Friday, October 31, 2014

He is a bold surgeon

"He is a bold surgeon, they say, whose hand does not tremble when he performs an operation upon his own person; and he is often equally bold who does not hesitate to pull off the mysterious veil of self-delusion, which covers from his view the deformities of his own conduct."  -- Adam Smith

Sunday, October 19, 2014

''Everything he'd worked for all his life was gone''

Good article in Rolling Stone here on an Ohio town that is not doing well. The hypocrisy of Kasich & Co. reducing the public school budget and yet subsidizing charter schools with state funds is disgusting, considering as well that their donors are behind the charter schools.

This is well-described:
Jordan was an all-state high school and Division One college wrestling champion, and he still moves like a jock, angling for a position where he can keep one eye on me and the other on the clock.
Unfortunately the author neglects to mention an effect of 'Obamacare':
McKenzie currently does tech support in the call center at WatchTV, an Ohio Internet-cable provider. He works an average of 24 hours a week and makes $9 an hour. Though he'd like to work 40 hours a week, he's been told repeatedly that full-time employment isn't available, and even at 30 hours, his company would have to pay him benefits [due to a provision of 'Obamacare'].
Would more companies hire without this provision?

This made me laugh:
''You don't come out and say you're a Democrat if you want to be successful,'' says Marc, a bearded, easy-going guy who says he had one customer who, assuming they were all on the same page, told him point-blank that he'd never spend money in a ''liberal'' establishment.
The customer's reaction is a straight parroting of Limbaugh. That he can't recognize it for himself...

It would be good to know of any corresponding increase or decrease in population:
Since 2008, the number of Allen County residents receiving food stamps has nearly doubled, from 8,973 in 2008 to 16,676 today, even as jobs have slowly returned to the area. In part, this is due to the stigma around food stamps having lessened thanks to the recession, but in general, ''it's a matter of wages,'' says Fox of the Lima Allen Council on Community Affairs. ''Are their wages enough to provide for their family and pay for their bills? No.''
For more data on this topic, Doug Short has posted interesting work here (see Earnings, Income & Net Worth).
Dukes complains that some of her customers who receive government assistance use it on luxury items. ''They don't work, and they're walking in with, like, Michael Kors purses and getting their hair done.'' On the other hand, the group agrees, just about everyone is cheating the government, somehow. ''Either I'm using government assistance to get a Samsung Five, or I'm taking advantage of tax loopholes and paying 15 percent of my taxes instead of 35,'' says Marc. ''Everyone is taking advantage of the system.''
''The problem is that if you grow up in, say, a lower-income family, your options are extremely limited,'' says Carissa. It doesn't matter what kind of grades you get in high school, she notes, as college is now a luxury for most people. And even with a college degree, then what? ''It used to be you go to college, get married, have children – you did the right things, and then you'd be guaranteed some kind of future,'' she says. ''But the whole pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps American-dream thingy . . . that's kind of mythology at this point. To me, it's like a winning lottery ticket.''
I think of the Chaffinses, who embodied that ideal until, suddenly, they didn't. Even Dewey, the patriarch who'd set out from Kentucky intent on changing his family's fortunes, was defeated in the end. Soon after he retired in 2002, his company's Lima division went bankrupt and workers lost most of their pensions. That September, six months after retiring, Dewey died of lung cancer at 62, though his son Scott believes he also suffered a broken heart. ''Losing his and Mom's pensions, that was tragic for him,'' says Scott. ''Everything he'd worked for all his life was gone.''

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sinking in

I'm relaying a few topics on which others can speak better than I [can speak].

First is an article on Acting Man by Keith Weiner. He is an Objectivist (a follower of Ayn Rand). I am not, so I don't think that corporations are good a priori, which is the implied flip-side of the coin[age] of his well-observed second paragraph. I am not a follower, due to ignorance, however. Note the comma, first. (I've read none of Rand's works)*.

He also omits that DARPA, a gov't agency, was the main sponsor of what became the Internet. Be that as it may, his article is worth reading for its dispelling of some common myths. And then: "The bond is payable only in dollars. The dollar is the liability of the Fed, backed by the Fed’s assets—which are primarily government bonds. Let that sink in."

