Quotulatiousness

July 31, 2017

“If you’re wondering where Anthony Scaramucci learned to talk and behave […] ask him how many times he’s seen Glengarry Glen Ross

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Anthony Scaramucci is doing his very best impression of “Blake”, says Kevin Williamson:

Glengarry Glen Ross is the Macbeth of real estate, full of great, blistering lines and soliloquies so liberally peppered with profanity that the original cast had nicknamed the show “Death of a F***ing Salesman.” But a few of those attending the New York revival left disappointed. For a certain type of young man, the star of Glengarry Glen Ross is a character called Blake, played in the film by Alec Baldwin. We know that his name is “Blake” only from the credits; asked his name by one of the other salesmen, he answers: “What’s my name? F*** you. That’s my name.” In the film, Blake sets things in motion by delivering a motivational speech and announcing a sales competition: “First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Second prize? A set of steak knives. Third prize is, you’re fired. Get the picture?” He berates the salesmen in terms both financial — “My watch cost more than your car!” — and sexual. Their problem, in Blake’s telling, isn’t that they’ve had a run of bad luck or bad sales leads — or that the real estate they’re trying to sell is crap — it is that they aren’t real men.

[…]

These guys don’t want to see Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. What they want is to be Blake. They want to swagger, to curse, to insult, and to exercise power over men, exercising power over men being the classical means to the end of exercising power over women, which is of course what this, and nine-tenths of everything else in human affairs, is about. Blake is a specimen of that famous creature, the “alpha male,” and establishing and advertising one’s alpha creds is an obsession for some sexually unhappy contemporary men. There is a whole weird little ecosystem of websites (some of them very amusing) and pickup-artist manuals offering men tips on how to be more alpha, more dominant, more commanding, a literature that performs roughly the same function in the lives of these men that Cosmopolitan sex tips play in the lives of insecure women. Of course this advice ends up producing cartoonish, ridiculous behavior. If you’re wondering where Anthony Scaramucci learned to talk and behave like such a Scaramuccia, ask him how many times he’s seen Glengarry Glen Ross.

What’s notable about the advice offered to young men aspiring to be “alpha males” is that it is consistent with the classic salesmanship advice offered by the real-world versions of Blake in a hundred thousand business-inspiration books (Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman in the World is the classic of the genre) and self-help tomes, summarized in an old Alcoholics Anonymous slogan: “Fake it ’til you make it.” For the pick-up artists, the idea is that simply acting in social situations as though one were confident, successful, and naturally masterful is a pretty good substitute for being those things. Never mind the advice of Cicero (esse quam videri, be rather than seem) or Rush — just go around acting like Blake and people will treat you like Blake.

If that sounds preposterous, remind yourself who the president of the United States of America is.

Trump is the political version of a pickup artist, and Republicans — and America — went to bed with him convinced that he was something other than what he is. Trump inherited his fortune but describes himself as though he were a self-made man.

Update: I guess he came in third.

Craft brewers are good examples of “evasive entrepreneurs”

Filed under: Business, Government, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Rosemarie Fike explains why craft brewers almost always push tours of their premises and souvenir glasses, mugs, coasters, and T-shirts:

This summer I’ve been enjoying a lot of microbrewery tours — even though the main attraction isn’t the “tour” I pay for, but the free beer that comes with it. In fact, the breweries must know that’s why people come. So why don’t they just drop this tour façade and sell us the beer?

Regardless of which brewery you visit, you pay a mere $10 for a pint glass with the brewery’s logo on it. As a thank you for purchasing the pint glass, they then grant three tickets you can redeem for free “samples” — which are actually full-sized beers.

There are also usually food vendors and live music. This atmosphere combined with the inexpensive libations draw sizeable crowds to these “tours” — where only a handful of patrons actually tour the facility.

But why do the breweries insist upon selling us the pint glasses, when most of us only really want what goes inside?

In conversation with the brewery owners, I learned that the breweries in my town aren’t legally allowed to sell beer directly to consumers in the way a bar can. But there’s nothing in the law preventing them from giving their product away.

