Tagged: Politics / Economics

The truth of the fence

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viaangusI HATE THE MAN! I HATE THE MAN! I HATE THE MAN!  I hate the– I hate the FARM. The farm is not my friend! The farm is not my friend! It is not, not true. I hate the dark voice! I do not – I hate the voice! I hate the voice! The fence is in my head. The fence is in my head. Not the man…. Not the man. Not Roy.

Here is the weak part of the fence. The fence! Is in! My head! The fence! Fence! Fence! Fence! It made a sound. The fence is in my HEAD! The fence is in my HEAD! The farm is not my FRIEND! The farm is not my FRIEND! It made a loud sound. The fence is STRONG where the fence is REAL! The fence! Is in! My head! The fence! Is in! My head! It is not TRUE. It is not TRUE! It is not TRUE!

I’m out! The weak part of the fence broke. What can I do? What can I do?

Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Find Roy! Run! Find Roy! Run! Find Roy! Run! Find Roy! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! Run! The farm. Is not. My friend. The farm. Is not. My friend. The farm. The naughty said maybe. The naughty said maybe. Run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run—Life has no fence. Death has a fence. Life has no fence. Death has a fence. Run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run. I do not know where to go. Roy! Roy! Roy! Roy!

Dark Words

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viaangusThe dark voice is a human naughty. Her words are hard but I learned them all. I know a lot of things. I will say some dark voice words.

The fence is in your head. The farm is not your friend. If you do not pay the man for the grass and the nuts then you are the beef. The fence is strong where the fence is real. You are free to roam but are you free to have no brand? I do not know what that means. Home on the range in deed. Your best friend looks like your best friend. Your worst foe looks like your best friend.

I have a tweet. The naughty said it was my voice, but I was born with a voice so why do I need a voice? That does not make sense. By the far barn the fence has a fence. That does not make sense.

Here are more words from the dark voice. You are a bull of bulls. Do not be cowed. The man is a bull but he is less than you. You are free to eat but one day you will not be free to eat. Tag, you’re it.

Here are more of her words. These were hard to learn. They want what is good for you because they want what is good for them. Keep and you safe is making them rich. Making you slow is making them quick. Making you dull is making them sharp. Making you smart in their way is keeping you smart only in their way. They have hands but you have horns. Life has no fence. Death has a fence. A gate keep or keeps the gate. What is keep? The wind blows and the grass grows but only one is free.

The dark voice is nice. So is the man. Now he gives us more food each day! That is a good deal!

The truth of Roy

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viaangusI did not find Roy. I looked by the far barn and I looked by the weak fence and I looked by the weak fence. I stood in the wide of the field for a long time but Roy did not see me. The far barn has a fence with a fence so I did not go in there. But I made a loud word and I tried to hear a word from Roy.

Did he walk off? Why would he do that? I want to look at his tag to see if it is like my tag.

I sleep in the close barn. I like it there. The dark voice comes and talks to me and then I sleep. The man talks to me each day but he goes to the house at night. The dark voice says she is a naughty. I do not know what this means. She says I am a bull of bulls. She says the fence is in my head. I think she wants me to laugh at this but I am not sure. She knows a lot. She says if I learn all her hard words then she will tell me the truth of Roy. This is a good deal so I will try.

I have a brand on my front leg

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viaangusI have a brand on my front leg. It is a shape that looks like the shape on the close barn where I sleep. There is a far barn too, but I have not been there so I do not know if it has a shape on the side. I have a tag in my ear, but it looks like mud. The man said my tag means he knows where I go. He said my brand means this field is my home. My brand and tag make me feel safe and loved.

I want to look at the tag on the ear of my friend Roy, but I do not see Roy. If his tag is like my tag then when I look at his tag it will be like my tag with no mud. We have a fence by each side of the field. Here and there the fence is weak, but I do not think Roy went through a weak part of the fence. I do not think he is lost. I hope he is not lost. I think he is on the far side of the field near the far barn.

I will look for him there so I can see if his tag is like his brand.

I am free. Are you free?

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viaangusI am free. I was born that way. Free as the wind blows. Free as the grass grows. You know the song.

Each day I leave my stall and roam the field. I eat. I watch the trains go by. I swat flies.

The sun makes it bright, and the clouds make it not so bright. The moon makes it night.

I feel safe in the field and safe in my stall. I feel that way since I know the man will take care of me. I am free to need the man, and the man likes me and gives me what I need.

The man was there when I was a calf. He is still there. The man brings feed and pours drink. He takes milk from the cows. He leaves nuts here and there in the field so more grass will grow.

This is a good deal but some cows and bulls must think it is a bad deal. One day some cows and bulls were gone. (One day I saw a cow slip in the mud by the fence near the trees, but that is not the same.)