Did you learn this in school? I didn't. So by writing this, I am attempting to understand...

The second topic is that of a rising interest rate. Given that the rate has to be low for the reasons alluded to above, I've worked out the following:

1. The government spends more than it takes in. The obvious corollary is that taxes don't cover expenses. Thus, the gov't has to get money from elsewhere, namely by borrowing it. And it's better to borrow at a low interest rate.
2. The Fed then lends the gov't money, aka 'Federal Reserve Notes', in return for bonds as collateral, or what seems to be the purchase of bonds. Important: it's collateral in that the debt is not extinguished. The bonds are to pay interest, so that the Treasury owes the Fed for the money it is lent. And it's better to pay back little interest, than a lot.
3. So how to keep interest low? Since the higher the bond price, the lower the rate, it's good to have a high price. And how to get higher prices? By keeping the demand for bonds high. And how to do that, but by buying bonds...

Does your brain hurt too? This may not be correct. In about 13 minutes I'll be drinking wine. And I didn't comment on this speech by Dallas Fed president Richard Fisher, or this article by financial manager Bill Bonner. But please, reader, read.

* Big Sister Is Watching You

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Algorithmic journeys

Fascinating video series that I have just begun to watch, entitled Four Algorithmic Journeys. "I. Spoils of the Egyptians: How elementary properties of commutativity and associativity of addition and multiplication led to fundamental algorithmic and mathematical discoveries."

Skip to about 4 minutes in to bypass the academic preliminaries. Stepanov mentions that Thomas Jefferson wanted potential U.Va. students to master Euclid, as an admissions criterion. Fancy that today...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"Right and left"

I found some time today to delve back into EconTalk, a podcast I've always enjoyed for its thoughtful discussion, but haven't listened to lately on account of a new job and such.

Here's another worthwhile episode:
Yuval Levin, author of The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left, talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas of Burke and Paine and their influence on the evolution of political philosophy. Levin outlines the differing approaches of the two thinkers to liberty, authority, and how reform and change should take place. Other topics discussed include Hayek's view of tradition, Cartesian rationalism, the moral high ground in politics, and how the "right and left" division of American politics finds its roots in the debates of these thinkers from the 1700s.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Doing stuff, tooling around

Phil Factor (which is a phunny name for a database guy, I admit) wrote another good article, called On Managing and Doing Stuff.
The titans of industry that founded the modern age didn’t just sit around sending each other emails (we called them Memos then), but they did stuff. This didn’t often merely involve talking loudly and waving their hands about, but really doing things.
The comments are as interesting. I don't usually read comments on articles, but in this case, they are few, and because they're on a technical site, generally cogent. (Well, try that in, say, an overclocking forum).
The essence of your article I take to be this – education is no substitute for experience.
I agree, but theory is also worthwhile, because it makes experience, at least of a technical nature, more enjoyable. It's satisfying to know, simply put. We can know through experience, of course, but also we can know through understanding, which are not synonymous.

For example, this from SQL expert Joe Celko:
In file systems, each magnetic tape or disk pack was physically and logically separate from the other files in the enterprise. It was the restrictions of those "silos of data" that provided the motivation for developing databases. Enterprises were like a man with a thousand mechanical watches and clocks who then suddenly needs to have them all synchronized and accurate to a micro-second. Oops! Impossible.
Data modeling is related to, but not actually part, of RDBMS. In an ideal world (especially if you are a data modeler or a enterprise level DBA who wants full employment) your entire enterprise would have a single, honking big data model, most of which could be programmed into a database. It leads to the idea that data elements have one, and only one, name and one definition over the entire enterprise or (better) the entire industry (i.e. VIN applies to all automobiles in the world).
At a basic level, we divide tables into those that either model entities or model relationships among those entities. A table cannot do both at once, please. SQL does not have explicit syntax for these concepts, so you have to do it yourself. The way you do this is with a relational key. Yes, you can declare a "table" in SQL without a key at all, in violation of the relational model. This means that you have a file system that happens to be written in SQL. This misses the whole point of RDBMS, and costs you all the advantages we gained from replacing file systems.
In my professional life I've seen many tables without keys, but I hadn't considered until I read this that they fall short of what they should be. When the theory isn't applied, we have a devolved tool. And yet we rush to the next shiny tool, thinking it must be It (or is that IT, ha). And then we spend too many hours in inefficient ways, down the road.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ghost cities

With the World Cup over, and thus having to wait four more years... I might as well comment that it was a great Cup to watch, though I spared myself wincing at Brazil's trouncing by Germany, 1-7. In the meantime, I get to see Tottenham on Saturday, playing the Sounders.

