Monday, December 23, 2013

Hodgepodge

My first thought on posting today was to mention Barry Ritholtz's article at Bloomberg on the subsidizing of corporations, namely Wal-Mart. I hadn't thought of a title yet. Having had enough coffee, my next idea was a discussion of Christmas, namely by way of the Christ myth theory. Then I thought about including several links, such as I have done, and calling the whole post Hodgepodge. And there it is. But what delights me most, loving words as I do, is the citation from the inestimable Etymonline on the origin of this word. Check that out here. Then read Ritholtz's article.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Is violence rational?

I've been following the great lawyer-journalist Glenn Greenwald for a while, in fact long before the NSA Affair was brought to light with his help. (That's establishing with some upper lip that I am hip to other channels). Here's a good, short and recently posted interview at a mainstream one, Esquire.

Preface aside, I found this quote in my files. One can debate how far causation runs, but there's no denying, to me at least, that this is indeed a major taboo, if not the greatest.

"The greatest taboo in American political culture is to suggest that America bears any blame or responsibility for the fact that people around the world hate us and want to do violence for [sic] us; that's the prohibited question, is: what have we done, what are we doing, that causes this animosity to exist."
AntiWar Radio (17:54)
The subtext or implication is another question, that of whether violence is rational or not. If planned, in a court of law we say that it is pre-meditated, and as such thus not by reason of insanity. It's important to note that rational does not mean "just" or "moral", but whether it is in proportion. See ratio.

From this, is violence rational? I fall back on the trite phrase "it depends". Self-defense of one's home seems to me to be so, whereas flying planes into buildings does not, especially under the influence of religious idiocy.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Edits, hiding

There's a great article at the Guardian on the editing of history, in this case recent North Korean history. It reminds me of this 2004 debate of which there should be no debate...

Addendum: here's a good article at Acting Man on the 'airbrushed uncle'.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Balance

The following is found in the collection Sunlight Here I Am: Interviews & Encounters, published by Sun Dog Press. The original piece appeared in the LA Free Press, Oct. 31 1975 issue.

This is an excellent encapsulation -- hence, posted here.

[Charles] Bukowski: What moved me to the typewriter was just sheer desperation. I had these dog jobs, and my time was being invested in another man's game. He had my life...8, 10, 12 hours...

[Ben] Pleasants: But other writers have done that, too. Didn't you see the possibility of working that con game, too?

Bukowski: I didn't know what other writers had done. I just had to take those extra couple of hours, get the beer out, and to balance what was happening to me.

[Steve] Richmond: It's got a lot to do with making your own answers to survive. You know, you read a book and there's no answer there. There's nothing worth surviving for in what you read. Nothing worth surviving for in what you see in the streets. So you go to the typewriter and you create something, and it becomes the only thing worth surviving for.

Bukowski: Exactly it.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Naturally the people

I had planned on writing about a Bukowski quote on work/life, but today I will paste for my record an excellent reminder from the historical one, and return to Buk another day.

Göring: Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.

Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.

Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Lost docs

If I had the time and the toner, I'd print everything onto archival paper. I thought, I wrote, I archived -- often in Microsoft Word, saving the file of course rather than printing it. The joke, as I like to tell it, is that cuneiform tablets > hard drives. I hadn't thought of the archival disaster that awaited these .doc files. How would I read them in the future? Or anyone? No copy of Word 97 on the shelf...

Joking aside, I'm glad I found this post by Peter Hansteen during a day's BSD wanderings. Forthwith I made it a mission to preserve what I could of the old files.

I tried Antiword and Apache's Tika, but neither of these could extract the text from every file. Enter the primitive lasting last. 

for i in $(ls ./WordDocs/doc/*.doc); do strings $i > $i.txt; done;

As the manual page for strings notes:
The algorithm for identifying strings is extremely primitive.
That said, plain text is better than no text. Hmm, there's a line. 

 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mark-to-unicorn

Great phrase from John Hussman found here. He's talking about accounting, but I think it goes well with Sowell's comment from my previous post, regarding the manipulation of reality. Hussman writes:
In hindsight, the crisis ended - precisely - on March 16, 2009, when the Financial Accounting Standards Board abandoned FAS 157 “mark-to-market” accounting, in response to Congressional pressure from the House Committee on Financial Services on March 12, 2009. That change immediately removed the threat of widespread insolvency by making insolvency opaque. [italics mine] My impression is that much of the market’s confidence and oversensitivity to quantitative easing stems from misattribution of the initial recovery to QE. This has created a nearly self-fulfilling superstition that links the level of stock prices directly to the size of the Fed's balance sheet, despite the absence of any reliable or historically demonstrable transmission mechanism that relates the two with any precision at all. 

The FOMC certainly had a part in creating a low-interest rate environment that provoked a reach-for-yield and a gush of demand for securities backed by mortgage lending of increasingly poor credit quality (I’ll note in passing that new issuance of “covenant lite” debt has now eclipsed the pre-crisis peak largely due to the same yield-seeking). Still, it may ease the burden of power to consider the likelihood that the actions of the Federal Reserve – though clearly supportive of the mortgage market – were not responsible for the recovery. One can thank the FASB for that, provided we’re all comfortable with the reduced transparency that results from mark-to-model and mark-to-unicorn accounting.
Balzac said in the 19th century, behind every great fortune there is a crime. Today, behind every great obfuscation there is a purpose.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Omnipotent moral busybodies

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

-- C.S. Lewis

"[Intellectuals] really have an enormous virtuosity in the use of words, and I think it's a fatal talent, because it can keep you from facing realities. You can always find some clever way to wish the reality away."

-- Thomas Sowell

The latter gem and its context can be heard here. The former can be read here. I am not a Christian apologist, for I am not a Christian, but the Lewis observation is sound on this note.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cashless

Harvard University President Emeritus Larry Summers spoke during a panel discussion on financial crises at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Jacques Polak Annual Research Conference in Washington, Nov. 8, 2013.

We could also move to a cashless society where all money is electronic. This would make it impossible to hoard cash outside the bank."

Think about the implications here. Here's one that comes to mind: control.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Labor camp survivor tells his story

Listened to an interview with Harry Wu on PRI today. I couldn't leave my car until it was over. Powerful story, even if briefly told.

Wu expressed skepticism that the camps will actually close or that political prisoners will be released. "China is a Communist regime. As Communists, they need a repression system," said Wu. "If you disagree or are against the Community policy, you'll get sent to the labor camps."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Noisy negativists

SETI: Silly Effort To Investigate

"There are four basic rules for the noisy negativists:

1. What the public doesn't know, I'm not gonna tell 'em.
2. Don't bother me with the facts; my mind's made up.
3. If you can't attack the data, attack the people; it's easier.
4. Do your research by proclamation; investigation's too much trouble
and nobody'll know the difference anyway."

--Stanton Friedman, from the Cryptic Knowledge podcast on BlogTalkRadio.com

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The last act

These lines by Francis Quarles encapsulate so much.

Epigram. Respice Finem (1635).

My soul, sit thou a patient looker-on;
Judge not the play before the play is done:
Her plot hath many changes; every day
Speaks a new scene; the last act crowns the play.
    h/t Chris Date

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

    Aesthetosphere

    Outstanding poetry over at Aesthetosphere
    Great writing and translations, Beth -- a pleasure to read.