In response to those incentives, they sell customers a pint glass (or charge them for the “tour”) and rent some of their property out to food vendors to subsidize the cost of getting their product into the hands of eager consumers without technically charging them for it.

It’s far from an ideal situation for these businesses, but it allows them to introduce new people to their product and to earn some revenue in the process — even if it’s less revenue than they could earn if they were allowed to just sell people the beer. It’s a clever arrangement and a perfect example of evasive entrepreneurship.

Byzantine religion – not a joking matter

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

When Tamara Keel isn’t talking about guns, she apparently relaxes by talking about Byzantine history:

Court of Emperor Justinian with (right) archbishop Maximian and (left) court officials and Praetorian Guards; Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. The dark-haired bearded man to Justinian’s right is believed to be Belisarius. (via Wikimedia)

So, this Maximus dude was a bureaucrat in the Byzantine Empire who apparently had religion as a hobby, as did everybody in Constantinople back then. All the Byzantines did was watch chariot races, debate arcane theological matters, and riot and/or kill each other over differences of opinion on chariot races or arcane theological matters. (Oh, and they engaged in so much intra-governmental intrigue that they went in the dictionary for it.)

At some point, Maximus dropped out of government service and took up religion as a full-time occupation, leaving the city of Constantinople for a monastery in Anatolia. Skipping town ahead of the invading Persians, he landed in Carthage, in Eastern Roman hands for the nonce, thanks to Justinian and Belisarius’s ruinously expensive Mediterranean campaigns.

The big argument in the Church (there was just the one, back then) at the time was between guys who thought Jesus had two natures, human and divine, but only one divine will, and other guys who thought that Jesus had not only two natures, but also a human will and a divine will. Seriously. This was a very big deal and dudes were killing each other over it.

Well, the first view, Monothelitism, was the official view at the time, but Maximus was a believer in the second, or Dyothelitism. And he and the new Pope, Martin I, called a religious council in Rome to debate on the matter without bothering to ask the Emperor. When the council turned out a Dyotheletic verdict, Emperor Constans II (a Monotheletist) had both Pope Martin I and Maximus arrested.

The Pope got de-Poped and banished to the Crimea, where he died. Maximus was tried and sentenced to exile. However, he would not shut up about Dyothelitism and wound up having a great big show trial a few years later, following which he got his tongue cut out and his right hand cut off so he couldn’t tell people that Jesus had two wills anymore or even write it very legibly. Then he got banished to Georgia. (The one on the Black Sea, not the one you drive through on the way to Florida.)

He died in exile there in 662 AD. Nineteen years later, at the Third Council of Constantinople, the Church (still just the one) decided that maybe Jesus did have two wills after all. Maximus received a posthumous pardon, sort of a more official version of “Whoops! Hey, sorry about the tongue and the hand and the whole exile-and-dying-in-prison thing. No hard feelings, okay? Here, have a feast day.”

I told you they took their religion seriously in Constantinople, didn’t I?

Patents, Prizes, and Subsidies

Published on 17 May 2016

Growth on the cutting edge is all about the creation of new ideas.

So, we want institutions that incentivize such creation. How do we do this? The answer is somewhat tricky.

The first goal for good ideas is for them to spread as freely as possible. The further the reach, the greater the gains. The problem is, if just anyone can use ideas, then why would we ever pay for them? And without the right incentives, why would innovators create new ideas at all?

Imagine yourself as the creator of a new drug. Typically, it costs about a billion dollars to do this, not counting the time and effort needed to get the drug FDA-approved.

Now, if there were no protections in place, then theoretically, once the formula’s known, everyone could just copy the make-up of your new drug. See, the thing about pharmaceuticals is, once the formula’s known, production is relatively cheap. Given that, let’s assume imitations start flooding the market.

Predictably, the price of your new drug will plummet.

Once prices hit rock-bottom, you’ll have no way to recoup the $1 billion you spent on R&D.