Aside, here's a great post by Wade Shepard on China's ghost cities, so-called, and the American media's failure to see them anew. Plus there's a hilarious clip at the end of O'Reilly and company showing their usual idiocy.

Propaganda in many guises, mind.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The length of a meter

Fascinating interview with Sandeep Jaitly at Ignoranti. Does the act of writing law induce corruption, more than a common law tradition of an unwritten social contract? 

Is value only something which exists in our consciousness? What is marketability? Etc. etc.

Meanwhile, 96Gb of FLAC and counting. Getting close though. I'll likely use MusicBrainz Picard to tag them, initially, since it is capable of audio fingerprinting, if CDDB didn't find a match during the ripping phase.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Weighing in

Here's a good article by Keith Weiner on wages:
Workers’ wages buy less and less. In fact, workers have lost purchasing power during the past half-century. Comparing prices to wages, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose more than six times from 1965 to 2011—while the minimum wage rose less than five times. Professionals also suffered. According to the Engineering Workforce Commission, a senior engineer’s salary has gone up about five and a half times. In short, workers work longer to earn money to buy the same goods. Today’s minimum wage employee works 12 percent longer to earn a gallon of milk compared to 1965, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Today’s senior engineer works almost twice as long to buy a gallon of gasoline, according to the Department of Energy. So, in real terms, wages have fallen. The drop is larger than it appears. Look at costs to see why.
What should be the minimum wage for an engineer? 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The just in justice

Who determines a minimum wage, anyway? People have different desires and needs, beyond the basics; they have different levels of debt to service. Setting a price for labor seems as arbitrary as setting a minimum price for a laptop. What is 'just' enough? Again, putting a number to justice is a fallacy, it seems to me. But we cling to it with our emotions, feeling that the labor we put into it imparts value. 

In one area, I think this is true: art. And by that, artifice, in the sense of its etymology, "workmanship, the making of anything by craft or skill." While I appreciate Kandinsky and moreso Magritte, Caravaggio or Michaelangelo take the cake. There is craft there that doesn't exist in the former artists; there is greater skill. In other words, I find that there is greater technical ability. And so to me, their works have greater value because that kind of skill is rare. And scarce abilities should result in higher wages, which any premier architect exemplifies. But who determines his or her 'price'?

In an industrial age of indistinct copies and homogenous forms, where is the value? We recognize the absurd pretension in 'crafted laptop' for good reason. And yet we like 'craft beer.' I do. Hence the craving now for all things crafted.
Productivity increases through technology is [sic] far better than hiring physical employees in excess of current demands. As such, there is currently little incentive to increase employment beyond current needs. This suggests that hopes of declining jobless claims leading to sharp ramps in employment and economic growth may be disappointing. More importantly, advances in technology are continually reducing the need for labor in the economy which increases the drag on both employment and wages. 
This from a good post by Lance Roberts. Apart from the Federal Reserve not giving a shit about lower wage earners -- again, it is an institution of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy -- there are structural problems that the raising of the minimum wage is not going to fix. By making unskilled labor more expensive, businesses are going to want to use less of it. If my 'craft beer' is now twice the price, I'm going to drink less of it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Etude regret

