Fuzzy little things that I find interesting.

Political musings from someone who thinks the S-D curve is more important to politics than politicians.

Category: Uncategorized

A tariff is simply a tax.

I’m amused on the one hand at liberals and never Trumpers getting upset at Trump’s attempts at reforming trade imbalances across the world, complaining there are all these “headwinds” being created by rising trade tariffs–yet many of them seem to support the idea of increasing taxes on corporations to pay down the deficit and to finance public projects.

Um, if a tariff is bad, it’s because it’s a tax. A tax on corporations.

Taxmeme

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Your daily moment of zen.

A dog on a treadmill.

Anthony Bourdain, RIP.

CNN’s Anthony Bourdain dead at 61

Anthony Bourdain, the gifted chef, storyteller and writer who took TV viewers around the world to explore culture, cuisine and the human condition for nearly two decades, has died. He was 61.

There are few celebrities who, when I hear about their passing, really makes an impression on me. I think it’s because at some level, I don’t give a shit. I don’t mean that in a terrible way; I don’t mean to suggest, for example, that a celebrity who dies is a shit or is less than the rest of us. But in a country of 320 million people, in a world with an excess of 7 billion souls, where easily millions die in this country each day, the passing of one more person doesn’t really affect the calculus all that much.

At some level it’s sad to hear of the passing of a celebrity who is still producing entertainment products; we’ll never get to see Robin Williams in another role, for example. But in the scope of things that affect me, the passing of a celebrity is something to observe, something perhaps to note, perhaps a reason to make a comment about how they influenced the cultural gestalt.


The passing of Anthony Bourdain, on the other hand, genuinely saddens me.

I think it’s because when I watched his travelogs, as he went around the world meeting people and understanding their cooking and the culture and the politics surrounding them–as he went around the world genuinely trying to learn and understand what they were doing–I really respected the man.

I respected his travelogs, because he made no bones to hide his own point of view, his curmudgeonly attitude, his appreciation for great food–be it the product of one of the finest chefs in France, or a waffle from The Waffle House. If you watch nothing of his except one, watch the first 15 minutes of his “Parts Unknown”, Season 2, Episode 6: Sicily.

And at some level, I guess, I wanted to be like him: traveling around the world, visiting new places, meeting new people, trying new foods–and replicating them at home when we got back. My wife and I took a cooking class when we were in Marrakesh recently, and I think I’d like to do more stuff like that. Because it gives you a genuine appreciation for the world when you go out there, meet its people, learn their culture, and break bread with them.

I don’t understand why someone like Antony Bourdain would take his own life. It’s something I will never comprehend. I hope he is at peace.

But the world is definitely worse off without him.


The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

Here, let me summarize this for you so you don’t have to read the article.

‘Never Trump’ and the Trump Trauma

Trump is turning out to be a pretty good president.

There, I said it, and by doing so I’m sure the people who most need what I’m about to write are going to discount it instantly. And I instantly feel the need to footnote it by saying I don’t agree with Trump on every issue, which is pretty much what you’d have to expect since I’m a national-defense libertarian and Trump is an FDR Democrat in an elephant suit. But I agree with him way more than I expected to, and I’m very impressed at what he’s done in particular in foreign affairs: both bringing North Korea to something that looks like real negotiations, and getting Saudi Arabia and a bunch of other Sunni nations into an alliance against Iran, and at least grudging tolerance of Israel.

So now, after 18 months or so, we’re in a situation where the conservative wing of the coastal clerisy — people like Bill Kristol, my erstwhile PJ Media colleague Jennifer Rubin, and Ron Radosh — are all pushing the notion that to “punish Trump,” to “get Trump’s attention,” and to “save the Republican Party,” conservatives need to campaign for and vote for Democrat candidates in the midterms. …

Bottom line: there is a very strong movement in this country who honestly think destroying the Republican Party, or destroying our country and our position on the world stage, as well as undermining the stability of our Democratic order is worth it in order to get back at President Trump.

Now compare and contrast to Rush Limbaugh’s famous words wanting President Obama to fail: it wasn’t because he wanted the country to fail, but because Rush Limbaugh honestly believed President Obama would destroy the American economy and position on the world stage–and Rush Limbaugh wanted President Obama to fail in his inadvertent quest to destroy American excellence.

