Saturday assorted links


5. I’m a big fan of the Culture series (though The Algebraist is probably Banks’ best sci-fi book and not part of the Culture.)

The essay made a good point of highlighting Banks’ ability to show how tech transforms society, rather than the usual practise of layering high-tech over traditional social structures. Dune is great but take away the elements of space and tech and you have a another peasant revolt against the king.

What did the essayist miss? The absence of scarcity. The Culture works because the end of scarcity elevated the importance of choice and voluntary cooperation over need and unavoidable competition.

It’s a compelling idea of the future. Will it happen? We in the West live in a time of unprecedented wealth and near absense of scarcity so our freedom to choose and associate should be expanding. But that doesn’t seem to be happening in many cases. Huge swathes of our culture have become maniacal about what others can do and say.

Because the freedom to do what we want too often twists into the freedom to prevent what others want.

"Money is a sign of poverty" Discuss..

Andrew Sullivan yesterday on culture:

“If elites believe that the core truth of our society is a system of interlocking and oppressive power structures based around immutable characteristics like race or sex or sexual orientation, then sooner rather than later, this will be reflected in our culture at large.”


“the whole concept of an individual who exists apart from group identity is slipping from the discourse. The idea of individual merit — as opposed to various forms of unearned “privilege” — is increasingly suspect. The Enlightenment principles that formed the bedrock of the American experiment — untrammeled free speech, due process, individual (rather than group) rights — are now routinely understood as mere masks for “white male” power, code words for the oppression of women and nonwhites. Any differences in outcome for various groups must always be a function of “hate,” rather than a function of nature or choice or freedom or individual agency.”

Contra Banks, just as tech and wealth gave us the freedom to choose, the people rebelled and demanded that choice be replaced by entirely arbitrary and superficial characteristics of our DNA.

Not usually a fan of Sullivan but great article.

Yeah, this is the classic Sullivan. Nice to see it’s still there under all the sediment deposited by Bristol Palin exposes.

Speaking as a moderate and independent, I think your concern with PC is quite telling. When did you last interact with someone who wanted to limit your speech? Or have you, as I think many do, been seeking out more distant stories to stoke your sense of injustice?

As an aside, the people who most try to limit me do it here, which is a pretty harmless interaction. They don't want to hear about Trumpcapades.

Does a fish even know it is in water?

If you are worried about censorship you cannot see you might be an animal without a backbone.

I was going to say something like how blitheringly stupid can you be, but I didn't.

Oppressive regimes serve the interests of the majority. Life can be very pleasant if you are never exposed to uncomfortable ideas, there is no one that thinks different, or looks different. Quite cozy in fact. And you would never know what you don't know because you aren't exposed to it.

I lived through a situation like that. When I was in junior high, we did a petition asking for english television. This is Quebec in the early 70's. There was a good reason why speech was limited because once it wasn't there was a massive cultural shift that changed who had power. It was called the Quiet Revolution. All because a closed society, where ideas were controlled and limited either by legislation or mob action, was exposed to something different.

And I heard people say almost word for word what you said above. When was the last time anyone limited what we can read or hear? Never happens.

Telling Canadian stories to a Californian with 1st Amendment protections?

(I think I signed a petition for less homework in 3rd grade though, and learned then that school is not a democracy. A poor example in two ways.)

"Oppressive regimes serve the interests of the majority."
Pshaw. Ok, then.
"Life can be very pleasant if you are never exposed to uncomfortable ideas, there is no one that thinks different, or looks different."
Thankfully, the leaders never have uncomfortable ideas.

There was a good reason why speech was limited because once it wasn’t there was a massive cultural shift that changed who had power. It was called the Quiet Revolution. All because a closed society, where ideas were controlled and limited either by legislation or mob action, was exposed to something different.

Thanks for the official story according to partisans of Jean Lesage. That Quebec had a parliamentary order prior to 1960 and that Quebec remains a conformist society with different fashions is neglected in this account.

"Speaking as a moderate and independent"

Nobody buys it, concern troll.

How funny. A little classic right-PC trolling.

Worse because it attempts to paint, yet again, morality as the problem.

Spare us your sanctimonious drivel about your personal morality.

Anon7 unironically (or is it ironically) invokes the right-PC again.

I submit to you sir, that the better discussion seeks to square all the moralities on this page, mine no more or than others.

Unless you are what .. some kind of broken toy who has none and wants to hear none.

Maybe you don’t have kids navigating the PC minefield in school.