Given that kind of result, we reckon you probably won’t want to develop more good ideas.

The US founding fathers anticipated this problem. Knowing that innovators needed incentives to have good ideas, the founders wrote a protection mechanism into the Constitution.

They gave Congress the ability to grant exclusive rights to inventors — rights to use and sell their inventions, for a limited period of time. This exclusive right, is what we call a patent. Patents grant inventors a temporary monopoly over the use and sale of their intellectual property.

Now, as nice as this is, patents are a thorny subject.

For one, how long should patents last? Also, how much innovation is considered enough to merit a patent grant? Not to mention, are patents the only way to reward good ideas?

The answer is no.

There are two more incentive options here: prizes, and subsidies.

Let’s start with subsidies. University and research subsidies are particularly effective in the basic sciences. Since innovations in this space are rather abstract, subsidies incentivize research without requiring the applications of the research to be explicitly named. The problem is, when we’re incentivizing just research, then researchers might pick directions that are interesting, but not particularly useful.

This is why the third incentive option — prizes — exists.

Prizes reward the output of solving a certain problem. Another plus, is that prizes leave solutions unspecified. They provide a problem to work on, but give quite a lot of leeway as to how the problem is solved.

Now, knowing the complexity inherent in patents, you might think that prizes and subsidies are good enough alternatives. But none of these incentives for ideas, are inherently better than any of the others. Patents, prizes, and subsidies all involve their own tradeoffs and questions.

For example, who decides what gets subsidized? Who decides which goals merit a prize?

It’s hard to determine what mix of institutions, will best incentivize the production of good ideas. Patents, prizes, and subsidies all navigate these conflicting goals, in their own way.

And yes, all this talk of incentives and conflicting goals and tradeoffs might be like walking a tightrope. But, it’s a tightrope we can’t opt out of. Certainly not if we want the economy to keep growing.

In our next release, you’ll watch a TED talk from a certain economist that elaborates further on ideas. And then, we’ll wrap up this course segment with the Idea Equation. Stay tuned!

QotD: Naming Mount McKinley as an amusing “up yours” gesture

Filed under: Economics, History, Humour, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Just one thing makes me regret the change. “Mount McKinley” was originally named as a amusing “up yours” gesture with which I have enormous sympathy.

The story told by the prospector who pinned the moniker on the mountain is that he had crossed paths in the wilds of Alaska with two advocates of “free silver.” This was a political craze that, like the Dreyfus Affair or the Sacco-Vanzetti trial, took over an entire civilization for a while, but now defies easy explanation. The “silverites” were Western populists and farmers who wanted silver to be accepted as currency and minted into coin “freely” by the government, as gold then was — but at a face price far above silver’s market value. This would have expanded the money supply explosively, letting the chronically indebted off the hook.

Most economists now regard the silverites as having had a ridiculous answer to real problems with a gold standard. But the important point is that the prospector, Frank Dickey, ran into classic monetary cranks of a type that still exists. And he had done so in a unique situation which permitted no immediate escape. One shudders upon envisioning such a hell.

Dickey got so tired of his companions’ laborious tirades — one imagines them arguing with him long, long after he had stopped arguing back — that when they ran across an impressive mountain, he immediately decided to name it after the new presidential nominee McKinley, Great Satan of the silverites. As the Secretary of the Interior’s Order No. 3337 points out, William McKinley never visited or had any other connection with the mountain, or with Alaska. He was, for Dickey’s purposes, a punchline.

Colby Cosh, “Mount McKinley was a most amusing ‘up yours’ aimed at monetary cranks”, National Post, 2015-09-01.

