31 July 2011
30 July 2011
Here's a later passage from the same book discussing Greek philosophy after Aristotle:
"Here the progress of speculative metaphysic was checked for many centuries. Until Descartes, no one arose capable of carrying on the deveopment of metaphysic from the point where Aristotle left it, or proceeding to the separation of ontology from metaphysic, and educing reflection out of direct understanding."
By "the separation of ontology from metaphysic" Hodgson means roughly the separation of the question "how did the world come to be as it is?" from the question "how is it?" A little bit later he writes, "The remaining schools of philosophy in Greece were all schools of practical philosophy, Stoic, Epicurean, Cynic, Cyrenaic, the Academies, and the Sceptics; they were not exclusively indeed but primarily and predominantly practical; speculative knowledge was not their chief purpose...."
29 July 2011
Sachin turns out to be an Indian cricketer, full name Sachin Tendulkar, described somewhere as "the first and the only player in Test Cricket history to score fifty centuries, and the first to score fifty centuries in all international cricket combined." Don't ask me for an explanation of that.
Bradman? Sir Donald, if you please. He passed away in 2001, but he was an Australian legend. The Aussies think he was the greatest cricketer ever. At his height, in 1931, a London paper said, "It is almost time to request a legal limit on the number of runs Bradman should be allowed to make."
And he wasn't even named Bruce.
If you have an Aussie and an Indian in the same room, and you want to get a lively conversation underway, ask them whether Sachin is greater than Bradman. There is at least one facebook page devoted to that question.
Anyway, here is one of the corny jokes arising out of this intergenerational/international comparison.
Sachin one day said: "God has sent me to teach the world how to play cricket."
Bradman replied: "That's a mistake. I didn't send anyone!"
28 July 2011
Salmon is generally skeptical about efforts to bring microfinance to the US via Grameen America, but he does seem to have been personally impressed by the flagbearer.
He was pleased that Yunis found the emphasize on the poorest of borrowers, and on microfinance as a pseudo-charity, to be "undignified." This is the approach associated with Kiva, and you can read about it here.
After all, the beneficiary of microfinance is someone whois paying interest. Yunus asked rhetorically:
"Why should you advertise her as someone who’s deserving of donations? It’s an undignified way of doing it. She’s running a business. Respect her as a client. As somebody who’s paying full cost.”
Here's a coupling of Kiva and Gameen by a Seattle columnist a coiuple of years ago. Click
Of course, a business can cut costs if it can get people to volunteer their hours.
As Alicia Quinn has written: "This is a mutually beneficial relationship; organizations receive labor at little to no cost and volunteers fulfill their desire to give back. However, there are farther-reaching impacts of volunteers on microfinance organizations."
I'm afraid that's the sort of hippie-dippie language that gets my own dander up. If they are a sustainable capitalist endeavor, as Yunus for one certainly believes, they should be able to pay the market rate for the labor they require.
24 July 2011
I have a credit card that has a $6,000 credit limit. I go along happily spending for awhile until one day I find that I've hit the limit, and stores/bars/vending machines are spitting my card back out at me.
So I scrape together $1,000, pay it, and now I'm below the limit again. I can go back to using my plastic and (bonus), the credit card company, happy to have received the $1,000 payment, increases my limit to $10,000.
Something like that has been the history of the US legislatively imposed Treasury debt limit, and various increases thereof.
What do I do for a living? I sell widgets, let us suppose. I work on commission, so the more widgets I sell, the more money I get. [Okay, this part doesn't seem at first blush to fit the analogy, but it will in time. Work with me here.] The problem is, how to raise that $1,000 quick so I can (a) render my card limit immediately irrelevant and (b) likely get it raised into the bargain?
Along comes someone named Lancelot Giggler who tells me that I could sell a lot more widgets if I charged less as a commission. Perhaps I could offer some portion of my commission as a rebate to buyers. Enough new buyers will mean a higher total income, means I pay the credit card company.
Now, let's imagine that there are a variety of different opinions about the social value of Faille and the widgets he sells. There is a faction who believes that if I died, or (let's be less bloodthirsty here) if I lost a lot of weight because of a starvation diet, and wasn't able to sell widgets any more, then the world would be better off, because the social net value of widget salesmen, or of chubby ones anyway, is negative.
So we have Lancelot Giggler on the one hand and we have the Faille Starvers on the other.
This is where I get confused. Aren't Giggler and the Starvers taking up quite contrary positions? If Giggler is telling the truth about the effects of commissions cuts on my sales, then he is describing a way in which I can make more sales and remain chubby and prosperous. If the Starvers believe him, they'll want to dissuade or prevent me from doing that.
23 July 2011
Among the thoughts I shared at the time was one about the origin of "I Love Lucy," and a story indicating that those negotiations might be considered an example of collective bargaining in a microcosm. I know more about that story now then I did in September, so I'd like to fill that in a bit.