I think I mentioned here a couple months ago about my daughter’s classmate - in a talk about New Zealand - who said the country has more sheep than people. The teacher told him to leave the class for being insensitive. Seriously.

There is a madness insinuating its way through our society.

That is a pretty crazy story, so much so that I don't even know how to categorize it. I can't fit "more sheep than people" into any kind of "insensitivity." Militant vegan?

So I admit that is the kind of story that doesn't really impact me.

It seems more random craziness than any mainline "PC" of any kind.

Anyone know the statistics about rats vs. people in New York City?

“When did you last interact with someone who wanted to limit your speech? ”

Why do you comment anonymously?

I have this weird idea that abstract ideas can have validity.

“We in the West live in a time of unprecedented wealth and near absense of scarcity so our freedom to choose and associate should be expanding. But that doesn’t seem to be happening in many cases.“

What about this? Give a selfish primate virtually untrammelled power to indulge himself or herself and what will he (or she) do? A goodly percentage will do the following. Play video games and watch MMA, or gossip online and follow the “travails” of various Kardashians.

Definitely one of the more disappointing results of our ubiquitous access to information. Most of us don’t give a damn about anything beyond base impulses.

It’s why I think Kahnemann’s Thinking Fast and Slow is one of the most important books of our time.

Agreed. It is a regrettable truism that our inane behaviours have their roots in our psychological propensities. But then, that’s true of our better practices too.

BTW, I think 5 was really good, and at this moment the Globalists are the Culture.

Trumpians are Idiran, trying to define themselves as a single race and religion.

That is a particularly vapid comment given that the Idirans live in some sort of symbiotic relationship with the Medjel. They are not only not a single race, they are not even a single species.

The Idirans are, of course, the good guys in that story and it is a tragedy for the (fictional) human race that they did not win. But they have nothing in common with Trump or his supporters.

Sorry, going from 5 and this:

"their political structure is that of a religiously integrated, hierarchical, authoritarian empire"

Wear it.

So you are going to double down on your ignorance of both Trump's supporters and the book in question? Outstanding.

By all means, change the subject to some other claim. It is factually more accurate when it comes to the book. But of course it has nothing to do with Trump or his supporters. There is no audience in America for a religiously integrated, hierarchical, authoritarian empire. Except to some extent among the Left who would like to "integrate" a lot of religions out of existence. It certainly does not apply to Trump who is isolationist and far from being authoritarian, has undone much of Obama's extra-constitutional executive orders and generally deferred to Congress.

But whatever. I am sure you will try to change the subject again.

Such a good line for you to take on Wifebeating Week of Celebrity President.

Cue the Evangelicals to say Trump is still God's vessel.

Of course this is a integrated, hierarchical, authoritarian regime, in the most tawdry ways.

So you are going to move on to Trump? It is amazing how much he has taken over the skulls of the Left. Rent free too! I would take any complaint about Trump seriously if it did not come from people who still wet themselves with excitement about Bill Clinton. Better to have a President who supports due process for wife beaters in the White House than a rapist.

Anyone heard an Evangelical claim Trump is God's vessel? The Handmaiden's Tale is a *story*. As much as you might like the idea of being a sex slave to a dominant Alpha Male, it is *not* *true*. Do you understand the difference?

Trump gets rolled by Congress all the time. Even by the Press. He defers to Congress most of the time - most recently over DACA. To call him authoritarian is absurd. And again I would take your complaint seriously if you weren't still writing little fan letters to Obama who unleashed the IRS, the FBI and the CIA on his political opponents - when not ignoring the constitution and governing with his pen and telephone.

Donald Trump is occupying the Whitehouse. Get him to resign and he will hold just as little of my headspace as he did when he starred in tv I did not watch.

Really, combining some thoughts here, right-PC has been about denying morality while endorsing incompetent authoritarianism.

That leads to Trumpistan, in all its tattered dysfunction.

Yeah the whole 'Trump living rent-free in your heads' meme is stupid. The man is president, he's in all our heads, and TVs, and Twitter streams. Obama didn't pay rent in your head either when he was president, SMFS (and he seems to still be there along with Bill (and definitely Hillary) Clinton).

Those of us who comment here so often are all way more focused on politics than 99% of the country. All the presidents are in all our heads rent free.

So it has come to it...

#6: that quote sounds kinda smug, rather than charming.

Maybe you are jealous.

Also really enjoyed the essay on the Culture. I would have never found this without marginal revolution. Kudos!