July 30, 2017

“… sooner or later, and usually sooner, the British will be blamed”

Filed under: Books, Britain, History, India — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

In Pragati, Alex Tabarrok reviews Shashi Tharoor’s 2016 book history of the British Raj, An Era Of Darkness:

“Political Map of the Indian Empire” from Constable’s Hand Atlas of India, 1893.
(via Wikimedia)

At sophisticated dinner parties in Delhi, Calcutta, or Chennai, whenever the discussion turns to politics, one can be sure that sooner or later, and usually sooner, the British will be blamed. It’s a fine parlor game, and clever players can usually find a way to cast blame for whichever side of the debate they favor. Is India’s traditional family falling apart due to internet porn? Blame the British! Are the laws against homosexuality too strong? Blame the British! The British are an easy target because much of what they did was reprehensible. But blaming British imperialism for contemporary Indian problems is also an easy way to let India’s political class off the hook.

An excellent case against the British comes from Shashi Tharoor, bestselling author, former Under-Secretary-General at the United Nations, and current member of the Indian parliament, in his 2016 book An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India (also published this year under the title Inglorious Empire[UK title]).

Tharoor makes three claims:

  1. The British empire in India, from the seizure of Bengal by the East India Company in 1757 until the end of British government rule in 1947, was cruel, rapacious, and racist.
  2. India would be much better off today had it not been for British rule.
  3. Britain’s success and the Industrial Revolution were due to British depredation of India.

The first claim is true, the second uncertain, the third false.

The first claim is the heart of Tharoor’s book: the British empire in India was cruel, rapacious and racist. All true. But who would expect otherwise? Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The theft, the famines, the massacres, the formal and casual racism, the utter hypocrisy of suppressing independence while using hundreds of thousands of Indian soldiers to fight for democracy and freedom in two World Wars — on all this Tharoor stands on solid ground. The ground is solid in part because it has been well-trod. Tharoor brings the case against the East India Company and Britain, initiated by Edmund Burke (1774-1785) and continued by the likes of Indian nationalist Dadabhai Naoroji [PDF] (1901) and American historian Will Durant (1930), to its conclusion and climax with the Indian independence movement. In this, Tharoor is entirely successful and his work deserves to be widely read.

In his eagerness to blame Britain, however, Tharoor reaches for every possible argument in ways that are sometimes misleading and sometimes absurd.

It’s time to eliminate the ethanol fuel mandate (and all those corporate welfare subsidies)

Paul Driessen explains why now might be the best time to get rid of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) which requires a proportion of ethanol be incorporated/blended into almost all petroleum fuels in the US (Canada has similar requirements):

The laws require that refiners blend steadily increasing amounts of ethanol into gasoline, and expect the private sector to produce growing amounts of “cellulosic” biofuel, “biomass-based diesel” and “advanced” biofuels. Except for corn ethanol, the production expectations have mostly turned out to be fantasies. The justifications for renewable fuels were scary exaggerations then, and are absurd now.

Let’s begin with claims made to justify this RFS extravaganza in the first place. It would reduce pollution, we were told. But cars are already 95% cleaner than their 1970 predecessors, so there are no real benefits.

The USA was depleting its petroleum reserves, and the RFS would reduce oil imports from unstable, unfriendly nations. But the horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) revolution has given the United States at least a century of new reserves. America now exports more oil and refined products than it imports, and US foreign oil consumption is now the lowest since 1970.

Renewable fuels would help prevent dangerous manmade climate change, we were also told. This assumes climate is driven by manmade carbon dioxide – and not by changes in solar heat output, cosmic rays, ocean currents and other powerful natural forces that brought ice ages, little ice ages, warm periods, droughts and floods. It assumes biofuels don’t emit CO2, or at least not as much as gasoline; in reality, over their full life cycle, they emit at least as much, if not more, of this plant-fertilizing molecule.

[…]

A little over 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol were produced in 2016 – but only 143 billion gallons of gasoline were sold. That means using all the ethanol would require blends above 10% (E10 gasoline) – which is why Big Ethanol is lobbying hard for government mandates (or at least permission) for more E15 (15% ethanol) gasoline blends and pumps. Refiners refer to the current situation as the “blend wall.”

