31 October 2009
The 19th century German logician, Christoph von Sigwart (1830 - 1894), didn't believe in the Lion's affirmation. Well ... presumably he had never walked through that particular forest. Still, let us record that he wrote: "No amount of failure in the attempt to subject the world of sensible experience to a thorough-going system of conceptions, and to bring all happenings back to cases of immutably valid law, is able to shake our faith in the rightness of our principles. We hold fast to our demand that even the greatest apparent confusion must sooner or later solve itself in transparent formulas."
The "we" in the second of those sentences is the western post-Renaissance scientific spirit, inclined to put facts into tables and draw conclusions, then impute those conclusions to God or (what is the same) the nature of things.
As Dostoyevsky knew, as his "underground man" expressed with eloquence at about the time that Sigwart was writing those words, there is also that within "us" that rebels against the "transparent formulas" in which "we" have such faith. So let the thorough-going system of conceptions have the other 364 days of the year. This one is given over to defiance, to sensible experiences that aren't so sensible, and aren't interested in "solving themselves." To flights on broomsticks and knocks on the door though nobody is there.
To the unenlightened belief in spooks. Cheers!
30 October 2009
On their regular late-afternoon program, "Closing Bell," anchor Dylan Ratigan introduced CG, obviously under the impression that CG was in possession of some new important information about Merrill Lynch.
The camera then framed Charles with the words "Management turmoil continues at Merrill Lynch" bannered beneath his face, because the producers (and anchor Dylan Ratigan) were obviously under the impression that Gasparino was in possession of some important information abotu that subject.
If he was, he never did get around to telling the world about it. Apparently, he took offense at the way he was introduced, the open-ended phrase "what do ya got?" -- what followed was an extremely odd colloquy over the Zen-like nature of that expression.
The reason this is worth noting is that Gasparino has a new book out, specifically about those frantic days of last autumn in the US capitalist system. Maybe he'll explain to us whatever it was that his zone-out kept him from saying that day on camera.
29 October 2009
Casey Stengel was managing the Yankees at that time, and Eddie Sawyer was managing the Phillies.
Yankees took the series in just four games. But in a sense it wasn't quite as lopsided as that statement may make it appear - three of the four games were decided by a margin of one run.
Game 2 actually went into an extra inning. Joe DiMaggio hit a home run in the 10th inning of that game to settle the matter.
There were five future hall-of-famers playing in pinstripes for this series. In addition to DiMaggio of course, there was Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Johnny Mize, and Phil Rizzuto.
That was then. As for now: Go, Phillies!
25 October 2009
Jacques Barzun was (and is) a great admirer of the romantic movement of the nineteenth century in all its manifestations: the era of Beethoven, Liszt, and Berlioz in music; of Carlyle, Goethe, and Hugo in letters. He believes, moreover, that something profound and distressing happened to the movement a little past the middle of the 19th century, with the rise of a mechanistic materialism associated especially with the year 1859.
In music, it was in 1859 that Richard Wagner completed Tristan, which Barzun calls his "earliest characteristic work." In the same year, Darwin came out with Origin of Species, and Marx with the first sketch of On Capital. Each in his own way treats feeling, belief, indeed morality itself as so many illusions within the world of brute fact, of matter and energy trudging onward in meaningless ways toward ... nothing. Barzun sees the strength in the work of all three and realizes of course that they were not extraneous intrusions into their age -- they were of the age -- still, their names are appropriately joined to describe the moment. Mechanical materialism split the romantic impulse in two. Some romantics would embrace the new way of seeing the world -- and they were launched toward realism and naturalism. Others would reject this way of looking at the world -- yet their rejection was often an overly emphatic turn, leading to an empty idealism, aestheticism, or irrationalism. The year 1859, then, is a baleful one on Barzun's understanding of the course of European culture.
Anyway, here is a brief passage from the introduction. "Since belief directs action, it behooves us to take stock of the teachings chracteristic of yesterday and today, for the very sake of reason, science, and art. We have thus two motives, one theoretical and one practical, for going back to the sources of our intellectual life. I am far from saying that the world events we are living through [in 1940] are the result of 'mere ideas': that would be to espouse the very idealism I condemn. Ideas by themselves cause nothing. They are as inert as facts by themselves; or to put it another way, closer to the pragmatic view of history, facts and ideas do not occur separately from each other."