I wrote in Septrember that when a certain CBS bigwig saw the pilot, his first reaction was: "Keep the redhead, but ditch the Cuban."
Actually, that line didn't come from any CBS exec, but from a consultant to whom CBS had turned.
Who was the consultant? Turns out it was one-half of the phenomenal Broadway team that was re-making the whole idea of a musical at around this time: it was lyricist Oscar Hammerstein. I can imagine the thinkig of the network bigwigs as they called him in. Oscar knows theatre. Theatre is a visual medium. This new box is visual, too. Must be pretty much the same. (It isn't, but I'll leave that aside for now.)
What I really want to set straight is this: In September, when I didn't know who I was talking about, I wrote: Maybe the CBS exec was worried about the public acceptance of some televised "miscegenation," as they called such things back then.
Knowing that it was Oscar Hammerstein, the author to the lyrics to "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught" and the other songs in "South Pacific," a musical with a mixed-race marriage at its heart, I have to apologize for that. I was way wrong.
Just to atone to his spirit, here are those lyrics:
You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!
22 July 2011
I'll just provide you with some links in case you, dear reader, aren't up on all this and want the materials for a quick catch-up.
On June 23, an Old Bailey jury found Levi Bellfield guilty of the murder of Milly Dowler nine years ago. Never mind about the particulars now -- the verdict re-opened old wounds at News Corp., wounds its rivals were in a position to exploit.
Here's what The Guardian had to say on July 4, about Milly Dowler, and the hacking of her voice mail: click.
Miss Dowler's disappearance goes back to 2002. For a bomb that went off after ticking quietly for nine years, this one made quite a mess.
Then on July 6, reports appeared that the particular Murdochian property involved in the Dowler matter, the News of the World, had also hacked the phones of thr families of victims of the July 7, 2005 London terrorist attacks.
For perspective, it has long been understood that the tabloid press in the UK will do anything for a scoop on the Royal family or wealthy celebrities. A lot that would have been winked at in such a context was exciting outrage now that ordinary folks were the victims.
Murdoch decided he had to throw someone or something under the proverbial bus. It was the "News of the World" (NotW hereafter) itself -- he closed that paper, one which had been around since 1843, on July 10 of this year, assigning 200 working people to unemployment.
But who had been the relevant underling? Rebekah Brooks was the editor of NotW from 2000 to 2003, the perod of Milly Dowler's death. She had since become a crucial lieutenant to Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch initially gave every indication that he would stand staunchly by his woman.
But the heat became too much for him. On July 14th, a large investor in News Corp., Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, demanded her resignation, and on the 15th, she complied. Things have gotten even worse for our Ms Brooks. She was thereafter arrested.
Further, this has also become a scandal about corruption at Scotland Yard. Years ago, Brooks admited to parliament that under her leadership, the NotW paid police officers for information -- an admission causing consequences both for her organization and for theirs just now.
And there is a mysterious death to throw into the mix. The sort of death that may have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of this, but that will keep conspiracy theorists intrigued.
For another spiking of the weirdness factor, there was the attempt to push a "pie" into Murdoch's face while he testified before Parliament, an attempt warded off by Murdoch's Chinese tigress of a wife, Wendi. Look at the YouTube. Wendi is sitting behind her husband. She's wearing the salmon-colored jacket. She's a former volleyball player, and she certainly appears to be spiking the attacker's head.
The above links will give you, roughly speaking, this story thus far. Perhaps with the addition of one or two points from here.
Conclusion: the vollyball move won't save the empire, which is troubled by internal rot, not just external idiots with pseudo-pies.
21 July 2011
Interesting pre-match tidbit, each team got to this finals match by the same score. The US in its semifinal beat France 3 to 1. And the Japanese women in their semifinal against Sweden defeated their rivals by ... likewise ... 3 to 1.
Japan was the German crowd's sentimental favorite (in response to which, I will recall the sage advice of Basil Fawlty ... I won't mention the war. In which they were allies. And both got their butts kicked. But I didn't mention that.)
At the end of the first half, (each half is 45 minutes long) there had been no scoring from either side. Plenty of action, back and forth and obviously a lot of determination (I speak as a non-expert on soccer but, I submit, something of an expert on determination).
Early in the second half, the US scored. Alex Morgan specifically, with an assist from Rapinoe.
About 35 minutes into the second half, Japan answered. What appears to have been a failed attempt at a goal was "cleared" ineffectively, and Aya Miyama swooped in. This tied the game. Soon after, there was a chaotic near-scrum where it looked like Japan was about to go ahead 2 to 1. That didn't happen, though. 1-1 it remained, and that was how regulation time ended.