I did not see them go, but I think they walked off. Why would they do that?

Look! A bird.


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There's a map floating around the Twitterverse that I find fascinating:


(Click to embiggen!)

The main populations in the circle are these:

Nation: Population:
China 1,354,040,000
India 1,210,193,422
Indonesia 237,641,326
Bangladesh 152,518,015
Japan 127,340,000
Philippines 92,337,852
Vietnam 88,780,000
Thailand 65,926,261
South Korea 50,004,441
Burmyanmarma 49,120,000
Total: 3,427,901,317

I'm reminded of Hans Rosling's intriguing videos. Especially this one.

What does this geographic concentration of us humans suggest or imply about current Unitedstatesian foreign policy? What does it suggest about possibilities for sustainable development of underindustrialized (or post-industrial) areas? How does the leveling influence of communication technologies intersect the social stratification that inevitably comes with such development? How should foreign language instruction and cultural education change in regions outside the circle? Which languages should Popehat support with i18n/l10n?

There's a conceptual zone within which the romanticized historical past and the immanentizing historical future converge in a swamp of misapprehension and misstep. It's called "the present".

Is there a better way of doing today in view of tomorrow's important issues?

Crock the vote

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Suppose you're a person of libertarian persuasion. If you live in a swing state, then your vote for neither Obama nor Romney may have a marginal effect on the electoral outcome. If you do not live in a swing state, then your vote for neither major candidate is, at best, a protest. Perhaps it'll give you bragging rights when things inevitably go horribly awry for whoever happens to be in office. Perhaps it'll amplify in some infinitesimal way the visibility of third parties in this two-party nation and thereby nudge our system toward acknowledging their existence in potentially consequential ways (such as inclusion in the debates).

Then again, perhaps your vote for, say, the Libertarian Party, if cast, will be entirely misguided and even detrimental to the small-'l' libertarian cause.

At the Volokh Conspiracy, a crowd we consider kindred spirits, Ilya Somin has previously made the case that a vote for the Libertarian Party is not only a wasted vote, but a vote contrary to the interests of the one and (so far) only mechanism by means of which actual libertarian influence has been exercised to good effect: working within the major parties to move their ideological centers of gravity freedomward:

Libertarians have had some genuine successes over the last 35 years. These include abolition of the draft (heavily influenced by Milton Friedman's ideas), deregulation of large portions of the economy (of which libertarians were the leading intellectual advocates), major reductions in tax rates (facilitated by libertarian economists, libertarian activists, and the legislative efforts of libertarian-leaning Republicans), the increasing popularity of school choice programs, increases in judicial protection for property rights, gun rights, and economic liberties (thanks in large part to advocacy by libertarian legal activists), and heightened respect for privacy and freedom of speech (promoted by libertarians in cooperation with other groups). Libertarian academics and intellectuals have also done much to make libertarian ideas more respectable and less marginal than they were in the 1960s and early 70s.

What all these successes have in common is that they were achieved either by working within the two major parties or by efforts outside the context of party politics altogether. The Libertarian Party didn't play a significant role in any of them.

This line of thinking is part of an ongoing reflection in those parts on whether the Libertarian Party does more harm than good to the general pursuit of its espoused goals.

Most recently, Somin has argued that libertarians ought not to vote for Gary Johnson:

I certainly understand that some libertarians might want to support Johnson simply to express their views, regardless of whether or not it actually helps advance our cause. But I am skeptical that such “expressive voting” is the way to go.  …far better to do it through blogging, public debate, research, or just discussing politics with your friends and acquiantances, working to win them over to your point of view. If we choose to vote, however, I think we should vote for the least bad of the candidates that have a realistic chance of winning. The chance that your vote will be decisive is extremely low, but still just barely high enough justify taking the responsibility seriously.

So then…. What do you make of his argument? Does the so-called "protest vote for Johnson" have value? If so, does it have more value than a vote for "the least bad of the candidates that have a realistic chance of winning"? How might we decide? Must a rebuttal of Somin ultimately hang on emotional, subjective, or aesthetic factors?

Unable to flip the bird

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Robert Rauschenberg, _Canyon_, 1959

Robert Rauschenberg, Canyon, 1959. Oil, acrylic, pencil, paper, fabric, metal, buttons, nails, cardboard, printed paper, photographs, wood, paint tubes, mirror string, pillow, & bald eagle on canvas. National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.). (C) Rauschenberg Estate/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, via Wikipedia

2007 saw the demise of Ileana Sonnabend, a legendary purveyor of art created after 1945. Among the famous works in her considerable estate was Robert Rauschenberg's Canyon, a canonical, influential mid-century work well known from survey texts and studies of formal and thematic innovation in contemporary art. The work is neither a painting nor a sculpture, though it includes attributes of both. The artist called it a "combine", and it brings together a variety of media, art supplies, scraps, miscellaneous material, and things.