24 October 2009
I got some important chronological points wrong, and I'd like to correct that now. Indeed, I've corrected it in my plot summary thus.
I've had a lot of trouble cross-referencing the events in the book with real-world events, and to some extent I at last understand why. Bear with me.
Mezrich tells the "true story of the Ivy League Cowboys who raided the Asian Markets for Millions." The central "cowboy" is the fellow he calls John Malcolm, who went to Japan to take a job with Kidder Peabody, apparently in 1993, then lost that job when the Joseph Jett scandal hit, the following year.
Then Malcolm got a job placing orders for Nick Leeson, which ended in February 1995.
Thereafter, Malcom called his former boss at Kidder Peabody, who was now the head of a hedge fund. The main story of the book starts there. Until now, I had believed that these central plotting events, involving the Hong Kong stock exchange's tracking fund, took place in 1995, soon after Malcolm had settled into his new job. That is the impression the book conveys. But the tracking fund at issue didn't exist then! It came into existence as a result of the East Asia currency crises of 1997-98.
But on a closer reading, I see that the story can be reconciled to that fact, and Mezrich can't be said to have simply gotten it wrong, foreshortened though his account is. At least part of the blame is mine.
There is a time clue on page 196 of his book, where Mezrich writes: "The brainchild of Richard Li, at thirty-five one of China's richest and most infamous characters, Pacific Century Cyberworks has started off...."
When was Li thirty five?
The answer is that he would have turned that age in November of 2001. This means that the Christmas party described in chapter 21 of the book, when the main characters discuss Richard Li, must have taken place in December 2001. That, in turn, makes the foollowing trades consistent with the actual existence of this fund, and with a merger in which Pacific Century Cyberworks was involved at the turn of the millennium.
"Understanding comes step by step, grasshopper."
"Thank you, Master."
23 October 2009
The fact that the phrase came to my attention through a bit of celebrity gossip is, then, incidental.
Salman Rushdie, the renowned novelist who has written Midnight's Children (1981), The Satanic Verses (1988), and The Enchantress of Florence (2008) along with much else, has been romantically linked of late to Pia Glenn.
Thereafter, in the big 8th grade corridor that is the modern celebrity world, Salman and Pia had a falling out, and it was Pia who first saw fit to tell the world about it.
The world being, of course, best informed through Page Six of The New York Post.
Some novelists of Salman's stature might have seen fit to refuse to dignify that with an answer, and maybe to write a nasty caricature of Pia into one's next novel. But Rushdie is apparently made of more contentious stuff.
Here's the relevant link from Gawker. [Link fixed - ed.]
Okay, there's no reason for anybody to care. But I didn't have any other great ideas for a blog entry today anyway. And, as I say, the whole exchange did produce the expression "radioactive bucket of stress." That's writing. [See Cicily's comment below to get the proper context for that phrase.]
22 October 2009
But the other three front page headlines are:
1. Business Spending Looks Up (a worthy subject, though it could well have gone into pages 2 or 3).
2. Vatican in Bold Bid to Attract Anglicans (I would certainly have put this further inside -- important as it is to wavering Anglicans thinking of undoing the effects of Henry VIII's rashness.)
3. Mattel Hopes Barbie Facelift will Show Up Younger Rivals (the WSJ has a separate Marketing section precisely for such news items as this. What's with the front page treatment here???)
There were at least six stories breakinbg that morning that would have been more fit subjects for the WSJ (in its older pre-Murdoch days) that any of those. I'll call them "Alt" front page stories. I'll paraphrase them hereafter rather than reproduce them literally as with the italicized headlines above.
Alt1. A bipartisan panel led by Volcker is saying some important things about the debt/equity bias in the corporate tax system. That's at p. A4 here.
Alt.2. The fight over Medicare cuts and how that is feeding into the broader health care debate. Page A8.
