When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

30 January 2010

Quants and wealth destruction

On Wall Street, they were all known as "quants," traders and financial engineers who used brain-twisting math and superpowered computers to pluck billions in fleeting dollars out of the market. Instead of looking at individual companies and their performance, management and competitors, they use math formulas to make bets on which stocks were going up or down. By the early 2000s, such tech-savvy investors had come to dominate Wall Street, helped by theoretical breakthroughs in the application of mathematics to financial markets, advances that had earned their discoverers several shelves of Nobel Prizes.

PDT, one of the most secretive quant funds around, was now a global powerhouse, with offices in London and Tokyo and about $6 billion in assets (the amount could change daily depending on how much money Morgan funneled its way). It was a well-oiled machine that did little but print money, day after day.

That week, however, PDT wouldn't print money--it would destroy it like an industrial shredder.

26 January 2010

Why *would* Edmund Burke support it?

You may not know this. But all the smartest people on the Right are basically ashamed to be associated with you. Your “success” in building a set of near-permanent institutions, think-tanks, and magazines to promote your ideals in an uncontaminated environment leaves us with two choices:

1) Sell out to the movement. That is, we may occupy ourselves by explaining that whatever the GOP is promoting--whether it be torture, pre-emptive war, Mutually Assured Destruction, or supply-side economics--is an enduring Western value. If John Boehner is doing it, we're supposed to figure out why Edmund Burke would support it.


2) Sell out the movement. That is, pitch our articles to liberal audiences. Trash the movement (like I’m doing), and trade our actual conservative convictions for the ephemeral respect of our peers.


Don’t get me started on foreign policy. There we were always at odds. I was a kind of isolationist. Your two unwinnable wars did little to dissuade me on that point.

But then this free market stuff. Live within your means. Fend for yourself. Be responsible. I believed that. But the people you elected didn’t. Bankers, GE, Archers Daniels Midland, military contractors, really all sorts of speculators--they deserved wealth transfers, cheap credit, debt cancellation. These are your welfare queens, conservative movement. Do you know how bad this makes us look, after having attacked poor people and minorities as free-riders? 

Dear Conservative Movement: Stop Ruining My Life, by Michael Brendan Dougherty

Posted via web from enrevanche on posterous

Poken card

24 January 2010

Silver Star

New York City (subway)
10 mi (16 km) Newark (PATH)
58 mi (93 km) Trenton (River Line)
91 mi (146 km) Philadelphia (SEPTA)
116 mi (187 km) Wilmington
185 mi (298 km) Baltimore (Light Rail)
225 mi (362 km) Washington, DC (METRO)
234 mi (377 km) Alexandria
334 mi (538 km) Richmond
362 mi (583 km) Petersburg
460 mi (740 km) Rocky Mount
530 mi (853 km) Raleigh
538 mi (866 km) Cary
598 mi (962 km) Southern Pines
626 mi (1,007 km) Hamlet
700 mi (1,127 km) Camden
733 mi (1,180 km) Columbia
782 mi (1,259 km) Denmark
870 mi (1,400 km) Savannah
1,018 mi (1,638 km) Jacksonville
1,076 mi (1,732 km) Palatka
1,128 mi (1,815 km) DeLand
1,160 mi (1,867 km) Winter Park
1,165 mi (1,875 km) Orlando
1,183 mi (1,904 km) Kissimmee
1,233 mi (1,984 km) Lakeland
1,296 mi (2,086 km) Lakeland (stops here twice)
1,264 mi (2,034 km) Tampa
1,312 mi (2,111 km) Winter Haven
1,353 mi (2,177 km) Sebring
1,395 mi (2,245 km) Okeechobee
1,456 mi (2,343 km) West Palm Beach
1,474 mi (2,372 km) Delray Beach
1,484 mi (2,388 km) Deerfield Beach
1,498 mi (2,411 km) Fort Lauderdale
1,506 mi (2,424 km) Hollywood
1,522 mi (2,449 km) Miami (Metrorail)

14 January 2010

"We aren't at all entitled to use our moral instincts in the correct way."

Michael J. Totten interviews Christopher Hitchens (Part I, Part II).  

Here's the opener to Part I:

MJT: Ireland has a new anti-blasphemy law.

Hitchens: Yes.

MJT: At the same time, Kurt Westergaard was just attacked in Denmark by a Somali nutcase with an axe for offending Muslims with his Mohammad bomb head cartoon. How is it that supposedly liberal Europeans have come to agree with Islamist fascists that people like Westergaard ought to be punished, even if they think he should be punished less severely?

Hitchens: Let's do a brief thought experiment. I tell you the following: On New Year's Eve, a man in his mid-seventies is having his granddaughter over for a sleep-over, his five-year old granddaughter. He is attacked in his own home by an axe-wielding maniac with homicidal intent. Your mammalian reaction, your reaction as a primate, is one of revulsion. I'm trusting you on this. [Laughs.]

MJT: Oh, yes. You are correct.

Hitchens: Then you pick up yesterday's Guardian, one of the most liberal newspapers in the Western world, and there's a long article that says, ah, that picture, that moral picture, that instinct to protect the old and the young doesn't apply in this case. The man asked for it. He drew a cartoon that upset some people. We aren't at all entitled to use our moral instincts in the correct way.

This is a sort of cultural and moral suicide, in my opinion. It's not exactly comparable to the reaction of the church in Ireland which wants to make it illegal to criticize any religion, which in Ireland doesn't really mean much more than one. Many Irish people I know are already publicly planning to break this law.

There you see, I have to say, a different phenomenon, maybe a different version of the same one, a claim of the right to protection against offense from a church that just lost at least two senior bishops who had to resign not because they had not thoroughly enough made themselves aware of the child abuse—why do we call it abuse? The rape and torture of children—where it seems from the Irish government's report that only a minority of children were not made victims of this hideous iniquitous predation.

The same absurdity is present in both cases. These two religions make very large claims for themselves, that "without us you cannot get to heaven, and without us you will go to hell." They claim the right to high, middle, and low justice over everything from public affairs to private morals. They make these immense claims for themselves and further say they should be immune from criticism. It's not enough to be an absolutist party, but you're not allowed to disagree. This is totalitarianism.

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