But today, a lot of people who dislike President Trump want him to fail–even if they have to undermine the very greatness of America in order to help along that failure. And you can see this undermining our institutions to make Trump fail everywhere: in Republicans telling Republican voters to vote Democrat “to send a message”, in lawyers and government leaders who appear to have committed spying operations within the Trump campaign in a manner which makes Watergate look like a picnic, in “Not Our President” protests which even toyed with overthrowing the legally elected President of the United States in a coup d’etat reminiscent of third-world banana republics, floated not in some marginal rag written by some fevered moron in the basement of his parent’s house, but by the Los Angeles Times. (And those who accuse Trump of being an authoritarian are simply distracting us from the reality that they and their brethren advocated the overthrow of the United States Government, because they hated Trump that much.)


So here’s the summary I promised you, a summary of a lot of articles the above article refers to, on the “Never Trump”ers and “Not Our President” folk:

“Fuck Trump, and we’ll get him even if we have to turn our country into a third-world shit-hole to do it.”

On the value of risk (a comment left elsewhere)

The comment someone made regarding Marxists and Marxism:

(A long paragraph explaining that workers take risk all the time, between risks they’ll lose their job to bodily risk in dangerous professions such as logging or fire fighting.)

So i would argue that risk shouldn’t be explaining anything special about the owner/worker difference. Lots capital owners are not engaging in much risk at all, and lots of workers are engaging in low paid risky work. I think you can’t get away from a core discussion over power.

My response.


My point was never that risk was special.

My point is that risk *has value* in an economic transaction, and that value is seldom taken into account in most Marxist analysis. It’s why we pay loggers (who put their body at risk) more (in general) than other occupations which lack the same degree of risk. It’s why most places pay hazard pay for certain types of jobs–such as for police officers and fire fighters, who can sometimes make far more than their bosses because they’re in the field.

And when it comes to investments, risk has value here as well–and we can even calculate the value of that risk (to first order) by using Bayes’ Theorem.

For example, suppose you passively invest $100 in a business that has a 10% of failing each year. Suppose you have a choice of investing in that business, or investing in 10 year U.S. treasury bills, which are considered effectively “risk free.”. At present, 10 year U.S. treasury bills are returning around 2.5% per year.

So Bayes’ theorem would say that the value of each investment is the same if your $100 plus 2.5% in the first year was the same as $100 * (1 + R) * 90% for the at-risk investment.

That is:

$100 * (1.025) = $100 * (1 + R) * 0.9.

Solving for R we get R = 13.9%.

Meaning (and this is important) *if you get a passive return on your investment of less than 13.9% on this investment, you are a fucking idiot.*

That’s because if you were (say) getting a 10% return on your investment, and you kept doing this with multiple similar businesses over and over again, *you would have less money in the long run than if you simply bought 10 year U.S. treasuries.*

Bayes’ Theorem is fantastic because it allows one to calculate the value of risk in an easy way. It’s a shame most people don’t seem to grok that–including some Vulture Capitalists I’ve run into during my life.

Now investors often get a greater return on their investments, but that’s because they are “active investors”–meaning they do work managing the business they have part ownership on. (You can see examples of this with the TV show The Profit, where Marcus Lemonis invests his own money in businesses–then spends a lot of time trying to fix basic management problems. Frankly, if you watch his show enough times as he helps small businesses, the value of his advise and his efforts fixing management is worth *far more* than the money he invests.)

But then, when you invest in a business you then work at–you’ve basically bought yourself a job. That happens, for example, when someone buys rental properties to rent out: sure, you can hire contractors and managers and never deal with your tenants–but you lose money that way. The only way you make money buying rentals is if you deal with the tenants yourself, and if you make minor repairs yourself: if you’re willing to unclog a tenant’s toilet at 3am.

—-

The thing is, it’s very easy to look on to an investor from the outside, see the money he has invested, and think “what a greedy fuck asking for a 13.9% ROI on that business; he should be happy to get 5%. And shut the fuck up about risk; we all take risks in our life.”

If you don’t look at the math–at a math principle first developed in the 18th century–it’s easy to think that it’s unfair. But if you do look at the math, it’s easy to realize how quickly that investor may just say “fuck it, it’s not worth the risk”, buy a bunch of treasury bills, and kick back in Hawaii with a mai-tai.

—-

If you get nothing out of my post but one thing, it should be this: if you find yourself working for a startup and are told “sure, you’re paid less now but there’s a big reward later when we go public or sell our company”–you now have the tools to evaluate the value of the risk they are assuming. That is, you can work the equation above backwards to figure out if, over 5 years taking a $50k haircut is worth the payoff they think they will see at the end of the day. And you can look at other similar companies, the numbers that failed–and see exactly how big a shaft the VCs are trying to ram up your ass assuming you are mathematically illiterate.

