finem respice


Thick, Sticky Rhetoric

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - 06:41 (+0100) by ep

grease the palms

This is the sort of thing, I suppose, that has turned the health care debate into the smoldering sludge that is left over when a pile of immolated facts are mixed over and over again with thick, sticky rhetoric. Are we really expected to believe that these four doctors, who, between them represent about every minority group you could possibly enumerate in four bodies, just happened to wander over from the hospital in their (spotless) white coats to smile at the President's health care reform plans?

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The Microsoft Hurricane Creation Machine

Monday, July 13, 2009 - 05:05 (+0100) by ep

sea water mix

It is difficult to connect with the concept that complex systems are... well... complex. That is, just pulling a lever or two on the "input" is not guaranteed to get you either the results you want, nor assure you won't get worse results in some other way. This is easy to recognize as the not-a-law "law of unintended consequences," but very difficult to apply critically to grand ideas by charismatic visionaries with a talent for public relations- the somewhat crass art that has become the central skill requirement in modern politics.

This is one of my objections to the conceit of centralized economic policy. "I'll just pour some cash in here and we'll be all good," sounds great (particularly to the people getting the cash). An economy is, most obviously, a complex system. Thus, things are rarely this simple. But if you think that's complex, try weather. Bill Gates wants to, according to Tech Flash. Bill (or proxies therefor) has filed patents I am better leaving Tech Flash to describe:

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There's No Such Thing As A Risk Free Lunch (Revisited)

Friday, July 3, 2009 - 00:40 (+0100) by ep

who will pick up the tab?

The investigative powerhouse of Fox Business has suddenly discovered that years of government tampering with the Florida insurance market has effectively destroyed the ability of Florida residents to cost effectively mitigate their hurricane, wind and flooding risk. Apparently, a bunch of state legislators were not quite as good at pricing risk as they (or their constituents) imagined.

Long time readers of Going Private and finem respice will have had about 18 months on Fox Business in realizing that the combination of incentive mismatch in the political class, populist pandering and anti-market nonsense has caused quite a bit of damage.

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He Have Heart Attack And Fell Out Of Window Onto Exploding Bomb And Was Killed In A Shooting Accident

Thursday, June 18, 2009 - 13:53 (+0100) by ep

time fades all slogans but white paint works quicker

Conveniently for some, Mohammad Asgari, an information technology official inside Iran's Interior Ministry and apparently the source of leaked data purporting to show election fraud, was killed in a "suspicious" car accident. It is difficult not to indulge in conspiracy theorism in such cases. And sometimes conspiracy theorism manages to do quite well. Let's hope this is not one such.

Iran has its work cut out for it. Unfortunately, even daunting protests do not always carry the day against entrenched statist regimes. China has managed to escape almost entirely unscathed almost exactly ten years after Tiananmen while the leaders and middle management of the 1989 movement suffered bitterly thereafter. Like a global economic player, an isolated state already familiar with sanction regimes has very little to lose by brutally repressing its population when they get uppity. Even success might mean little over the long run. Expectations that regime change in Iran will necessarily result in a budding democracy or a free market economy are, to put it mildly, courting disappointment.

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It Is All In The Counting- Or Is It?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - 04:04 (+0100) by ep

red blood on green hope


19.1
13.4
5.7




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Descend Clean Why Don't You?

Sunday, June 7, 2009 - 07:26 (+0100) by ep

looks good from the outside

A finite respite for finem respice as, though delayed for four days, I head now by small plane for the Sierras and then come right to 000 and violate the airspace of the great white north. (Coming back through the ADIZ is worse, you know).

Caution is certainly the better part of valor when dealing with rented aircraft. The damage on the Piper Seneca, patched via duct tape on the interior ceiling covering evidence of foul play, allegedly left by younger flight instructors during an impromptu game of "elevator," is superficial, if not inspiring. No critical instrumentation or systems there in any event. Try to find a decent twin to rent instead. Try to find a decent twin to rent that was never used for makeshift freight. I take what I can get. An old but workhorseish Seneca that has been the butt of flight instructor jokes from time to time will do just fine.