Alt.3. Important news from Afghanistan, Karzai Accepts a runoff. That is at A13. Twelve whole pages behind the Barbie news.
Alt. 4. Taiwan's worries about mainland China's military buildup. A16.
Alt. 5. Important angle on the Galleon insider-trading arrests arrest -- connection with McKinsey. This is at C1. To be fair, the front page of the "Money & Investing" section is a pretty important piece of real estate. It is the page to which hardcore readers turn first. Still, it strikes me as more worthy of Page 1 than "Business Spending Looks Up." THAT could have fittingly headlined the C section (not that I intend drastic surgery.)
Alt. 6. US Bancorp's Buying spree continues. Are we seeing the rise of new "too big to fail" institution for the next round of bail-outs. This story raises that important question from the back of the bus. Page C5.
If this kind of news sense is the secret of the WSJ's new success, I fear for us all.
18 October 2009
That obscurity is a condition Emling wants to remedy because she considers Anning important. It was Anning who in the early 19th century discovered along the coast of England, fossils of incredible creatures -- creatures no human had ever seen -- the first examples ever discovered of what have come to be known as dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs of course are astonishing creatures even today - imagine their impact as they first emerged into the hands of a woman who was scrounging for decorative seashells to sell to make some extra cash for her poor family in the 1820s! (Yes, she sold seashells by the seashore.)
Here is a link to a National Geographic article from 2001 about England's "Jurassic Coast," the stretch of southwestern coastline that Anning's work first brought to the attention of the scientific world.
And here is a link to information about Emling's book.
17 October 2009
This lawsuit is the latest bit of shrapnel from the long complicated bankruptcy proceedings over auto-parts maker Delphi Corp. During the pendency of that bankruptcy, banks holding IOUs from Delphi were in the market to make deals, to sell that paper and whatever it might get them via the reorganization for cash.
In principle of course this makes possible some middleman profits. Icahn could have bought the paper from banks desperate to get rid of it, turned around and sold it to Goldman which (on this hypothesis) was taking a longer-term view and was willing to build up its position in Delphi debt.
But Goldman alleges that isn't quite what Icahn did. Instead, he sold them bank debt he didn't own (naked shorting it, so to speak) and then, when the time came for the deal to close, pulled out. Presumably he was hoping that the value of this paper would fall between the time he made the deal and the closing date, so he could buy it for less than Goldman had promised. That didn't happen, so he was faced with the choice of pulling out of the deal, or of buying high to sell low.
That scenario, if true, would certainly seem to be a contractual liability, if not worse. It could be fraud if he led them to believe he was in possession of the instruments.
High River says it has done nothing wrong, and I haven't even seen the complaint. I'm retailing this to you second hand. I do think it may be intriguing to watch this one develop, though.
16 October 2009
Here is his explanation of how he came to write it.
A literary academic wrote of this book especially, and of Kilduff in general: "Such attention to detail clearly suggests that these novels are read as part of a professional discourse. The frank and detailed corrections that they inspire from their readers seem to suggest nothing less than the reflection of the pedagogical tone that the novels themselves frequently employ as they provide detailed and comprehensive accounts of the world of trading: even readers who are not inside the business are encouraged to feel as if they are. Indeed, publishers' acounts of the reading habits of City workers suggests how difficult this market has become and note that 'City fiction' (rather than professional guides or 'guru' texts) have become 'the only way' publishers can make 'real money' in the City."
That literary academic is Nicky Marsh, a Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Southampton, and the book whence I've just quoted is "Money, Speculation and Finance in Contemporary British Fiction," (2007).
I've been writing about finance day by day or week by week for nine years now, with a fair amount of attention to the London venue in which Kilduff sets his tales, but there is still much to learn, and this is a painless way to learn it. Higher pretensions than that the books can not make, nor will I make such pretension for them.
15 October 2009
In an interview he gave five years later, Dylan said: "The songs that I wrote for the Slow Train album [frightened me]...I didn't plan to write them...I didn't like writing them. I didn't want to write them."
The cover art for the album displays a man holding a cross, but appearing ready to swing it like a hammer, so that the crossbar of the cross will presumably drive a spike into a railroad line under construction.