A.J. West writes of his time spend as an anthro major --
I regret studying it, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who dislikes obscurantism and sanctimonious anti-scientific pseudo-epistemology.
I add that I regret it too. My time and money could have been much better spent.
It is no wonder anthropology graduates are the least employable of all degree holders given that they learn no real skills in anthropology departments.  And it's not that there are no skills to learn: why not try teaching or studying the methods of historical linguistics, population genetics, and archaeological interpretation?
The archeological interpretation I learned was meager -- in fact only learned in a summer abroad, and it was too compromised by religion at that. Jesus walked here, therefore let's raise these church columns, etc. But more importantly, West continues:
The fact that anthropologists no longer teach students to understand societies like that has two important consequences.  First, anthropology departments no longer do what anthropology departments once did, which is to make sense of human societies not directly connected to one's own and to understand humans in a wide range of socio-cultural milieux.  Second, if anthropologists aren't studying or teaching these issues anymore, then nobody is studying or teaching these issues anymore.  What that means is that entire areas of human life are no longer considered the purview of the academy, and that happens to include - I don't think it's accidental - people who don't live like us, who don't have any of the same fundamental values as us, who aren't or weren't wholly integrated into neo-liberal systems or the world economy.
That is essential. Anyone interested in changing the world should know how important this is! 

And here's a great snippet of an interview with anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon by Franke Miele of Skeptic magazine. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Well, not well

A specimen of language that is, well, not well.
"I think the way we've articulated our thinking about the future of our user growth efforts, [it's] very much in the context of bridging this gap between what seems to be the global awareness and almost ubiquitous presence in the culture about Twitter and migrating that awareness of Twitter into engagement on the platform," Costolo says. 
"I think about us at Twitter as being a public, real-time conversation and that has made us this companion experience to whatever else is happening in your world," he says. 
I think the @ sign is some of the scaffolding that I talk about within Twitter that sometimes makes it harder to navigate in specific cases.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Gibbon does have, in his usage, a felicitous style. Here's a passage which one can find happy or not, depending on how one receives such a style. (He's writing of the succession of the Gordiani).
His manners were less pure [than Gordian I], but his character was equally amiable with that of his father. Twenty-two acknowledged concubines, and a library of sixty-two thousand volumes, attested the variety of his inclinations; and from the productions which he left behind him, it appears that the former as well as the latter were designed for use rather than for ostentation.
Of course this made me smile, but I don't suspect Gibbon of dry humor here, or of winking at the reader, as it were. But the reader can get something out of it that the writer didn't intend. That's happy.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Life and leisure in ancient Rome

This post's title is verbatim from J.P.V.D. Balsdon's book on ancient Rome, which is proving to be a good companion to volume one of Gibbon's Decline and Fall. Whereas Gibbon's focus so far is the political history of the empire, Balsdon's interest is in the quotidian life of Romans: how they told time, how bathing was regarded and in what venues, how morning routines differed among classes, and so on. It's really quite fascinating, for example, to think about what the use of sundials and water clocks does to a view of time.

Here's a great sentence in the chapter The Shape of the Day: "Cicero, for instance, claims never to have taken a siesta as long as he was actively engaged in politics or at the bar." It's amusing and even more so when we note that Cicero was a lawyer.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The five


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cause and effect inequality

It is a basic tenet of science that one must observe in order to reason about cause and effect, but it seems that skill is lacking in most people -- at least, it is not employed by those beholden to an ideology. Find the exact name for it in this taxonomy if you please.

In my post on the appeal beyond numbers, I mentioned the movement in Seattle to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour. This movement in my view confuses cause and effect. Activists do see the effect, but they attribute the cause to something that isn't. Corporations aren't the cause, nor the vague monster of capitalism, or savings-ism. (Capital is savings that can be applied to new ventures). If money were sound and not 'inflated down', wages wouldn't decline in purchasing power and those in the lower quintile wouldn't feel that downward pressure.

Mish has a better handle on it than I do. Inflation exists to benefit the wealthy. (There are great charts as well in that post by Doug Short). This is what the Fed's "mandate" is, though the unstated one of course. And with a focus on benefiting those with first access to money, who can use it to buy other things before the value of money falls for the rest of us... Mish in another post sums it up correctly in my view:
I propose that extreme income inequality is a result, not of excess savings, but as a direct result of the fraudulent nature of the system that benefits those with first access to money.
Low wages are a result but savings (capital) are not the cause, as savings are weakened anyway. Competition is also deflationary. But that's another post.

Addendum: Pater Tenebrarum at Acting Man notes that "in the end the purchasing power of the higher wages would not be greater than before."  