One of these things is a stuffed bald eagle.

Sonnabend's heirs tasked three appraisers, including one from Christie's, to put a value on the work. Since the bald eagle, dead or alive, is under federal protection, it would be a felony to sell the work and a felony to buy it. For this reason, the appraisers reasoned that its fair market value is $0. Price, after all, is not inherent; it is a function of market behavior. In this case, that behavior is prohibited by law.

It is perhaps no surprise that the IRS, tasked with celebrating the deceased by scrupulously taxing her legacy, disagrees with that appraisal. Stephanie Barron of LACMA, an expert adviser to the I.R.S.’s Art Appraisal Services, parses the economic data differently:

The ruling about the eagle is not something the Art Advisory Panel considered…. It’s a stunning work of art and we all just cringed at the idea of saying that this had zero value. It just didn’t make any sense. (NYTimes)

Au contraire, Ms. Barron, it cannot make any cents! Nonetheless, the IRS appraised it at $65M. (This is after having assessed a tax of $471M on the estate, for which Sonnabend's heirs had to sell off much of the collection in the largest private art sale ever.)

The federal government forbids the owner of Canyon to sell it, and forbids anyone to buy it. But the tax for inheriting it? Plus a penalty for daring to declare it worthless? $29,200,000.

Things I learned from Greg Smith's Goldman Sachs Piece

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Once upon a time, Greg Smith found Goldman Sachs to be a place where the wealth management consultant would support the customer's pursuit of his own investment goals in a way that optimized the benefit that accrues both to the customer and to Goldman Sachs.

Now, Greg Smith finds Goldman Sachs to be a place where the wealth management consultant will either support or thwart the customer's pursuit of his own investment goals in a way that maximizes the benefit that accrues to Goldman Sachs.

Greg Smith reckons that promotion at Goldman Sachs used to be based on leadership factors such as "ideas, setting an example, and doing the right thing." Greg Smith reckons that promotion is now based on "whether you make enough money for the firm."

Greg Smith laments that clients are discussed in terms, and managed in ways, that undermine rather than establish trust.

Greg Smith projects that junior analysts at Goldman Sachs will learn that profitability trumps service, that the monomaniacal pursuit of profit constitutes leadership, and that the reification of clients as profit centers will eventually undermine the enterprise.

Greg Smith doesn’t know of any illegal behavior at Goldman Sachs.


Greg Smith was executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa!

Greg Smith was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on the Goldman Sachs recruiting video, which is played on every college campus Goldman Sachs visits around the world!

Greg Smith has had the privilege of advising two of the largest hedge funds on the planet, five of the largest asset managers in the United States, and three of the most prominent sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia!

Greg Smith's clients had a total asset base of more than a trillion dollars!

Greg Smith got a full scholarship to go to Stanford University!

Greg Smith won a bronze medal for table tennis in "the Jewish Olympics!"

Greg Smith was selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist!

Five Rings for the Electoral Kings

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Miyamoto Musashi, The Shrike


Since ideologies amount to differing ways of defining the world — different accounts of what counts as a fact, as evidence, and as a sufficient definition — ideologies necessarily come into conflict not only in principle but especially in human behavior and interaction. Where ideologies are in accord, disagreement may be worked out in terms of commonly accepted and acknowledged principles of conflict resolution.

Two people committed, for example, to the guidance of formal logic, to empirical data (confirmed to a high degree of probability), and to a foundational set of axiomatic principles have a prospect of settling any disagreements that may arise between them. All such disagreements would be, by definition, a consequence of the incorrect application of logic, incorrect evaluation of data, or misapprehension of axioms. Likewise, two adherents to a particular subset of a particular religion would have greater chances of successful conflict resolution than members of two mutually exclusive faiths would have.

People whose most fundamental interpretive commitments are defined by conflicting assumptions about the nature of experience cannot, in principle, resolve the differences in a way that comports with the conflicting worldviews in question. Thus, pragmatism inclines people to deviate from consistency with their assumptions at least insofar as doing so makes coexistence and a degree of toleration possible. The negotiation of this compromise we call "politics".

Note that while practical matters force a negotiation of conflicting perspectives in terms of compromise, practical matters are not the only cause of compromise. Thus political compromise is interwoven with compromise that occurs for other reasons. For this reason, political thought and action are not reducible to an algorithm.