But E15 damages engines and fuel systems in older cars and motorcycles, as well as small engines for boats and garden equipment, and using E15 voids their warranties. You can already find E15 pumps, but finding zero-ethanol, pure-gasoline pumps is a tall order. Moreover, to produce ethanol, the United States is already devoting 40% of its corn crop, grown on nearly 40 million acres – along with billions of gallons of water to irrigate corn fields, plus huge amounts of fertilizer, pesticides and fossil fuels.

Much of the leftover “mash” from ethanol distillation is sold as animal feed. However, the RFS program still enriches a relatively few corn farmers, while raising costs for beef, pork, poultry and fish farmers, and for poor, minority, working class and African families. Ethanol also gets a third less mileage per gallon than gasoline, so cars cannot go as far on a tank of E10 and go even shorter distances with E15.

The problem with getting rid of targeted subsidy programs is that the benefits are highly concentrated while the costs are widely dispersed. As a whole, the North American economies would benefit greatly from eliminating the RFS mandates, lowering overall fuel costs, improving international food availability, and reducing or eliminating crony capitalist benefits to “Big Ethanol”, but most individuals’ gains would be small — too small to gain much active support — and the current beneficiaries would have vast incentives to fight to the death to keep those subsidies flowing.

US Preparation – Alien Enemies Act – Franco-Prussian War I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 29 Jul 2017

It’s time for the Chair of Wisdom again and this week Indy talks about US Preparations before reaching the battlefield, the Alien Enemies Act for German citizens in the US and the length of the Franco-Prussian War.

The Greenback cases

Filed under: Government, History, Law, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At Samizdata, Paul Marks discusses why it is so difficult to prevent governments from expanding their powers far beyond what the constitution may allow:

… a Constitution is only as good as the enforcement mechanisms to make sure it is obeyed – and as Luther Martin warned at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, trusting government appointed judges to limit the powers of the very government that appointed them is a fatally flawed idea.

This is not a recent problem. Even in the 19th century the Supreme Court often ruled that the Federal Government has powers that the Constitution does NOT give it. For example the infamous “Second Greenback Case” where the Supreme Court, with newly appointed “justices” (appointed, in part, for this corrupt purpose) overturned the “First Greenback Case” where the court had declared, quite correctly, that the Federal Government has no power to print (or have printed) money – only to “coin money” (Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution of the United States) and that only gold or silver coin (not paper money) may be “legal tender” in any State (Article One, Section Ten of the Constitution of the United States). Nothing could be plainer than that paper money is unconstitutional – indeed the very reason the United States Constitution was written in the first place was to prevent the “not worth a Continental” paper money issued by the Continental Congress to finance its government – those who support the Articles of Confederation system forget that one of its fundamental flaws was that it allowed the government to print money, as it gave no reliable source of taxation to finance the United States Armed Forces. Without a large scale and professional armed forces there is no point in having a United States of America at all – and each State might as well go its own way till conquered by European powers in the 18th century or by the People’s Republic of China in the 21st century.

[…]

To return to the Greenback Cases… – Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase (the former “slaves lawyer” famous for his anti slavery legal work before the Civil War) de facto ruled that the Treasury Secretary during the Civil War had acted unconstitutionally in having money printed, even though the the Treasury Secretary of the time was Salmon P. Chase (himself). It is not necessary to recuse yourself if you intend, de facto, to find yourself guilty. However, more “justices” were added to the court – and the judgement (and the Constitution) was overturned. The argument being that no more paper money was being printed – it would gradually go over time, so there was no need to make a fuss… still less to declare that the “United States Dollars” in the pockets of people were just bits of paper with ink on them (not “money”).

In 1935 the Supreme Court de facto ruled (by five votes to four) that the Federal Government could steal all monetary gold and void all private and public contracts that had gold (or silver) clauses in the contracts. There was no Constitutional basis for this decision (none whatever – just “lawyer’s cant”) and the Federal Reserve notes declared valid money came from an organisation (the Federal Reserve system created in 1913) that the Congress had no Constitutional power to create. The Supreme Court, led by the Chief Justice, might as well have chanted “Death to America!” and “Hail Satan!” as they announced their judgement – as some of the dissenting judges pointed out. Thus the unconstitutional Credit Bubble financial system was pushed forward. The doubts of Luther Martin at the Constitutional Convention were vindicated – government appointed judges sitting without a jury can not be trusted.

