's father died when he was still a child, but eventually Julius takes him under his wing, even to the point of adoption, and provides opportunity.

Okay, where's the how-to manual?

Pretty simple. If you want your kid to be president, and assuming you don't want to die or be absent, then you need to totally mindfuck them. No matter how great they perform, it can't be enough. You can, maybe, for a second, show the slightest amount of pride, as a teaser, but the overall stance must be one of continual and profound disappointment. Really, really mindfuck them.

BUT THEN, you give them every opportunity that you can. Bribe their way into Harvard if you must. Make it happen. But all the while keep telling them they're bloody worthless.

But FLG, if you mindfuck your kid like this, aren't they going to be totally fucked up? Yes, yes they will. But that's the price of producing a leader.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Clearing Up Bookmarks

FLG had meant to link to this previously, but for some reason or another never got around to it. Otto posted five controversial things he believes FLG was inspired to do the same, thought about it, compiled a list, but cannot find it now. So, he'll post Otto's list for now and compile a new list of his own eventually:
1. The Soviet Union, particularly under Stalin, practiced racial discrimination against a number of nationalities and Jews were not the worst treated group by a long shot.

2. The mass deportation of nationalities by Stalin to Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Central Asia constituted genocide by any reasonable definition of the word.

3. The mass expulsion of ethnic Germans from their homes in Central Europe at the end of World War II was a crime against humanity with no moral justification.

4. The mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in 1948 was also a crime against humanity with no moral justification.

5. American academia is rigged so people like me who believe things like I listed above can not get jobs at US universities.

BTW, go visit Otto's blog.

A Conversation

Coworker: FLG, what are you listening to?

FLG: Pandora.

Coworker: Right, but what music?

FLG: Gregorian chant.

Coworker: You created a Gregorian chant station?

FLG: Yes, yes I did.

Coworker: Don't you think that's a little weird?

FLG: Not any weirder than my Nintendocore station.

Correspondence

Every six months or so, FLG gets an email from some reader who must've discovered Fear and Loathing in Georgetown during the intervening six months explaining that the blog would be better if it were less ribald, crass, coarse, or bawdy. FLG particularly liked one that included lascivious. For some reason, the tone and vocabulary always reminds FLG of an older lady who tut-tuts around town calling young ladies trollops and wanton hussies.

Anyway, each time FLG feels compelled to explain that this is all central to the charm here at Fear and Loathing in Georgetown. But more importantly this is all FLG has got. He's not a very thoughtful or talented chap. Much easier to throw in the occasional fuck to elicit a visceral reaction than to formulate a compelling argument.

But, to be completely honest, FLG tries to put a vast distance between himself and those bloggers who consider themselves Very-Serious-People writing about Very-Serious-Things whose idea of fun and whimsy is to examine some aspect of popular culture and extrapolate into some sort of pseudo-psychology about what it says about society, all very seriously of course, without any hint that they are talking out of their fucking asses.

FLG is currently listening to

Quote of the day

Anti-Climacus
In the first place, one should never trust an argument about the periodic death of rock and roll that makes no reference to Nirvana, which is the equivalent of wanting to talk about early modern political theory and forgetting to mention Hobbes.

FLG is currently listening to

Holy Fucking Fuckity Fuck!

FLG was reading a post over at Mrs. P's place and almost lost his fucking mind. In fact, Mrs. P posted a transcript and FLG didn't quite believe people had said what the transcript said they said, so he watched the video she posted, and holy fuck are people fucking stupid.

George Will asks, in an effort to prove that the commerce clause interpretation has gone to far, whether Congress has the constitutional power to mandate that obese people sign up for Weight Watchers since obesity affects interstate commerce.

First up, Richard Stengel:
RICHARD STENGEL, TIME MAGAZINE: Justice Vincent's opinion about Obamacare, saying that the government can't regulate inactivity and that we're stretching the Commerce Clause too far. I mean, I think it's kind of silly. Everything having to do with healthcare does cross state boundaries. Even that notion of the Commerce Clause as regulating among the states is a kind of antiquarian idea. The government can ask you to do things. It asks us to --

WILL: It's not asking us, it's mandating.

STENGEL: It asks us to pay our taxes. It asks us to register for the draft. It asks us to buy car insurance if we want to drive our car around.