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Woman In Berlin, 5

I asked her if she knew what was going on with their bookstore. "It burned down at the end of April," she answered tersely. Nevertheless she is pretty optimistic about the future and told me about a huge crate of books in the basement that she managed to keep safe throughout the Third Reich -- mostly 'forbidden' literature [...] At first this meant texts by Jews and emigrants, later by opponents of the war. "People have a craving for these things right now," she claims. "We're going to wall off a corner of the store and start a lending library -- with a stiff deposit on the books, of course, or else they'll be gone in no time." I told her I'd be the first to sign up; I have a lot of catching up to do. 
Tuesday May 22 1945

Saturday, March 29, 2014

If no one understands it

"It might work if no one understands it, which is what the elites are hoping."

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The newspeak of our world

When a French leftist student told me with a sincere glow in his eyes that the Gulag was a tax paid for the ideals of socialism and that Solzhenitsyn is just a personally embittered man, he cast me into a deep gloom. Is Europe really incapable of learning from its own history? Can't that dear lad ever understand that even the most promising project of 'general well-being' convicts itself of inhumanity the moment it demands a single involuntary death -- that is, one which is not a conscious sacrifice of a life to its meaning? [...] Did the newspeak of our world so penetrate natural human speech that two people can no longer communicate even such a basic experience? [...]
It seems to me that all of us, East and West, face one fundamental task from which all else should follow. That task is one of resisting vigilantly, thoughtfully and attentively, but at the same time with total dedication, at every step and everywhere, the irrational momentum of anonymous, impersonal and inhuman power --  the power of ideologies, systems, apparat, bureaucracy, artificial languages and political slogans.

Václav Havel, Politics & Conscience 
Prague, February 1984

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ave Caesar

No bitterness: our ancestors did it.
They were only ignorant and hopeful, they wanted freedom but wealth too.
Their children will learn to hope for a Caesar.
Or rather--for we are not aquiline Romans but soft mixed colonists--
Some kindly Sicilian tyrant who'll keep
Poverty and Carthage off until the Romans arrive,
We are easy to manage, a gregarious people,
Full of sentiment, clever at mechanics, and we love our luxuries. 

--Robinson Jeffers

Friday, February 28, 2014

Europe isn't Europe

Propaganda is subtle. It's not always overt, though we can read it plainly.
In western regions - closer to Europe - Ukrainian is the main language and many of the people identify with Central Europe.
This from the BBC report Ukraine crisis in maps. Isn't Ukraine in Europe? "Central Europe" after all...

But no, the geographic entity "Europe" isn't what is meant here. Note the shift from polity to geography in that sentence. "Europe" isn't "Europe". But the protestors were all about "Europe" right?

No. Buried under the amassed mainstream parroting of what the protestors are protesting for, to be in Europe, i.e., the European Union, Tim Stanley at least notes that the situation is more complex.

And examine this account as posted on Mish's blog.
I received an interesting email regarding Ukraine from reader Jacob Dreizin, a US citizen who speaks both Russian and Ukrainian[...]
Addendum: Seumas Milne at the Guardian has a more thorough article on Ukraine's far-right elements.
You'd never know from most of the reporting that far-right nationalists and fascists have been at the heart of the protests and attacks on government buildings. One of the three main opposition parties heading the campaign is the hard-right antisemitic Svoboda, whose leader Oleh Tyahnybok claims that a "Moscow-Jewish mafia" controls Ukraine. But US senator John McCain was happy to share a platform with him in Kiev last month. The party, now running the city of Lviv, led a 15,000-strong torchlit march earlier this month in memory of the Ukrainian fascist leader Stepan Bandera, whose forces fought with the Nazis in the second world war and took part in massacres of Jews.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Snitched on

Saw this tweet today about WhatsApp. Here's the key paragraph:
This is more than a business position for Koum. "I grew up in a society where everything you did was eavesdropped on, recorded, snitched on," he says. "I had friends when we were kids getting into trouble for telling anecdotes about Communist leaders. I remember hearing stories from my parents of dissidents like Andrei Sakharov, sentenced to exile because of his political views, like Solzhenitsyn, even local dissidents who got fed up with the constant bullshit. Nobody should have the right to eavesdrop, or you become a totalitarian state -- the kind of state I escaped as a kid to come to this country where you have democracy and freedom of speech. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

This entry

Listened to this interview today. Read this article today, which reminded me of this speech.