Dylan's album, and his conversion, had the distinction at any rate of inspiring John Lennon to write "Serve Yourself," with lyrics like this:
You tell me you found Jesus. Christ!
Well that's great and he's the only one
You say you just found Buddha?
and he's sittin' on his arse in the sun?
11 October 2009
But what the book adds are matters interstitial to the main line of the narrative, a main line that is after all fairly well known already to the sort of folks who would consider reading such a book.
I like the bit about Samuel Chase and the gout. Chase suffered from that affliction so badly in February 1803 that he could not hobble the short distance from Stelle's Hotel, where he was staying, to the Capitol, where the court was meeting.
Meanwhile, Justice Cushing was ill in Massachusetts and Justice Moore was apparently also ailing and absent. So Chief Justice Marshall could not get a quorum.
What did he do? He moved the site of the meetings to the lobby of Stelle's. Chase could thus attend.
But by the morning of February 24, when the result in Marbury was announced to the world, Moore too had recovered sufficiently so that he could attend, so everyone other than Cushing was there in the lobby of the Hotel. In addition to Chase, Moore, and Marshall, there was Bushrod Washington, the nephew of the First President (and thus the cousin of his country?), and William Paterson.
A neat anecdote, though if you want some broader resonance to it you may have to look elsewhere. Gout is gout, not a symbol of constitutional crises or of their resolution.
10 October 2009
Some relevant links. This is how NASA's PR video on the project portrays it.
The story has gone global.
And here is commentary from The Chicago Sun-Times.
But the actual event seems to have been a disappointment to some would-be observers.
Jon Stewart found in a television news report on the subject his Moment of Zen., for October 8.
I'm not the only one reminded of Robert Heinlein, thank heavens.
09 October 2009
On February 8, 2008, Polaroid (by this time under the control of Thomas J Petters of Petters Group Worldwide) had announced that it would cease production and withdraw from analog instant film products completely over the course of that year. This annoyed those with either a nostalgic or an aesthetic appreciation for those products.
Although Waller's brief mention was the first I had heard of the effort to revive, with a little googling I discovered that this has been underway since January 2009 -- spearheaded by Florian Kaps (an Austrian photographer) and Andre Bosman (a former Polaroid exec.)
Personally, I have a philosophic/aesthetic reason for wishing them Godspeed.
I think that many of my own aesthetic preferences can be summed up as a desire to have the "tigers in India," as James would put it, fairly represented to me, from a distance.
I prefer live theatre to any sort of movie, digitized or filmed, in part due to the sense that what I'm seeing is unique. The actors may have spoken these words a thousand times before to each other, but will only speak them once to this precise audience.
But are the actors the "tiger," and is my preference for live theatre a preference for being in its immediate presence? Not really. If that were so, I might be more of an enthusiast for improv than I am.
The "tiger" is the script, and its author's intent. I'm necessarily at a distance from that, but I want to feel that the actors are representing that faithfully to me.
The same can be said of music. I've never been an enthusiast of jazz, because it is so thoroughly imbued with an improvisational ethos, and I want to think of the singers or instrumentalists as carrying out the intention of some (alive or perhaps long dead) composer and/or lyricist.
The same Tigers-in-India impulse carries over to the distinction between film and digital photography. Film, including the classic Polaroid products, captures a moment with a physical/chemical process that carries forward that moment to a future observer. Digital doesn't capture -- it re-creates. And the triumph of digital photography seems to me part of a general and lamentable flight from physicality.
In their own sphere, then, Kaps and Bosman are doing valuable work, and perhaps will save Antaeus from the grip of a digital Hercules who is keeping him from the refreshing influence of Gaia, of physical nature.
08 October 2009
Anyway, I found a tidbit in this book that rather diverted the flow of my own stream of consciousness. Lazard was deeply involved in the ITT/Dita Beard scandal of the Nixon years, a matter discussed here in some detail.
When the SEC's investigation of that was finally resolved in a settlement, in October 1976, The New York Times took note of the fact in a brief inside story (p. 78) by Judith Miller.