Because remember: the biggest enemies of capitalism are often the capitalists themselves.

To many, “peace” is just the retooling interval between wars.

Epitaph

… The erection of the US border wall, the breakdown of Europe’s refugee policy and even Brussels’ plan to create its own army are all subtle signals the world whose image of intactness president Obama sought to preserve is moving into a new and possibly darker phase.

It did not happen overnight. The roots of today’s new tensions have roots deep in Obama’s and even George W. Bush’s term. Yet so great was the establishment’s commitment the post Cold War order it seemed irresponsible or unlucky to admit things were breaking down even when they manifestly were.

The previous cold war ended due to two factors: first, a President (Ronald Reagan) who was willing to double-down rather than pretend the existing world order was acceptable or worse: taking the stance that wildly divergent visions of individualism and communist authoritarianism were “equivalent” ideologies, with aspects of authoritarianism to even be admired.

Second, and far more importantly, the idea of individualism and of individual freedom that yearns in the heart of all men simply could not be contained by a wall in Germany or by travel embargoes in the Soviet Union.

The world is wandering inexorably towards individual freedom–the idea of freedom first posited by Scottish philosophers and skeptics of the 17th century and which informed the formation of the United States in the 18th century has made its presence known around the world in the late 20th century. And it’s impossible to believe this will reverse in the 21st.

But there are forces in the world today who wish to return to the Mercantilism, Authoritarian isolationism, and fundamentally feudal world of the 14th century–to wind the clock back to a predictable world where the powerful are unquestioningly powerful, where order is mandated from a central politburo, where educated mandarins flit about making sure all the machinery of the economy hums smoothly while the people fit in, neat little impersonal cogs in a vast machine, individualism be damned.

And it’s not just forces abroad. We see it at home, with people who would like to see us become more like Europeans or the Chinese, with people who dislike the disruptive chaos of economic individualism.

But the inexorable drive towards that individualism which does justice to the full potential of every person continues–even if we must have another war or three along the way. Even as our entertainment increasingly denies this call to individualism, even as our popular entertainment focuses on the ubermensch protectors, the elite selected few who by right of divine birth rather than by merit or effort, have the right to lead us to the promised land.

Because really, the call to individualism stands opposed to the call to order implied in authoritarianism–even the “soft” authoritarianism of a government which is “simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.”

Some financial advise.

The Psychology of Money

That’s because investing is not the study of finance. It’s the study of how people behave with money. And behavior is hard to teach, even to really smart people. You can’t sum up behavior with formulas to memorize or spreadsheet models to follow. Behavior is inborn, varies by person, is hard to measure, changes over time, and people are prone to deny its existence, especially when describing themselves.

Grace and Richard show that managing money isn’t necessarily about what you know; it’s how you behave. But that’s not how finance is typically taught or discussed. The finance industry talks too much about what to do, and not enough about what happens in your head when you try to do it.

This report describes 20 flaws, biases, and causes of bad behavior I’ve seen pop up often when people deal with money.

Just read the whole thing. It’s fascinating.

Here’s a small part:

3. Rich man in the car paradox.

When you see someone driving a nice car, you rarely think, “Wow, the guy driving that car is cool.” Instead, you think, “Wow, if I had that car people would think I’m cool.” Subconscious or not, this is how people think.

The paradox of wealth is that people tend to want it to signal to others that they should be liked and admired. But in reality those other people bypass admiring you, not because they don’t think wealth is admirable, but because they use your wealth solely as a benchmark for their own desire to be liked and admired.

This stuff isn’t subtle. It is prevalent at every income and wealth level. There is a growing business of people renting private jets on the tarmac for 10 minutes to take a selfie inside the jet for Instagram. The people taking these selfies think they’re going to be loved without realizing that they probably don’t care about the person who actually owns the jet beyond the fact that they provided a jet to be photographed in.

The point isn’t to abandon the pursuit of wealth, of course. Or even fancy cars – I like both. It’s recognizing that people generally aspire to be respected by others, and humility, graciousness, intelligence, and empathy tend to generate more respect than fast cars.

It’s hard not to think “microagressions” are a back door to ‘thought crimes.’

From (Opinion) UT Microaggressions Lab: researching offensive language, wordcrime, or both?

What are microaggressions?