And then I wondered why #JustinComeBackToGermany is trending.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Antiseptic terms for egregious acts

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."  -- Arthur C. Clarke

We call ours a scientific age, though it has not been the only one. We like to pat ourselves on the back for not believing in magic. Yet we do. Rather, we don't even know that it is magic. It is 'progress' or 'reform', whose arcana is best left to the experts who surely must be doing it for us, not them.

They 'like' us. It's for the people, after all.

Keith Weiner notes (italics mine) that
The government offers antiseptic terms for egregious acts. For example, they use the pseudo-academic term “quantitative easing” to refer to the dishonest practice of monetizing the debt. Similarly, they use the dry euphemism “maturity transformation” to refer to borrowing short to lend long, i.e. duration mismatch. Perhaps the term “transmogrification” would be more appropriate, as this is nothing short of magic.
In Rising Rates Spoil The Party, he writes (italics mine) that
It is a strange politically correct world that makes it a taboo to say the simple truth. Unfortunately, freedom of speech in America is slipping—at least on controversial topics that matter. It may still be legal, but there is a very real chilling effect. In a crony system, one’s career is at risk to say the unpopular. So the gentlemen in the club safely confine their discussion to the M1 and M2 measures of the money supply, and the number of angels that can dance on the head of one pin.
On this first part, I recall Bush crony -- er, spokesman -- Ari Fleischer, reminding "all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do." (Does anyone really believe Bush got into Yale because he wasn't a legacy?).

As always, Orwell's Politics and the English Language is worthwhile.
Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent, and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.
Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer.[...]

Monday, February 3, 2014

The appeal beyond numbers

Some things can't be measured, despite the increased quantification of living. They cannot because numbers do not apply. To wit, that rarity in American politics, an avowed socialist, has been elected to the Seattle City Council. According to the NY Times, Kshama Sawant says
If you ask me as a socialist what workers deserve, they deserve the value of what they produce.
This sounds appealing since it does not explain how that value is to be measured. Pertinently, under such a system, it would not be accurately measured at all, but arbitrarily decreed as a 'measure' of justice. But abstract concepts such as justice can't be measured. What is the upper bound? The lower bound? Numbers can't be assigned to these things.

It would be just -- and more to the benefit of the working class -- if people were allowed to work rather than barred from employment because their skill level is below the price level, or wage floor. It's forgotten that the raising of the minimum wage is the raising of the bar. A rising tide doesn't lift all boats; some people will drown.

Mish has several good points on this: 
    The higher the wages, the more pressure there will be on businesses to reduce the overall number of employees by other methods, including hardware and software robots.

    The higher the overall costs (of which wages are a huge component), the fewer the number of stores that will be built.

    When corporations don’t open stores they otherwise would have, construction jobs are lost, shipping jobs are lost, merchandising jobs are lost, corporate income taxes do not rise as they would have, and property tax collection does not rise as it would have.

    Marginal stores will be shut.

    Employees at those marginal stores will be laid off .

    Shut stores pay no corporate income taxes or property taxes.

    Vacant stores are a form of blight. They reduce property tax collection and lower rent prices.
    Marginal store closings and refusal to open new marginal stores will most likely happen in the very neighborhoods most desperately in need of jobs  and services.
I used to be a socialist, so I understand the appeal beyond numbers. Quality isn't quantity, except that in America, quantity is often taken for quality. And a quality job isn't one to be quantified. Still the confusion, indeed.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Woman In Berlin, 4

Since there's only one electric cooker in the apartment, which is useless at the moment, the girls have built a kind of brick oven on the balcony and feed it with laboriously gathered fir branches. It takes forever for them to cook their bit of gruel. [...] Then the long march back home. A poster in German and Russian proclaims the imminent opening of a "free market." By whom? For whom? A "wall paper" -- a newsheet posted on a wall -- announces the new heads of the city -- all unknown dignitaries, presumably repatriated from Moscow. 
Monday May 21 1945

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Of bitstuff, to get bitstuffed, etc., herein a collection of links to follow.