Holy fucking shit! FLG has read the Constitution, so he knows that the Constitution provides explicitly for the these powers. Congress, for example, "shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excise." Crystal clear. It is an enumerated power.

The draft isn't explicitly mentioned, but congress has the power to "provide for the common Defence," "To raise and support Armies," "To provide and maintain a Navy," "To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces," "To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions," and "to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress."

Car insurance is a state issue, not a federal one, so it avoids constitutional issues. (Although, people drive across state lines everyday and its arguably even more integral to interstate commerce than health care.)

Look, FLG gets the argument for why health care reform falls under the concept of regulating commerce "among the several States." But the question about where the slippery slope ends is valid. Never before has the federal government required that a citizen buy a private product, and if that line is crossed, then where precisely does power stop?

And the answer seems to be, well, it doesn't have a limit. To repeat, Stengel says, "Even that notion of the Commerce Clause as regulating among the states is a kind of antiquarian idea."

And then you get to Dyson, whom FLG is sad to admit is a Georgetown professor, who says, "If they decide that they will, they will have the power to do so."

The most generous reading FLG can give this statement involves lazy pronoun use, such that Dyson really meant:
If the [Supreme Court] decide that [Congress] will [have the power], [Congress] will have the power to do so.

That's at least some sort of limit. Institutional checks and balances.

But if you watch the video, the way they are arguing, it doesn't seem as if that's the case. It seems as if both Stengel and Dyson are contemptuous of enumerated and limited powers as some relic of the past that is standing the way of obvious progress.

FLG feels like he's in fucking crazy town. There are looney people on TV.

Mythic Manufacturing

FLG, unlike Ryan Avent, was not surprised by the vote tally over at the Economist's debate on the importance of manufacturing to an economy. Slightly more than 3/4th of people believe an economy cannot succeed without a big manufacturing base.

FLG has written about this before many times, but he hears stuff like this all the time from pundits, business executives, his classmates, and people on the street. "We don't make stuff in America anymore. We need to make stuff."

But then if you ask one of these people who have just made these very sober, thoughtful, and serious statements whether they'd rather their kids be a plumber or scientist, carpenter or lawyer, factory worker or doctor, they, pretty much without exception, say banker, lawyer, and doctor. Well, guess what? Scientist, lawyers, and doctors don't make anything. Even engineers don't really make anything themselves. They design things. To take the example from Free Exchange post, Apple's engineers don't actually build the iPods.

While economies aren't people, the United States is better off if its citizens have a lifestyle closer to that of a lawyer or doctor, .i.e service providers, than somebody who "makes stuff."

There are only two problems with the lack of a large manufacturing base in an economic. First, the geopolitical fact that without a large manufacturing base it's hard to win wars. However, this is a question of manufacturing output, which is still very high the United States, not a question of manufacturing employment, which is how most people intuitively approach the issue of manufacturing. Second, is that the skill level associated with services is relatively more bimodal, and thus more unequal, than manufacturing. A person with limited education can acquire skills in manufacturing and move up from low-skill to medium- or high-skill labor over time. With services, at the high-end, you have doctors, accountants, lawyers, management consultants, bankers, etc, all of whom are highly-educated, but then at the low-end you have gardeners, custodial staff, and the seemingly ubiquitous manicure places. You can't go from manicures to management consulting as part of a career path.

This isn't to say that it's easy or smooth to go from low-skill labor to high-skill labor, but one can see a path where a person is hired to do day labor, they then get to do some rough carpentry, and then move up to more highly-skilled finish carpentry over time as part of their career. You don't go from gardening to lawyering as part of a career. High-end services require years of formal education, often graduate degrees. So, the fear that we have a bimodal economy of gardeners and retail associates serving bankers and lawyers isn't entirely unjustified.

The only exception, and it's a big exception, is IT. It's definitely possible for somebody with a bit of technical skill to get into a career path where they are a highly-skilled programmer or system administrator.

And to be honest, it's not clear that a shift towards more services, wouldn't result in a mid-level service sector emerging.

Compound Words

Of all the parts of the English language, the one FLG feels he has little to no grasp of, it's compound words. Are there any rules at all or is it one random jumble?

Why checkup, but follow-up?

Why drive-in, but sellout?

Why run-on and show-off, but takeoff?

None of it makes any sense. So, FLG's approach is pretty much just to wing it. Generally speaking, FLG includes the hyphen unless he happens to know the commonly accepted spelling omit it.