The overtime period saw the US score early, Abby Wambach heading one in, to make it 2 to 1. But with just 4 minutes left to play in the OT, Japan scored again, tying it 2 to 2.
Japan then won the game in a heart-breaking penalty-kick shoot out.
Good for them.
US gals: congrats on a terrific tournament.
17 July 2011
King James version:
"If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me; What then shall I do when God riseth up? what shall I answer him? Did not He that made me in the womb make him? and did not One fashion us in the womb?"
You, Mr. Hard-ass employer, may have to answer to a Higher Authority.
16 July 2011
- Frank Norris, The Octopus
That's a nice bit of stage setting.
I especially like the word "bourdon," for a low-pitched tone, a word that seems to have dropped out of use since Norris' day. I also love the unexpected modifiers, "grateful enervation," "mellow complainings," "infinite quiet." The generation of writers after Norris became very reflectively anti-adjective, but here one sees there is nothing disreputable about that form of speech.
15 July 2011
1) blaming the unions
2) a story about Desi and Lucy
3) defending the unions
4) how GM bought peace
5) cost shifting consequences
6) the business cycle and unions
7) unwinding unsustainable promises...
8) without chicanery (can the unions themselves do it)
9) evolving roles, union survival.
14 July 2011
Perhaps it is a sign of my progress that I have now abandoned the original outlines I wrote of the final chapters . Indeed, as the book has moved along the difference between the actual content of each chapter and the original plan/outline has expanded.
At one time, I had contemplated that chapters 13 to 17 would have the following titles:
13. Bankruptcies and Rescues
14. Public and Private Pensions
15. Home Ownership
According to the latest plan, whatever actually will be their titles, their content will be respectively thus:
13. Early Responses to The Crisis
(Especially focusing on the first year of the Obama administration and things that didn't work.)
14. Labor Unions and Pensions
(Working analytically, from the basic justifications for labor unions to their newer roles and the demographics.)
15. The Ideology of Home Equity
(I'd like to present this in the form of a fable.)
16. Health Care
(The key to the second year of the Obama administration, and its business-cycle significance, along with some philosophizing about biology.)
17. Final Thoughts
Yes, that might not seem to hang together when put thus, but I've learned that the teller should not fight the tale.
10 July 2011
My point, rather, is theological. I believe whole-heartedly that the universe isn't just a bunch of material/mechanical coming and going. Life is more than matter and mind is more than life and the whole of the cosmos is more than its parts -- that More is what we revere as God. Precisely because I believe this, I find it baffling and disheartening when people try to hijack spirituality for nationalism.
On this first Sunday after Independence Day, let us recall the first book of Samuel, chapter 8, with its stern warning against any earthly claims to sovereignty.
So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king. And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.”
09 July 2011
Yes, they bid pi.
Such behavior might have inspired Dr. Seuss, were he still around to hear of it.
Then the firm that was named for a number too high
Decided to bid for the patents. They'd try
With a whim and a will to win the IP
And choke out their rivals from markets -- with glee!
They could have bid "googol," if they'd spelt it right --
But then all those zeroes gave even them fright.
Upon a new plan they soon did alight:
They'd bid for a number so tasty to try
It needed no "e" when they all screamed for "pi"!
08 July 2011
The quote, specifically from the Third Doctor, was, "Courage isn't just a matter of not being frightened, you know. It's being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway."
Beth called these "wise words." They are indeed, but the observation is hardly original to The Doctor. They reminded me immediately of something Atticus Finch said in Harper Lee's novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, though it took me awhile to find the precise quote.
Of course, Atticus, being a model of humility along with the other virtues, wouldn't define his own behavior as "courageous" or use that as the ground for defining such a word, so our author had to find another context in which he could say something like that. This arises in Mrs Dubose's fight against her morphine addiction, which explains why she was so cantankerous an old lady. She was mortally sick, yet offended at her own addiction, and determined to face both the pains of her illness and the pangs of withdrawal in one grand final struggle -- a struggle, that, of course, could only have one ending.
After her death, Atticus says that he had insisted that Jem read to Mrs Dubose because "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what."
07 July 2011
Philip Freeman, Alexander the Great (2011).
The best reconstruction is that Alexander wanted to know whether the assasins who had killed his father, Philip, had already been caught and punished, or whether some might have escaped. In other words, the visit to the oracle was CSI:Siwa.
The oracle told him that it wasn't possible for anyone to kill his real father, since that is Zeus. But, he was further assured, the assassins of Philip had all been caught and he could put his mind to rest.
Of course, the person with the best incentive to have killed Philip -- and the best incentive to want to put an end to conspiracy mongering on the subject -- was the one asking the question.
03 July 2011
02 July 2011
- He rejects the notion that mere dry "data" is not speech, that it is merely a commodity. "Facts, after all, are the beginning point for much of the speech that is most essential to advance human knowledge and to conduct human affairs."
