South Pasadena, USA

I drove through South Pasadena, California this afternoon. It’s a beautiful neighborhood with tree lined streets and large, stately houses. If you’re looking to buy one, the median price is about a million dollars – more than five times the national rate. At a quiet intersection, I waited for the car in front of me to […]

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robots and secrets

From an overview of consensus by John Cassidy: Why, then, are the markets so disturbed? One possible explanation has to do with trading algorithms, which encourage trend-following and herding. Once stocks or bonds or oil prices make a sharp move, everyone piles on in the same direction, and the market’s over-all shifts are exaggerated. Even […]

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looking at the dark side

George Soros: Recognizing a problem is an invitation to do something about it. That is the main lesson I learned from the formative experience of my life, in 1944, when the Nazis occupied Hungary. I might not have survived if my father hadn’t secured false identification papers for his family (and many others). He taught […]

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A movie about the “war on drugs”

At the end of the excellent movie Sicario, Benicio del Toro puts a gun to Emily Blunt’s face and tells her that she should move to a small town where the rule of law still exists because the place where they are – the U.S.-Mexico border – has become a land of wolves and she, unlike […]

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competition

An intrepid researcher has mapped some of the microwave towers being used to conduct high-frequency-trading around the world. HFT requires competitors to use cutting-edge technology to see ahead. It has antecedents: Height, then, played an important part in facilitating that speed. A trader’s physical height became an advantage, which is part of the reason some […]

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Balls

Ev Williams is a 42 year-old billionaire and one of the founders of the company that created the popular communications tool Twitter. Recently, Ev Williams posted a five-second video on Twitter implying that Human Rights Watch (HRW) should be embarrassed because one of its pieces of marketing was made in China.

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Portraits of War, Spanish edition

This observation is stolen entirely from Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Note the arrangement of the lances (weaponry) in this 1635 painting by Velázquez: versus this 2011 painting by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau: Also note what the second painting reveals by widening the frame. Related: War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning.

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Apeface

Many film critics, including some of the most astute, have written praises for the 2014 movie “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”. I greatly enjoyed a few scenes and marveled at many shots that are visually stunning. I also found it an offensively lazy and shallow commercialization of its predecessors. This is why. In […]

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The campaigns

I was reading about the person who inspired the poem Ozymandias when I came upon the headline: “First Syrian Campaign.” Huh, I thought, so he also went to war in Syria. Interesting. Let me scroll past the war to another highlight. “Second Syrian Campaign.” Oh, I guess it didn’t go so well the first time. […]

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Do we need a House of Lords?

Perhaps, this could be the future of the GOP: Yet though the role of the House of Lords was historically conservative and reactionary, and thus an easy target for criticism, the argument in our previous book, Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, suggests that it may have also played a useful role: in the sense […]

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The best laws inspire the law-abiding.

Jack Shafer on the limits of gun-control legislation: As Noel Perrin wrote in Giving Up the Gun: Japan’s Reversion to the Sword, 1543-1879, cultures can change their violent ways, but building such a cultural consensus takes more effort and persuasion that just passing new gun-control laws. Yes, but passing new gun-control legislation does a great […]

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Bingo in Baghdad

From Daniel Voll’s The Hunter Becomes the Hunted in Esquire: Clemente arrived to interrogate the suspect, a handcuffed middle-aged man named Zaid, and underneath a napkin on the table, he found a small device, the size of a brick, with a hand crank and wires with alligator clips at the ends. Clemente shut down the […]

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why are they so religious? also, camels, needles and the 1%

Many religions offer the promise of a supreme and perfectly fair authority. Such an eternal and just arbiter offers relief for people who live daily under unjust, biased and/or inhumane authorities. Consider who is keeping Christianity and/or Catholicism alive in many parts of the United States. Undocumented migrants live in terror of being seized and […]

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the microscopic battles that conquered the Americas

If the Spanish who arrived to the Americas in the 1400s had become infected with native viruses that felled them, they might never have become the conquistadores. It was by pure chance that the native Americans were physiologically unprepared for the viruses brought along by the Spanish. That the mere presence of the Spanish would […]

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For whom is government the problem?

The Republican Party of Wisconsin, a private organization, is conducting a daring attack* on behalf of its benefactors and co-conspirators. Their target is not a budget line item or an unfunded mandate but the legitimacy of public resources. Theirs is but the most recent campaign in an ongoing effort to undermine the ideology at the […]

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