David Perry on Explaining Bitcoin
Eli again on Bitnodes per capita

This last link is an index of economic liberalization, it seems to me. Note how UK crown dependencies are 'ahead' of the UK itself.

Addenda: here's a good one from Richard Brown on Bitcoin's "irreducible core" and a post from Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin on his project
When the grand experiment that is bitcoin began, the anonymous wizard desired to test two parameters- a trustless, decentralized database enjoying security enforced by the austere relentlessness of cryptography and a robust transaction system capable of sending value across the world without intermediaries.
Brown's note on "digital scarcity" is the economic kernel, it seems to me. 

And, this report only confirms my distrust, so why not go trustless, as it were? Banks don't really have the money we think they do. See this post from Mish, for one.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The content of their character

Yesterday was MLK Jr Day. On that note, consider:
Coretta Scott King: There is abundant evidence of a major high level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. And the civil court's unanimous verdict has validated our belief. I wholeheartedly applaud the verdict of the jury and I feel that justice has been well served in their deliberations. This verdict is not only a great victory for my family, but also a great victory for America. It is a great victory for truth itself. It is important to know that this was a SWIFT verdict, delivered after about an hour of jury deliberation. The jury was clearly convinced by the extensive evidence that was presented during the trial that, in addition to Mr. Jowers, the conspiracy of the Mafia, local, state and federal government agencies, were deeply involved in the assassination of my husband. The jury also affirmed overwhelming evidence that identified someone else, not James Earl Ray, as the shooter, and that Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame.
Was this reported by The New York Times? I doubt it. Did Obama mention it? I doubt it.

The quote above is taken from the trial transcript which can be found here.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

When money dies

I've read it once before, in a 'pirated' edition (out of print), but I came across the 2010 reprint of When Money Dies in my favorite local bookstore today and had to snatch it up. The new edition can be seen at the beginning of an interview with the author here.

On that note, there's a nice encapsulation of the purpose of a central bank, in this post at Acting Man:
One must not forget that the Fed was founded specifically for the purpose of cartelizing the banking system. One aim was to destroy the competition the New York money center banks were increasingly subject to, the other aim was to make it possible for the banks to inflate the money supply in unison without having to fear bank runs, as they could henceforth be bailed out by a 'lender of last resort'. Vast distortions of the economic system have since then become the rule, while the purchasing power of the Fed-issued scrip has utterly collapsed over the past century.
For more on purchasing power, see this site. Essentially a decline means that more units of currency are required to purchase the same amount of goods, which is OK for those with first access to money, hence the current asset bubbles which benefit the "1%". Mish excerpts the slides (PDF) linked to in the Acting Man post. See the graph under Where Did The Money Go?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Woman In Berlin, 3

Here the author is writing about the Soviet soldiers in Berlin. 
For the most part they have no ability to assess the value of things. They snatch the first thing they see and have no concept of quality or price -- why should they? They've always just worn what they've been allotted; they don't know how to judge and choose, how to figure out what's good, what's expensive.
Wednesday May 2 1945

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Woman In Berlin, 2

Recently people have been running to the bank -- assuming they can find one that's still open -- to withdraw their money. What for? If we go down, the mark [German currency] goes with us. After all, money, at least paper money, is only a fiction and won't have any value if the central bank collapses.
 Saturday April 21 1945 2am

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Woman In Berlin, 1

So it's a new year and thus time for something new. To wit, I'll be jotting down excerpts from the compelling diary A Woman In Berlin. I should note that these excerpts are not reproduced for profit, save of the mental kind. 
Our radio's been dead for four days. Once again we see what a dubious blessing technology really is. Machines with no intrinsic value, worthless if you can't plug them in somewhere. Bread, however, is absolute. Coal is absolute. And gold is gold whether you're in Rome, Peru, or Breslau. But radios, gas stoves, central heating, hot plates, all these gifts of the modern age -- they're nothing but dead weight if the power goes out. At the moment we're marching backwards in time. Cave dwellers.
Friday April 20 1945 4pm
You can read about the presumed author here. Of special interest is the book's reception, noted by H.M. Enzensberger.