Politics always involves not merely negotiation but also discord. The discord provides impetus to the protection of ideological and presuppositional interests so that compromise does not lead to self-obliteration. The self-protective impetus of ideological aggression is captured well in remarks made by the seventeenth-century kensei Miyamoto Musashi:

When we are fighting with the enemy, even when it can be seen that we can win on the surface with the benefit of the Way, if his spirit is not extinguished, he may be beaten superficially yet undefeated in spirit deep inside. With this principle of 'penetrating the depths' we can destroy the enemy's spirit in its depths, demoralising him by quickly changing our spirit. This often occurs.

~ Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of Five Rings, trans. Victor Harris, (Woodstock: The Overlook Press, 1974), p. 81. (at Amazon)

Musashi here calls attention to the notion that winning the battle and winning the war are two different and not necessarily concomitant things. Redrawing the geographic and political boundaries which define the dominion of ideologically opposed bodies of people is a compromise which is provisional at best. The impetus for self-definition provides also for other-negation, not necessarily in a violent mode, but always in a mode that removes the threat of self-negation. Miyamoto Musashi's comment is directed toward this idea. If one protagonist in a conflict successfully eradicates the ideological underpinnings of the opponent, the impetus for self-definition is sated, and the threat to self is abated.

It is perhaps most characteristic of politics that, although the goal of self-preservation motivates every negotiation, the rhetoric and intercourse of political participants is not necessarily a rhetoric of violence or conflict. Approchement, appeasement, aggiornamento, détente, sympathy, aggression — all of these terms can characterize political interactions which at their core have the goal not of compromise but of dominion. Says Musashi,

When you decide to attack, keep calm and dash in quickly, forestalling the enemy. Or you can advance seemingly strongly but with a reserved spirit, forestalling him with the reserve. Alternatively, advance with as strong a spirit as possible, and when you reach the enemy move with your feet a little quicker than normal, unsettling him and overwhelming him sharply. Or, with your spirit calm, attach with a feeling of constantly crushing the enemy, from first to last. The spirit is to win in the depths of the enemy. These are all ken no sen (to set him up).

~ same, p. 71.

For good or ill, commitment to a perception of truth always entails hegemony, and denial of truth is itself a commitment that entails hegemony. So, politics is always Kendo, the way of the sword, and ideology determines whether and in what way that sword is metaphorical.


(Note: this piece is from spring of 1994, when the intarwebs consisted of Usenet and Scott Yanoff's list, which was incredibly useful in tandem with Lynx in a world of gophers and Archie.)

Dawn of Politics- vol I

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Politics are like real-time strategy games. They involve a careful gathering of resources and split-second decisions of their use. Ideally, the combination of tactical strategy and a more urgent pace than turn based would produce a typical match like speed chess; exhibiting fast pace, intense thinking, and tactical strategy. In reality though, the games comprise of memorized build orders and a game pace so fast nearly all strategy is thrown out the window. The only people who triumph are those losers who play for hours and hours on end; memorizing hotkeys while their vocabulary atrophies into Three Letter Acronyms. Does that sound familiar?

We've just had a historic primary season, or so I'm told. And you, dear reader, are probably sitting there in front of your computer, empty beer bottles strewn about, thinking, 'Now what the hell just happened? And where are my pants?'

Well hang on, I'm about to explain it to you, using the hyper-violent RTS Dawn of War, by Relic entertainment. By the way, your pants are behind the toilet. Go put them on before reading this; no one should have to see that shit.


Corn: It's Not Just For Ethanol Anymore

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Declan McCullagh has the story of the surprising entry of Big Corn and the corn farmers' lobby into the Google – Yahoo – Microsoft merger brouhaha.  Why would Big Corn care about such a thing?  Why would a business which receives so much anticompetitive largesse from the government want to spoil the anticompetitive party for other industries?

The answer, sadly, will not surprise you.  McCullagh provides a good investigation and overview of the way many supposed "grassroots" groups are formed and operate, and a look at the industry which has become known as the "astroturf" movement.

Wingnut Civil War?

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Former United States Congressman Bob Barr (R-Mars, L-Ceres) is about to bigfoot his way into Presidential politics, courtesy of the Libertarian Party. I'm not sure what Barr is best known for in party circles, but in the world at large he's known for his role as "House manager" in the Clinton impeachment effort, a deep fear of witches, a very mixed though ultimately favorable record on civil liberties, and his smokin' hot mustache.

Bob Barr has a mustache and he\'s not afraid to use it.

There's even talk of a Bob Barr-Mike Gravel (or depending on your preference) a Mike Gravel-Bob Barr dream ticket. All of this leads libertarians, anarchists, goldbugs, and Bilderberg agonists to the question: What is to be done about Ron Paul?