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The Next Bubble

Friday, May 29, 2009 - 12:02 (+0100) by ep

ever ever upward

It has been the habit of the United States, in its capacity as a nation of investors and consumers with a highly developed sense of entitlement when it comes to returns and little or no tolerance for corrections of any kind, to sate the appetite of the cult of buoyancy by inflating various bubbles. This is particularly so when it appears the national vessel is beginning to sit low in the water. Loyal readers will know that finem respice does not go so far as to call for the abolition of the Federal Reserve, or make bleating noises about fiat currencies, but, without a doubt, it is worth looking at the role of various institutions as we confront the next gas-filled, surface-tension-bound, expanding topography. That sort of reflection, culminating in exactly nothing, is about all we can expect. The tools of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury are a grant of immense power to the executive, and he or she is unlikely to relinquish it without the sort of battle that resembles a protracted land war in Asia. So serial-bubbology will prevail. Junk Bonds to Dot-Com to Real Estate, for instance. Of course, this means we don't exactly have a large sample size with which to draw conclusions (n=3 perhaps) but it stands to reason that the longer we delay correction and manipulate markets with bloody sacrifice to the minions of buoyancy, the worse the wrath of the deleveraging.

Having taken great pains to ignore this lesson, and to obfuscate it completely no matter form with which it attempts to make its presence felt, it is pretty obvious that the present administration intends to bubble its way out of the latest opportunity to reset prices and moderate debt. Moreover, our leaders intend to do so via massive borrowing to pay for about every government program of any size ever conceived going all the way back to that one that crossed the kickback-addled mind of some flaccid congressman while waiting in line at Disney World back in 1972.

Small sample size or not, it is so clear that the next bubble is on the horizon, or, perhaps, already upon us, that a great deal of time and effort is spent speculating as to which asset class will be next. Oil or energy in general is a popular theory. Gold has its advocates. James Simons likely points to high beta stocks when asked. A few clever commentators have suggested Treasuries. This last is closest to the mark.

Of course, the next bubble (and perhaps the last for a while) is government. The state government bubble is beginning to burst even as you read this. The federal government bubble is next. You might want to open your mouth and plug your ears.

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The Curse (Blessing) Of Anonymous Speech

Sunday, May 17, 2009 - 23:49 (+0100) by ep

they'll kill you one of two ways

These pages have commanded a great deal of attention (not all of it positive or constructive) for relating the recollections of a lone hedge fund manager alleging acts by the present administration that, to these eyes at least, at least flirt with if not outright cross the line between hard negotiation and coercion or, perhaps, even extortion. As has become somewhat routine, attacks directed at finem respice in this connection tend to include references to the reliability (or lack thereof) of anonymous speech. It takes very little analysis to boil down the complaints of such detractors to a basic and simple premise: anonymous speech is prima facie less reliable than what I will call "credited speech." This is a patently absurd and dangerous premise.

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The Play

Friday, May 15, 2009 - 14:05 (+0100) by ep

if only it could be this sane

One of the problems with using Kafka to point out how surreal things have become in the United States is the fact that channeling Kafka in this way has become so commonplace as to make the analogy trite. For outsiders, this presents many opportunities for light entertainment and amusement as laughter is repeatedly triggered not just from the "just desserts" discomfiture the United States, champion of free markets, is subjected to during a financial crisis of its own making, but also from the absurdist screenplay that passes for political discourse in such times. Insiders and quasi-insiders have only two choices when living through Kafkaesque times- the inexorable slow downward spiral of post-empire decline finally punctuated by the mob's assault on "the rich,"1 or flight to join the outsider class.

  1. 1. This, of course, is the classic harbinger of empire-death historically.
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Not Enough Secrets

Thursday, May 7, 2009 - 23:48 (+0100) by ep

for those who think harry is a hero

Secrets have their place, no doubt. So do anonymous sources. Both need mechanisms to promote and preserve them. Fortunately, technology has many answers in this respect. One of which, cryptography, is an ages old equalizer, threatening primarily to a state that is threatened by citizen secrets. I cannot think of a more apt time for its use. So, by request, please find attached below, finem respice's public PGP key, permitting readers to submit secrets secretly to finem twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

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