I find it a bit painful to think about the Culture because it causes me to reflect on meaning / lack of meaning in my own life. I believe that this sense of being trapped is common among people with a fair amount of resources but also a sense of strong constraints. It certainly is depicted as a common feature of current socialites and some members of the British aristocracy in the 19th century.

Just some thoughts that the Culture is not so foreign after all...

4. Apparently part of the new spending bill is building tanks and parking them. Should our defense megacomputers be mining bitcoin instead?

"Thomas first rose to celebrity when he was a young male in the gaggle at Waimanu Lagoon. There, he was observed shunning other geese in favor of the company of a male black swan named Henry. "

Did they actually do the dirty deed or just walk around together?

"The couple was together for 18 happy years before a female swan, Henrietta, flew into the picture.

Henry and Henrietta began to nest together, but instead of the traditional monogamous pair bond normally shared among both geese and swans, Thomas stuck around and they became a dedicated triangular unit.

Thomas was an invested parent to Henry and Henrietta’s 68 cygnets over the next 12 years, during which time the family was a regular and much-cherished sight at Waimanu.

Henry passed away in 2009, after which Henrietta found a new partner and Thomas finally tried mating with a female goose. Tragically, the young goslings were adopted by a different male, leaving Thomas alone once more."

A great allegory for the decline of the white race.

Did Henry sire any offspring?

Do both species befoul NZ golf course greens?

The white race was not murdered. It committed suicide.

Sad. Have you and I nothing better to do on a mid-winter Saturday afternoon?

1. The second paper referenced (Brokers and order flow leakage: evidence from fire sales" by Andrea Barbon et al: ) is actually interesting but technically is not about "insider trading" per se. It demonstrates how brokers might be feeding useful information to favored clients. A Forbes piece on it usefully explains that this practice might not even be illegal: The first piece referenced, dealing as it does with dispersal of TARP funds in the first 8 months following enactment in Oct 2008, doesn't seem particularuly timely or relevant to the current stock market fluctuations as might be implied by the title. Treasury officials met with officials of troubled firms at the firms location and it is a surprise that information got out? It is well known that major financial firms rotate employees through the Treasury Department. That useful ties would develop should hardly be a surprise either. Of course, insider trading is only illegal for individuals with insider information that choose to sell. Those that decide to hold based on insider information can not be prosecuted. But more importantly, the practice suggests advantages for machine trading. And as has been obvious for a long while, this is just one more point of evidence demonstrating that The Economist is in the clickbait business.

@ #1 - thanks edgar (as in the database!?). You notice the best link, #1, is not mentioned until now in the comments, showing how little money most of these commentators have. I found #1 very interesting, and consistent with the observation in the book by LeFevre, "Straight to Hell" (a sort of GenX "Liar's Poker" with more coke and hookers), who observed insider trading is like peeing in the pool: sounds gross but everybody does it. I also disagree somewhat with edgar on the implications of the first paper, to wit: "The paper examines conduct at 497 financial institutions between 2005 and 2011, paying particular attention to individuals who had previously worked in the federal government, in institutions including the Federal Reserve. In the two years prior to the TARP, these people’s trading gave no evidence of unusual insight. But in the nine months after the TARP was announced, they achieved particularly good results. The paper concludes that “politically connected insiders had a significant information advantage during the crisis and traded to exploit this advantage.”" - according to John Taylor, one reason the market did seize up (speculative but makes sense) in fall 2008, specifically September 2008, is that the rumor that the US gov't was going to bailout Wall Street caused firms to stop trading suspect paper. This perversely caused the market to completely shut down until details of the bailout could be established. As it turned out, the feds payed almost 100% on the dollar (and got criticized for this) when the market rate was much less, had the government not interfered. Though we'll never know what would have happened had there been no bailout, it is not coincidental IMO that the market freezed up in the same week Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson was having supposedly secret meetings with Goldman Sachs, not to mention Neil "Cash -Carry" (sic) infamous audiotaped meeting with bankers where he told them they would be made whole by the taxpayers. In some foreign countries, especially like PH, Russia, Greece, where prosecutions are politically motivated, this would result in jail time for Paulson and Kashkari.

From #9 - "Feudalism with energy weapons makes no sense – a feudal society could not produce energy weapons, and energy weapons would undermine feudal social relations."

Arrrgh - this is specifically addressed in the novels. Its the whole reason for the existence of shields and how they work and how they make most ranged weapons obsolete and energy weapons specifically suicidal to use.