Judith Miller? This appears to be the same Judith Miller whose more recent career is associated with "weapons of mass destruction" and imprisonment to protect Scooter Libby.
At any rate, back in '76 she wrote a 408 page story about a twenty-six page settlement agreement. Her story said that the document sheds "new light on one of the most complex and controversial mergers in corporate history," but her story doesn't say anything about what if anything that light revealed.
What that light revealed was a series of confusing machinations that apparently allowed Lazard to pull well over $4 million in fees out of this one transaction, by structuring it as several transactions and charging separately, so that the deal became as Cohan calls it "the gift that keeps on giving."
It is all under the bridge now, but Miller's involvement, and her much recent headline-worthiness in her own right, makes it intriguing.
04 October 2009
The symposium is introduced by reporter Wayne Slater, who writes: "A new study by Trinity College suggests that more than one in five Americans will identify themselves as "Nones" in religious terms in 20 years (up from 15 percent now). Most would not consider themselves atheists. But they are increasingly skeptical of organized religion and clerics."
Well, the study isn't all that new. In March of this year I summarized its results of this study in this blog. Still, when we are talking about eternity, who sweats the months, right?
Anyway, the Dallas symposium includes an intriguing contribution from Cynthia Rigby, W.C. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Rigby says there are three reasons people vote "none." There are self-conscious doubters and deniers on the one hand.
There are secondly, those who "just aren't that interested in it," -- that is, in religion and the questions with which it deals.
And there are, thirdly, some for whom "none" means not so much "no religion" as "no single religion." Pluralists who are trying to craft a collage rather than embracing a creed. I like that break-down. And I'll keep working on my collage.
03 October 2009
Indeed, perhaps some of the staff members thought split-strike conversion was a bowler's term.
Well, Bernie got a 7-10 split in the end, but it was because of the rush to redeem on the part of his investors, which rush in turn produced his anguished confession to his sons. It decidedly was not due to any detective work by the SEC.
Speaking of those sons....The financial-industry gossip site Dealbreaker is on their case. I'll just give you a link to that. It is a lazy link farming type of morning.
02 October 2009
So here is the Red Foxes men's basketball schedule.
Date Opponent / Event Location Time /
11/14/09 at Rutgers Piscataway, N.J. 2:00 p.m. ET
11/18/09 at Hartford West Hartford, Conn. 7:00 p.m. ET
11/28/09 at New Hampshire Durham, N.H. 1:00 p.m. ET
11/30/09 at Holy Cross Worcester, Mass. 7:00 p.m. ET
12/03/09 at Fairfield Bridgeport, Conn. TBA
12/06/09 at Rider Lawrenceville, N.J. TBA
12/12/09 vs. Boston University Poughkeepsie, N.Y. TBA
12/20/09 vs. Binghamton Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 4:00 p.m. ET
12/22/09 at Lehigh Bethlehem, Pa. 7:00 p.m. ET
12/28/09 vs. Vermont Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 7:30 p.m. ET
12/30/09 at Bucknell Lewisburg, Pa. 7:00 p.m. ET
01/02/10 vs. Manhattan Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 7:30 p.m. ET
01/04/10 at St. Peter's Jersey City, N.J. 7:00 p.m. ET
01/06/10 vs. Princeton Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 7:30 p.m. ET
01/09/10 vs. Canisius Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 7:30 p.m. ET
01/11/10 vs. Rider Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 7:30 p.m. ET
01/15/10 at Loyola (Md) Baltimore, Md. TBA