In fact, FLG objects to the idea that spelling a compound word with a hyphen should ever be considered incorrect. Take-off is just as clear as takeoff, maybe more so. Same for sell-out and check-up. Drivein, on the other hand, looks weird because the first word ends and second word begins with vowels. So, the opposite case, removing a hyphen is not optimal.

So, be liberal with your hyphens, and let's leave crazy-long-unhyphenated-words to the Germans.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Question For The Day

Can a blog jump the shark?

Because FLG is thinking about replacing Mrs. Garrett with Cloris Leachman here at Fear and Loathing in Georgetown.

Quote of the day

Henry Olsen:
Very conservative Republicans favor rhetorically aggressive champions of conservative ideology. Somewhat-conservative Republicans, on the other hand, tend to prefer established candidates — people who, while generally in agreement with ideological conservatives in their positions on the issues, are not as strident when it comes to ideology, rhetoric, or temperament.

Via Lexington.

This reminds FLG of the time when he got into a debate about overheated conservative talk radio rhetoric with Withywindle (and maybe Mrs. P).

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

FLG Wants A Greek Epithet

As FLG has mentioned before, the Hellenistic world had such great descriptive names:

Antigonus I Monophthalmus (one-eyed)
His son, Demetrius I Poliorcetes (who was a good general, but Poliorcetes "Besieger" was applied for his several unsuccessful siege attempts)

And then you've got the Ptolemies:
Ptolemy I Soter (Savior)
Ptolemy Keraunos (Thunder)
Ptolemy VIII Physcon (Potbelly)
Ptolemy XII Auletes (Flute player)

Then again, FLG won't be so particular to demand a Greek epithet. FLG Magnus. FLG the Red. He'd lobby for FLG the Pious, but doubts it would stick. Perhaps FLG il Magnifico. Or better yet, FLG le Débonnaire. Yes, that's it.

From now on, in formal documents such as histories, geographies, and royal decrees, FLG will demand to be referred to as FLG le Débonnaire.

FLG is currently listening to



Which reminds FLG of a question he likes to ask people that he's posted as a reader poll...

Quote of the day

Zvi Bodie:
The length of your time horizon has nothing to do with your willingness to take risk. Stock are just as risky in the long run as they are in the short run.

This quotation reminded FLG of a comment Andrew Stevens made on this blog a while back arguing that making risk decisions based on age was questionable. Risk decisions should be made on a person's risk tolerance.

Anyway, FLG just read Bodie's book. In it he argues that the best way to save for retirement, at least to save the minimum necessary funds, is to use TIPS and I bonds. Basically, Bodie says, don't leave anything to chance, instead of assuming average rates of return for a diversified portfolio, just figure out how much you need for retirement and then back into a savings plan in inflation protected treasury bonds. It's one that almost certainly requires more than what a equity-based plan would, but with the added benefit of zero risk. (Assuming Uncle Sam doesn't default, obviously.) Makes sense and all.

Previously, FLG had always figured he'd use TIPS as a way to hedge against inflation while in retirement, not for retirement, but he may need to reconsider that. Then again, FLG is pretty accepting of risk. Maybe too accepting.

UPDATE: One product that FLG did learn about from the book was a CD that returns the rate of private college tuition inflation. Sounds great, until you realize they take a 1.5% margin on the return. Nevertheless, FLG think about this.

Wait Just A Gosh Darn Second

Via Phoebe, FLG read Dan Drezner's tenure denial account.

For FLG, it mostly just reinforced how fucked up the entire academic job market is, which at root is fucked up because of the tenure system of lifetime employment. It's entirely alien to FLG, who has always felt like if he didn't switch jobs every 2 years or so and it seems even employers every 4-6, then he feels stagnant. He needs new colleagues, new ideas, new ways of doing things. The idea of spending his entire life doing the same job at the same place makes his skin crawl.

Oh, sure. He gets why there is tenure and it makes sense to him. He also get that professors are always studying new and different topics. They collaborate with colleagues from other institutions. They take sabbaticals, take visiting scholarships.

But he thinks 1) academics could do with some reshuffling every once and a while and 2) the current system is deeply broken for the countless numbers of adjuncts out there.

But FLG is getting off-topic. All he had intended to respond to was this:
I'm a full professor at the oldest school of international affairs in the country.