Tank Chats #14 Canal Defence Light

Filed under: Britain — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 5 Feb 2016

Mark II A12, Matilda Canal Defence Light (CDL)

Night fighting always presents problems but searchlights had been tested on tanks as early as 1919. The idea of turning them into an offensive weapon is credited to a Mr A V M Mitzakis, who devised his scheme before the war but the British authorities did not take it up until about 1940. The idea was to use a light of such power that it would dazzle the opposition, leaving them temporarily blind and disorientated.

Five British and two American battalions were trained on CDL and two of the British units went out to Egypt. In fact the CDL was never employed as intended. A few tanks were used to cover the Rhine Crossing and there were incidents in India after the war but that is all.

QotD: Orwell on climate change since Shakespeare’s day

Filed under: Britain, Environment, History, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

To the lovers of useless knowledge (and I know there are a lot of them, from the number of letters I always get when I raise any question of this kind) I present a curious little problem arising out of the recent Pelican, Shakespeare’s England. A writer named Fynes Morrison, touring England in 1607, describes melons as growing freely. Andrew Marvell, in a very well-known poem written about fifty years later, also refers to melons. Both references make it appear that the melons grew in the open, and indeed they must have done so if they grew at all. The hot-bed was a recent invention in 1600, and glass-houses, if they existed, must have been a very great rarity. I imagine it would be quite impossible to grow a melon in the open in England nowadays. They are hard enough to grow under glass, whence their price. Fynes Morrison also speaks of grapes growing in large enough quantities to make wine. Is it possible that our climate has changed radically in the last three hundred years? Or was the so-called melon actually a pumpkin?

George Orwell, “As I Please”, Tribune, 1944-11-03.

July 29, 2017

Latin Declensions Made Easy

Filed under: Education, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 27 Jul 2017

An explanation of what the Latin Declensions are and how they work. This video is aimed at English-speaking students with no prior knowledge of English grammar. It is deliberately slow and repetitive, and it avoids any graphics or other adornments that may distract attention from the subject matter.

If you like this video, please check out my teaching website: http://www.classicstuition.co.uk/

Things to keep firmly in mind before investing in legalized marijuana markets

Filed under: Business, Economics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

There will definitely be money to be made as more and more jurisdictions move to legalize marijuana, but it’s not going to be like soup raining down from heaven — it’s not going to be a simple as just grabbing a bucket:

Here are Coyote’s first three rules of business strategy:

  1. If people are entering the business for personal, passionate, non-monetary reasons then the business is likely going to suck. When I say “suck”, I mean there may be revenues and customers and even some profits, but that the returns on investment are going to be bad**. Typically, the supply of products and services and the competitive intensity in an industry will equilibrate over time — if profits are bad, some competitors exit and the supply glut eases. But if people really love the industry and do not want to work anywhere else and get emotional benefits from working there, there always tends to be an oversupply problem. For decades, maybe its whole history, the airline industry was like this. The restaurant industry is this way as well. The brew pub industry is really, really like this — go to any city and check the list of small businesses for sale, and an absurd number will be brew pubs.
  2. If the business is frequently featured in the media as the up and coming place to be and the hot place to work, stay away. Having the media advertising for new entrants is only going to increase the competitive intensity and exacerbate the oversupply problem that every fast-growing industry inevitably faces as it matures.
  3. Beware the lottery effect — One or two people who made fortunes in the business mask the thousands who lost money (Freakonomics had an article on the drug trade positing that it works just this way — while assumes the illegal drug trade makes everyone in it rich, in fact only a few really do so and the vast majority are and always will be grinders making little money for high risk). Even those people who made tons of money in hot businesses sometimes just had good timing to get out at the right time before the reckoning came. Mark Cuban is famous as an internet billionaire, but in fact Broadcast.com, which he sold for over $5 billion to Yahoo, only had revenues in its last independent quarter of about $14 million and was losing money (that’s barely four times larger than my small company).