01/18/10 vs. Niagara Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 7:30 p.m. ET
01/21/10 vs. Fairfield Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 7:30 p.m. ET
01/23/10 vs. Loyola (Md) Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 7:30 p.m. ET
01/28/10 at Iona New Rochelle, N.Y. 7:30 p.m. ET
01/30/10 vs. Siena Poughkeepsie, N.Y. TBA
02/05/10 at Manhattan Riverdale, N.Y. TBA
02/07/10 vs. Iona Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 2:00 p.m. ET
02/12/10 at Canisius Buffalo, N.Y. 7:00 p.m. ET
02/14/10 at Niagara Niagara University, N.Y. 2:00 p.m. ET
02/20/10 BracketBusters TBA TBA
02/26/10 vs. St. Peter's Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 7:30 p.m. ET
02/28/10 at Siena Albany, N.Y. TBA
03/05/10 MAAC Tournament Albany, N.Y. TBA
03/06/10 MAAC Tournament Albany, N.Y. TBA
03/07/10 MAAC Tournament Albany, N.Y. TBA
03/08/10 MAAC Tournament Albany, N.Y. TBA
And here is the women's:
Date Opponent / Event Location Time /
11/13/09 vs. North Carolina A&T Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 7:30 p.m. ET
11/15/09 TBD TBA TBA
11/18/09 TBD TBA TBA
Junkanoo Jam (Grand Bahama Island)
11/27/09 vs. Oklahoma State Freeport, Bahamas 3:30 p.m. ET
11/28/09 George Washington/Michigan State Freeport, Bahamas TBA
12/04/09 vs. Tulsa Poughkeepsie, N.Y. TBA
12/06/09 at St. Bonaventure St. Bonaventure, N.Y. TBA
12/09/09 vs. Oklahoma Poughkeepsie, N.Y. TBA
12/12/09 at Boston University Boston, Mass. TBA
12/19/09 vs. Hartford Poughkeepsie, N.Y. TBA
12/22/09 vs. Northeastern Poughkeepsie, N.Y. TBA
12/29/09 vs. Harvard Poughkeepsie, N.Y. TBA
01/03/10 vs. Canisius Poughkeepsie, N.Y. TBA
01/05/10 vs. Niagara Poughkeepsie, N.Y. TBA
01/08/10 vs. Fairfield Poughkeepsie, N.Y. TBA
01/11/10 at Rider Lawrenceville, N.J. TBA
01/16/10 at Saint Peter's Jersey City, N.J. TBA
01/18/10 at Siena Loudonville, N.Y. TBA
01/22/10 vs. Saint Peter's Poughkeepsie, N.Y. TBA
01/24/10 vs. Loyola (Md) Poughkeepsie, N.Y. TBA
01/29/10 at Canisius Buffalo, N.Y. TBA
01/31/10 at Niagara Niagara University, N.Y. TBA
02/05/10 vs. Iona Poughkeepsie, N.Y. TBA
02/09/10 at Fairfield Fairfield, Conn. TBA
02/12/10 vs. Rider Poughkeepsie, N.Y. TBA
02/15/10 vs. Manhattan Poughkeepsie, N.Y. TBA
02/19/10 at Loyola (Md) Baltimore, Md. TBA
02/21/10 vs. Siena Poughkeepsie, N.Y. TBA
02/26/10 at Iona New Rochelle, N.Y. TBA
02/28/10 at Manhattan Riverdale, N.Y. TBA
2010 MAAC Women's Basketball Championship
03/04/10 TBA Albany, N.Y. TBA
03/05/10 TBA Albany, N.Y. TBA
03/06/10 TBA Albany, N.Y. TBA
03/07/10 TBA Albany, N.Y. TBA
01 October 2009
While I search, here are five odd squirrel facts I've come across.
1. Squirrels (of one sort or another) constitute 40% of all mammals.
2. Doctors in Kentucky recently warned would-be squirrel gourmands that squirrels may carry a fatal strain of "mad cow disease". Which makes sense -- they do seem like crazy litle critters.
3. In the early 1800s, the squirrel population was out of control in Ohio. So much so that Ohio settlers organized squirrel hunts, and some became very good at the activity. By 1810, it was not uncommon for a single hunter in a single day's hunting to bag 2,000 of them.
4. Princess Diana was extremely fond of squirrels, and used to scatter nuts about the grounds of Kensington Palace for their delectation. Shortly after her death in 1997, five dozen squirrels (i.e. 60) were found drowned in the palace pool. Speculation blames gardeners glad to finally be able to get rid of the creatures now that their protector was gone. But an investigation by the RSPCA established nothing.
5. Bill Adler has written a book called Outwitting Squirrels, which as you might imagine concerns ideas for bird lovers and gardeners. The Wall Street Journal has called it "a masterpiece of squirrel stratagems."
Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.