Drezner is a full professor at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Incidentally, FLG has noticed that the school is referring to itself more and more as simply The Fletcher School. Whatever the name, a very well-respected international relations school, but according to the school's website, FLG's emphasis:
Since 1933, The Fletcher School has prepared the world's leaders to become innovative problem-solvers in government, business and non-governmental organizations with strategic cross-sector networks.

Here's the SFS' website:
The Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS), founded in 1919, is a premier school of international affairs.

In fairness, FLG thinks Drezner's confusion arises out of The Fletcher School's oft made claim that it is the oldest exclusively graduate school of international affairs in the country, which is sort of like winning a Grammy for Best Performance by an Orchestra or Instrumentalist with Orchestra – Primarily Not Jazz or for Dancing.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Quote of the day

Alpheus:
People who really love history will still watch dreck about Nostradamus and Nazi occultism on the History Channel, but people who don’t care much about history wouldn’t tune in for anything too “heavy.”

Independence Day Barbecue

While FLG is on the Independence Day kick, you're probably wondering what's happening on his grill.  Great question, take a look:

Now, you're probably asking, "FLG, what sort of BBQ sauce do you use?"

To which FLG replies, "Don't be silly. Ain't no sauce on there. Them's There's Memphis-style dry rub ribs. That beautiful color is a beautiful bark from low heat and a combination of hickory, mesquite, and apple wood smoke."

Happy Independence Day Again!

This time from Miss FLG:

Happy Independence Day!

FLG is currently listening to

Saturday, July 2, 2011

FLG Is All For Knowing History

But this may be going too far:
France seems to believe that the Berbers may be the rebel force most likely to reach Tripoli first. The Berbers, and their southern cousins, the nomadic Tuareg, were the original inhabitants of North Africa (west of Egypt). The Berbers and Tuareg are related to the ancient Egyptians. The Romans knew the Berber Tuareg as the Numidians, who formed the core of Hannibal's Carthaginian army that ravaged Italy during the First Punic War.

Are they going to take Tripoli on horseback?

FLG Would Like To Mention

...to those of you who are concerned he might be getting all sophisticated, what with his downloading books from the canon, that last night he watched Jackass 3.5 and laughed his ass off.

Friday, July 1, 2011

In Case You Didn't Know: Reihan Salam Had Nothing At All To Do With The Anti-Saccharine Society

For those searching for information on the Anti-Saccharine Society, look to this old article in The Economist. It had nothing at all to do with Reihan Salam.

Although, FLG must admit that there is some measure of just deserts in the misinforming answer.

Krugman And Time Horizons

Paul Krugman was over at Cambridge giving a speech on Keynes and almost as if to prove FLG's Time Horizons theory begins (jump to the 7 min mark or so) by discussing Chapter 12 of The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, which is entitled "The State of Long Run Expectations." Krugman describes the fundamental theme as "Nobody knows anything about the long run future, but they adopt conventions to convince themselves that they know something and every once and while those conventions collapse and wild things happens."

And then, dear readers, Mr. Krugman says, at around the 10 minute mark, Keynes himself argued that the book is all about the instability of long run expectations. HOWEVER, Krugman then says it doesn't matter. What matters to him is Part I.

This leads to the question -- what's in Part I? Basically, part I is concerned with how classical economics' assumptions, which FLG would argue reflect a long run interpretation, can be wrong and that this justifies intervention:
The celebrated optimism of traditional economic theory, which has led to economists being looked upon as Candides, who, having left this world for the cultivation of their gardens, teach that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds provided we will let well alone, is also to be traced, I think, to their having neglected to take account of the drag on prosperity which can be exercised by an insufficiency of effective demand. For there would obviously be a natural tendency towards the optimum employment of resources in a Society which was functioning after the manner of the classical postulates. It may well be that the classical theory represents the way in which we should like our Economy to behave. But to assume that it actually does so is to assume our difficulties away.

See, but the most fascinating thing for FLG is how Krugman dismisses Keynes' argument that we shouldn't concern ourselves with the long run because we our ability to predict it is nil, and instead says that Keynes' tools for analyzing the economy in the short run is the more important. This is where Krugman really proves FLG's Theory that conservatives are more concerned with the long run and liberals the short. For Krugman, the argument about the short versus long run is pretty much self-evident. In the long run, we are all dead. Why are we even having this argument. Let's get to the important stuff, like how to manage the short run economy.
 
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