Friday, February 28, 2014

Bitcoin

FLG had meant to write something about Bitcoin at some point, but Megan McArdle articulated his stance exactly:
I’ve never been very bullish on Bitcoin, because ultimately, the better it performs at evading government surveillance of currency transactions (and government ability to manage debt loads via inflation), the harder those governments are going to try to shut it down. And it turns out that governments are very good at shutting down these sorts of … call them financial workarounds … because they can order the banks and payment networks that service the vast regular economy to refuse to take Bitcoins or take payments from companies that do take Bitcoins. What governments have done to online poker and offshore banking havens, they can do to Bitcoin vendors.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Priceless

FLG is confounded by how he didn't learn of this site earlier.

In a statement to the United Nations Security Council on Monday, President Barack Obama gave a heartfelt apology for what he called the “tragic and brutal” actions which will be taken by American troops in the wars of the future.
...
 Many of Obama’s supporters counter that by taking such a proactive stance, Obama is seeking to bolster America’s image among potential future allies in Libya and Iran.

FLG almost collapsed his spleen from laughter at this one:
Washington-area police have issued an Amber Alert and are seeking the public’s help in locating a missing 238-year old foreign policy for the United States. 
When last seen it was speaking softly and carrying a big stick.

Quote of the day

The Cave and the Light (p. 293):
[S]cratch your average conspiracy theorist and you'll probably find a renegade Platonist underneath.

For FLG, Platonist and recovering conspiracy theorist, this strikes close to home.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Quote of the day

Megan McArdle:
A modern society cannot be run with an org chart that has Batman filling all its key roles.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Cave and the Light

FLG is about halfway through The Cave and the Light.  As you can imagine, he's enjoying it.

FLG does quibble a bit with Herman's interpretation of Plato, and not surprisingly this relates to time horizons.    At one point, Herman argues that Plato is concerned about the eternal while Aristotle is concerned about the hear and now.  FLG agrees with that.  But then, not too long later, Herman changes this, largely based upon the story of Atlantis in Timaeus, that Plato's philosophy is focused on what has been lost, while Aristotle's is focused on the future.  FLG isn't so sure about that exactly.

FLG largely attributes this to a mild Aristotelian bias, which is to be expected among people who hold PhDs.  It's fascinating to FLG because he thinks a lot of his frustration with academics can be attributed to the Aristotelian bias among academics, the origins of which he had a decent idea, bu the book is detailing.  As Herman explains about Aquinas, his overriding concern is whether "what I have said is true or not."    FLG, in his more uncharitable moments, describes this among academics as a morbid fear of being wrong.  It's not that FLG objects to wanting to say what is true, but rather that he rejects the idea that only what can be demonstrated in material reality is objectively true.   It also, as a practical matter, severely limits what they can comment upon and make claims about.

The book has also gotten FLG pondering a few other things.  First, his fascination with Chartres is probably a product of his fascination with Plato, as the design is directly inspired by Neoplatonism and the concomitant fixation on geometry. Second, FLG has never really delved too deeply into the divergence of Neoplatonism from Plato himself beyond the influence of Christianity; however, he never really considered the impact of the Neoplatonists not having access to much of Plato's work beyond Timaeus.  Lastly, and a bit of a non sequitur, gonzo journalism.

When Hunter S. Thompson said, "Objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long. You can't be objective about Nixon,"  it reminds FLG of Aristotle misunderstood.  Journalists in their desire to just report the facts is futile quest to remain empirical without value, but that is not something Aristotle would have understood.   The empirical facts point toward some higher order, although for Aristotle that higher order was limited by what could be demonstrated in Nature, while for Plato the Good was beyond the material world.   And so FLG realizes that the same thing that makes the Allegory of the Cave so alluring is also the same thing that that makes gonzo journalism so appealing to him as well, but he thinks Plato would disagree.

PS.  Update.  Sorry, FLG meant to mention some of this before, but forgot.    Roger Kimball's review is accurate.   Herman does take a crowbar to the distinctions between Plato and Aristotle and then runs a bit too far with it.  Also, he seems to jump around chronologically as well for the same reason.  To create a diametrically opposed dialectic between the two thinkers throughout the ages.   But FLG is forgiving in the context of some dramatic licence to move the narrative along.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Daddy Issues Revisited

Long-time readers may remember that FLG wrote this a few years ago:
FLG has a long-standing theory that ambitious men are, with few exceptions, the offspring of abusive or absent fathers. 

A column by Peggy Noonan about Diane Blair's notes about the Clintons reminded him of his theory, not that he forgot it per se, but it just hasn't been at the forefront of his mind lately:
 the Blair papers remind us that in the past quarter-century the office of the presidency has become everyone's psychotherapy. There is an emphasis on the personality, nature, character and charisma of the president. He gets into dramas. He survives them. He is working out his issues. He is avenging childhood feelings of powerlessness. He is working through his ambivalence at certain power dynamics. He will show dad.

 FLG really needs to sit down and write a post looking at the Father-Son relationship of every president.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Warthog

J. Furman Daniel, III:
The A-10 is a tried and true design that has served our nation well.  In an era of increasingly complex, expensive, and troubled weapons procurement, it is essential to have some systems that are solid and reliable. With only modest changes to the original design, the A-10 has been upgraded to meet the challenges of the future and deliver its trademark firepower, durability, survivability, and persistence to battlefield hotspots for decades to come.

FLG concurs wholeheartedly.  Also, Mr. Daniel is a Georgetown alumnus and general badass, almost as badass as an A-10.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Quote of the day II

Buttonwood:
In the US in 2010, the top 25 hedge-fund managers earned four times as much as the top S&P 500 CEOs put together.

FLG isn't terribly concerned about inequality, but does think a lot of the remuneration in finance is based on gaming the system or taking huge risks at other peoples' expense.  In any case, that quote is a bit shocking to FLG.

Quote of the day

Fuck the EU!

Love it.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Lost In Translation

Walter Russel Mead:
democracy advocates can address one of the biggest fault lines in our allegedly flat world: People who don't read English or a handful of other languages live in a different information universe. John Locke, Edmund Burke, Thomas Macaulay, Montesquieu, Thomas Paine, Adam Smith, Benjamin Franklin —the works of these thinkers need to be well-translated and widely available. People who read only Urdu, Burmese, Arabic or Punjabi need readily accessible editions (cheap print or Web-based) of important books in their own languages so that people beyond elite circles have access to the ideas and the histories that matter.

This idea appeals to FLG so strongly that he almost circles all the way around to complete and utter skepticism that it would ever work.  But damn does he love the idea.
 
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