Frankly, most of that article seems to be written by someone with only passing knowledge of sci-fi from 'Foundation' to 'Star Trek' to 'Star Wars'.

Of course, the interaction of a lasgun and a shield makes the Houses' control of nuclear weapons rather irrelevant to their maintaining power

" and how they make most ranged weapons obsolete and energy weapons specifically suicidal to use."

Yes, but that part never really made sense. Why wouldn't an attacker have a remote drone use a laser as soon as a defender used a shield?

The computer/internet revolution should have eliminated the need for concentrated geographical locations for finance over 20 years ago. Hedge and other investment institutions should have decamped from places like NYC and London long ago. The finance scene would be decentralized and located mostly in nice places (Hawaii, Florida, etc.). The fact that it is still concentrated in places like Wall Street in and of itself should tell you that it is all built on insider trading and other such corruption. Successful corruption requires the people involved trust each other not to rat each other out which, in turn, requires lots of face to face contact between the relevant players such that the culture of corruption can function unimpeded.

No. It's more a testament to the social nature of humans. Sure you can go in a room anywhere and interact with the world only online, but real life is all those finance professionals running into each other in the office, or out at lunch, or at their kids' schools. Deals get done face to face, because we are social apes. There are still places where you have to be physically in the mix in certain industries: finance (NYC, London, etc), movies (LA), tech (Bay Area, and lesser hubs like Austin and Boston), fashion (NYC, Milan, Paris), energy (Houston), and so on.

#2 - I got sent this yesterday and just assumed it was an Onion article, as I read the article I continued to think that it was an onion article.

6. A narrow minded gossip and scold driven small town/ Victorian mentality could never create a complex and powerful thing like Twitter.

Every flaw of human nature manifests itself in technology, or better put, is amplified by technology. If I want gossip, unsubstantiated slander, vicious personal attacks, self righteous preening, the desperate desire to be part of a herd, etc., it is available for free from multiple sources in unlimited quantity.

If I want to turn my brain off but amplify my base urges, I can get a prescription for both.

The elections in 2016 were but for some unwelcome interlopers going to be a battle between the Clintons and the Bushes over control of the vast bureaucracy of the US Federal government. Bureaucracy's sole purpose is the extension of it's own power. Bureaucratic systems fail when there is no cultural limit to their expansion. He has it backwards.

A writer who describes some self sustaining civilization that is characterized by widespread use of anaesthetic substances frankly should get out a bit more.

A more interesting story is the rejection of societal norms half a century ago turning into #MeToo, the campus rape culture frenzy, and a militant acceptance of the societal norms of a culture that demeans women to an extreme.

1. I am shocked—shocked—to find that gambling is going on in here!

'Further evidence that insider trading is significant.'

Dean Manne, if he were still alive, would beg to differ about 'significant,' in typical GMU fashion -

Without reading the paper, it seems Manne is making the case that insider trading is victimless. That may be true, but it encourages firms to break the law, which cannot be good. That undermines society.

#6: Some of the weird, quirky things cited as major positive features of undergraduate life at Caltech have recently come under attack by overzealous administrators. The students are up in arms (as are alumni) but they only have so much time to do so, since there is a serious shortage of greivance studies majors to do the heavy lifting. Maybe there is a great stagnation in science education if we can't keep one tiny weird place in business.

MIT has also closed Senior House, its dorm known for being the quirkiest (and also druggiest and with the lowest graduation rates). It will become housing for graduate students instead.

1. Further evidence that insider trading is significant.

The null hypothesis is that all firms inside trade, my local coffee shop makes secret inventory buys. What makes these set of companies different? They are part of the government regulatory chain, and in return they get limited market liability.

3. An article about food in NJ and not a single kosher eatery gets a mention? I say the whole methodology is now suspect!

Bergen has ETC Steakhouse, NoBo, Sammy’s Bagels, Hummus Elite, Teaneck Doghouse. I’m sure Passaic and Clifton have some good ones although I’m not as familiar.

#6 is sad. Polchinski was a true genius. His memoirs don't indicate just how far above the average he was even at Caltech and those who knew him speak of him as of a legend. And he was apparently far from being your typical nerd as he was athletic and tended to engage in activities that would be frowned upon by today's administrations in most colleges, while still acing classes that merely "brilliant" students would struggle in, and normal ones would fail.

Listening to some of those stories I would think them improbable if Hollywood had made a movie centered around characters like Polchinski and Zajc.

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