But another microaggression, under “Alien in One’s Own Land,” includes asking someone the universal question, “Where are you from or where were you born?”

Others are more …complex, such as the list of microaggressions under “Myth of Meritocracy”:

  • “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.”
  • “Of course he’ll get tenure, even though he hasn’t published much —he’s Black!”
  • “Men and women have equal opportunities for achievement.”
  • “Gender plays no part in who we hire.”
  • “America is the land of opportunity.”
  • “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough.”
  • “Affirmative action is racist.”

(See full microaggressions list here: https://academicaffairs.ucsc.edu/…).

Some microaggressions were in the past simply called insults and were understood and dealt with as such. But microaggressions have evolved into nuancing and stereotyping comments or actions – intentional or unintentional, friendly or unfriendly – as examples of wordcrime or thoughtcrime.

Some of the items under the “Myth of Meritocracy” are stupid signs of ignorance, such as the second item on the list.

However, a number of the items–including the title itself (“Myth of Meritocracy”) happen to also represent political positions or ideal political outcomes, and to suggest these are somehow “microagressions” because they somehow show a spotlight on the gaps between where we are and where we want to be, is to take these ideas off the table because we are not perfect as a country.

Meaning our ideal of the United States is one of being a perfect meritocracy, where one is–to borrow a microagression spoken half a century ago–judged by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin.

And when you make certain political stances “microagressions”–you shame people from holding those ideas or speaking them in public. And if a “microagression” is any political position where there is a gap between the ideal outcome and reality–doesn’t all politics become a form of microagression?

Doesn’t, for example, the Democratic call for gun control due to school shootings become a microagression against student outcasts–a pool of disaffected students from whom student school shooters are drawn?

Or is it a microagression only if it represents traditional values and traditional ideas, and only when the person doing the speaking is the wrong race or gender?

And if that’s the case, isn’t “microagressions” simply a political ploy pretending to be science?


Now I’m not opposed to considering the list of microagressions linked above and to try to understand how they can be seen as rude when used in certain contexts. But attempting to strike microagressions from our language or our thoughts is butt-fucking stupid. Further, it is impossible when two people interact, and one is somewhat ignorant about the other, for the first person to make assumptions about the second, and for those assumptions to be rudely wrong.

After all, I routinely call myself a “conservative” because I believe that the proper size of government is one with a smaller footprint, who helps regulate certain behaviors but otherwise stays out of our way and leaves us alone. Because I use that label, however, I’ve been accused of all sorts of stuff–such as being anti-gay marriage or anti-immigration or against abortion choice.

And sometimes those accusations are not offered as microagressions–some of them are offered in a rather overtly aggressive way.

But do I then lecture this person on his microagressions and remind this person of his thought crimes? Do I remind him of his stereotyping? Or do I use it as an opportunity to help the other person understand–as much as they are willing to–that there are many flavors of conservatism just as there are many flavors of liberalism?

Do I, in other words, blame the other person? Or do I use it as an opportunity to build bridges?

Do I, in the language of self-defense against verbal aggression, take the bait (the “message” column in the Microaggressions PDF linked above) or do I deflect and answer the question?

If someone approaches me and says:

“Why are you so quiet?”

Do I take the bait–the message “There is no room for difference”–and go on a rant about assimilation?

Or do I look the speaker in the eye, smile, and reply:

Are you sure you want me to contribute? Because you may not like what I have to say.

Farming is hard.

Too much rain ruins marshmallow crop in North Carolina.

It’s an older video, but it points out the importance of diversification when planting different crops, since at various times we’ve seen problems with growing cotton candy and spaghetti.

Yeah, this ain’t going to end well.

The problem with journalistic doxxing…

The problem with journalistic doxxing that media figures only sort of understand is that they take advantage of superior capital and a relatively privileged place in society to engage in activism that can destroy lives; but the barriers to entry have shrunk.

Journalists have happened on the fastest way I can identify to drive Americans to say, “No, please, rando with a webpage, tell us all about this journalist’s family so we can complain every time he writes a bad article.”

… and …

Nothing I say here or indeed anywhere outside a courtroom matters much, so I’m mostly just laying down a marker for my future depression when some lady at NPR is weeping because some group of crazies published her kid’s school bus schedule.

I will say this: The last few years have convinced me, more than ever, that social norms are the most powerful and at the same time the most delicate things in the world; and we are hurting ourselves by tearing them asunder.


The Left is not going to like living by the rules they’ve been establishing over the past few decades.