- Vermont apparently had said at argument that even if data in general is speech, there should be an exception in the case of prescriptions, where the raw data should be regarded as non-speech for policy reasons. Kennedy doesn't actually reject that argument but he renders it irrelevant, because
- The speech of the detailers in their contacts with doctors is indisputably speech, and Vermont's restrictions on data are designed to burden that speech, imposing a speaker and content-based burden on protected expression "and that circumstance is sufficient to justify application of heightened scrutiny." So even if the prescriber-identifying information itself is a "mere commodity," this law fails on first amendment grounds.
- One of Vermont's offered justifications for the law is that it protects doctors from "harassing sales behaviors." Kennedy isn't buying into that one. A physician has the same right to refuse to communicate with a detailer that a homeowner has to refuse to discuss faith with a Jehovah's Witness. This law is not necessary to make that so.
Justice Breyer writes in dissent for himself, Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Kagan. He claims that the statute "meets the First Amendment standard this Court has applied when the government seeks to regulate commercial speech," i.e. the government's interest in restricting the speech is substantial (the protection of public health), the regulation in question directly serves that interest (in the explicit judgment of the legislature), and the regulation is narrowly tailored to that end, in that it "permits doctors who wish to permit use of their prescribing practices to do so.")
I'm not a big fan of "intermediate tiers," and thus not a fan at all of the Central Hudson language on which Breyer is drawing here.
The dissent doesn't make any case that the detailers were misusing their speech by, say, lying to the doctors about what their companies' drug can do. Further, if the detailers are lying, a response should be tailored to that. How would it be a "narrowly" tailored when the idea is to make it more difficult for the detailers to get accurate information useful in such a pitch?
What the government fears here, and what the dissenters join them in fearing, is not falsehood-spouting detailerts, but persuasive ones. And I join Justice Kennedy in seeing that as pernicious.
Meanwhile, I've looked at it from a portfolio-management point of view here.
(I'm not crazy about the headline, which sounds unnecessarily censorious -- but you learn when you do these things that you aren't in charge of the headline.)
01 July 2011
The underlying law and facts take us to Vermont, which in 2007 enacted a law adverse to a practice that has become known as prescription data mining. The data miners (like IMS Health) collect data from pharmacies about which prescriptions they have been filling from which doctors. They aggregate this to develop a data base that says, for example, that Dr. John Smith writes a lot of prescriptions for generic arthritis pain killers. They then sell this information to pharma companies.
The big pharma companies are happy to buy this information because they feed it to their sales force, called "detailers" in the trade. The job of the detailers is to persuade doctors, usually in one-on-one conversations Willy Loman style , that the brand name drug can do things for their patient the generic can't.
Of course, if the detailers are right, then shutting them down, or making their work difficult, threatens the quality of medicine in Vermont.
The legislation expressed the legislature's belief that the detailers are wrong, that the brand names are simply more expensive. By cracking down on data mining they hoped to create a state-wide shift to generics and lower the cost of health care.
When the matter came before the Supreme Court it involved two consolidated lawsuits: one brought by the data miners and the other brought by an association of pharmaceutical manufacturers. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor, striking down Vermont's law. The state appealed to the Supreme Court.
The case drew a lot of attention, and several news organizations -- concerned that this would encourage states to restrict their own data gathering abilities -- filed a friend of the court brief. The news organizations, (Bloomberg, the McGraw-Hill Companies, Hearst Corp., ProPublica, and The Associated Press) were represented before the court by Henry R. Kaufman. We might add at this point that Hearst is the parent corporation of First DataBank Inc., itself a leading publisher of drug information.
The Supreme Court upheld the Second Circuit in striking the law. Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion for the six Justices in the majority, including C.J. Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Sotomayor.
Breyer wrote a dissent, joined by Ginsberg and Kagan.
It is tempting to see that line-up in left-right terms. But Sotomayor seems on the 'wrong' side if we give in to that temptation. Further, free speech is one of the few areas in which this court's decisions even in politically polarized areas are not "conservative" in a stereotypical, cantral-casting sense. Consider the ruling that allowed picketers at military funerals, or the more recent greenlight to the marketing of violent video games to minors on first amendment grounds.
Or stick to this case about data mining. One of the claims that the lawyers for the state made at the various stages of this litigation is that "speech" isn't involved. Data mining isn't speech, it is conduct. The amici news organizations were troubled by that claim. In their brief they noted for example that the Sarasota Herald Tribune has recently undertaken "an ambitious, data-intensive, one-year project that involved gathering and reviewingnearly 19 million Florida real estate transactions. The resulting expose of the high costs of fraud in such transactions was a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist for investigative reporting."
This is running long. I'll complete my thoughts on the subject of Sorrell in tomorrow's entry in this blog.
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.