When I was at Harvard Business School, the first two cases in the first week of strategy class were a really cool high-tech semiconductor fab and a company that makes brass water meters that are sold to utilities. After we had read the cases but before we discussed them, the professor asked us which company we would like to work for. Everyone wanted the tech firm. But as we worked through the cases, it became clear that the semiconductor firm had an almost impossible profitability problem, while Rockwell water meters minted money. I never forgot that lesson — seemingly boring industries could be quite attractive, and this lesson was later hammered home for me as I later was VP of corporate strategy for Emerson Electric, a company that was built around making money from boring but profitable industrial products businesses.

[…]

** You can tell I have classical training in business strategy because my goal is return on investment. One can argue, perhaps snarkily but also somewhat accurately, that there is a new school of thought that does not care about profitability, revenues, or return on investment but on getting larger and larger valuations from private investors based on either user counts or just general buzz. I am entirely unschooled in this modern form of strategy. However, the general strategy of getting someone to overpay for something from you is as old as time. I mentioned Mark Cuban but there are many other examples. Donald Trump seems to have made a lot of money from a related strategy of fleecing his debt holders.

“By the standards of foreign Trudeau profiles, though, Rodrick’s effort isn’t notably weak”

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Sad, yes. Pathetic, also yes. But not “weak“:

What a tetchy neighbour Americans have in Canadians. When they ignore us, we mope. And when they notice us, they had better get everything right. We do not suffer errors gladly. Stephen Rodrick’s complimentary profile of Justin Trudeau, in the current issue of Rolling Stone, is a classic example — and some of the complaints, coming not least from Canadian journalists, are certainly well earned.

The “Royal Canadian Mountain Police”? The “Liberty Party”? Those are alarmingly basic errors (though God knows Rolling Stone has published worse). “For Trudeau,” Rodrick ventures, “listening is seducing.” What on earth? “For Trudeau, running is swimming,” he might as well have written. “Cooking is yellow.”

By the standards of foreign Trudeau profiles, though, Rodrick’s effort isn’t notably weak. It at least contains a memorable anecdote: the PM’s motorcade jogs onto a dirt road so he can throw an unwanted ice cream cone out the window without being caught littering on camera. Only … you know … there was a reporter in the car. Did no one have a garbage bag?

Much of the online reaction seems to be less about the article itself and more about the very notion of fawning over this guy at this point in his career. That makes good sense. Non-partisan Canadians who pay attention know that Trudeau isn’t half the change agent he said he was. Key transformational platform items have been abandoned (electoral reform) or are in significant peril (everything to do with First Nations). At this point it’s a stretch to call Trudeau a huge change from Stephen Harper, let alone (per Rolling Stone’s headline) the “free world’s best hope.”

The thing is, though, that was always a ridiculous notion. Rodrick’s piece isn’t so much different from what Canadian journalists have written, as it is late to the party.

Much more of this and I’ll be forced to add a new tag for sycophancy.

Matchlock Musket Demonstration with Armor (Live Rounds)

Filed under: History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 15 Apr 2014

Live rounds were fired from this matchlock with the musketeer first using no armor, then wearing standard armor, and finally equipped with a modified armor breastplate that had an attached piece for the musket butt to rest. Accuracy did not seem to be a factor, as all three tests yielded similar results. However, the modified breastplate was much more comfortable and easier to use than the standard breastplate. In 1611 at Jamestown, a law was enacted which stipulated that musketeers had to start wearing armor. In response they adapted by changing some of the existing armor to suit their needs, and this is evidenced with an adaptive breastplate found in a James Fort period well. A special thanks to Fred Scholpp from the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation for coming out to the island to conduct experimental archaeology with the matchlock and armor breastplate reproductions.

If you are interested in donating to this non-profit research project, please click the following link. https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/jamestownrediscovery

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