finem respice


The Consequences of a Post-Modern Political Schießbefehl

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 - 15:03 (+0100) by ep

no escape

Astute finem respice readers will be well aware of finem respice's manifest suspicion of runaway (or indeed any) centralization. It would be difficult, therefore, to imagine such readers being surprised to find that these pages were (and are) no particular fan of the sprawling pneumatic-tube system of governance that is the European Union. Moreover, it would be difficult for any reader (even any casual reader) not to come away with the impression that finem respice's attitude might be all together more hostile than mere suspicion and distaste after reading such pieces (forgive us if we wonder if "prescient" is a self-serving word) as "Nucleating The False Vacuum Of The European Union" or "Fiscal Effects Of French Heroin In Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Patients". But, though it was beyond our powers to resist it, such self-referential praise must seem horribly gauche, and, after all, speculation with respect to dramatic change in the European Union always manifest itself in these pages by the expectation of a small crisis ballooning into an existential one owing to the unstable state of affairs that characterized the European Union as a political project. To wit:

Once one realizes that these institutional fibs (unfettered access to funds, the safety of deposits, a lack of regime uncertainty, legally guaranteed equality for citizens, and guaranteed freedom of movement of capital- elemental freedoms that are supposedly instrumental to the legal system they form) are the energy peaks that maintain the false vacuum, one cannot help but notice that, contrary to the expertise of the Eccles, the great minds of the European Union seem fiercely determined to trigger the decay of the false vacuum in which they presently reside. Well, either that or they simply find it difficult to prevail in a "3 of 5" Tick-Tac-Toe match with the top quartile of the Sea Cucumber population.1

Without a doubt, finem respice remains convinced that, far from being irrelevant, a million tiny slights and arbitrary acts, a hundred thousand fibs, and tens of thousands of outright deceptions emanating from Brussels and Strasbourg contributed mightily to the Brexit vote. For three days breathless commentators have been at pains to vomit out the phrase "anti-establishment," (as if addressing a slew of misguided students conducting a sit-in in the Provost's office) before collapsing onto their fainting couches and slipping unconscious into a growing pool of their own incontinence. But their's is an infantile analysis. Consider:

Never has there been a greater coalition of the establishment than that assembled by Prime Minister David Cameron for his referendum campaign to keep the U.K. in the European Union. There was almost every Westminster party leader, most of their troops and almost every trade union and employers’ federation. There were retired spy chiefs, historians, football clubs, national treasures like Stephen Hawking and divinities like Keira Knightley. And some global glamour too: President Barack Obama flew to London to do his bit, and Goldman Sachs opened its checkbook.

And none of it worked. The opinion polls barely moved over the course of the campaign, and 52% of Britons voted to leave the EU. That slender majority was probably the biggest slap in the face ever delivered to the British establishment in the history of universal suffrage.2

The "Remain" crowd (and even some critics) would have us believe that the Brexit vote was a rejection of "The Establishment" and "all it stands for." In the conventional sense this is sold as "The Four Freedoms," a moniker stolen from Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to convince the United States to abandon neutrality and enter the Second World War back in January of 1941. Said Roosevelt:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.3

The European Union took quite a bit of artistic liberty with Roosevelt's text. The Four Freedoms of the European Union are generally described as the "free movement of goods," the "freedom of movement for workers," the "right of establishment and right to provide services," and the "free movement of capital."

It is telling that even this commonly understood (and commonly repeated) formulation isn't accurate. The actual text in the operative documents reads:

  1. 1. "Nucleating The False Vacuum Of The European Union,"
  2. 2. "Brexit: A Very British Revolution," Fraser Nelson, The Wall Street Journal (June 24, 2016).
  3. 3. "The Four Freedoms," Franklin D. Roosevelt, State of the Union Address (January 6, 1941).
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Don't Even Think About Flying Drones Near the Super Bowl

Friday, February 5, 2016 - 10:43 (+0100) by ep

Get The President Out!

The Federal Aviation Administration has banned all drones from flying anywhere within a 32-mile radius of Levi’s Stadium as part of a complex and strict set of rules for all air traffic. That’s a large area that includes all of Silicon Valley, San Jose, Oakland and most of San Francisco. Drones, model aircraft, model rockets, hang gliding, crop dusting and parachuting are among the aviation activities banned from 2 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 7. The game begins at 5 p.m.

click to play video (30MB Quicktime .mov)

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It Is Past Time To Kill "Just One Child" (But It Is Probably Too Late and You Don't Have The Guts)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - 14:33 (+0100) by ep

you were a fool to think he would be yours to control

If you live in the United States it may finally be dawning on you that you have something of a problem in the government to which you are now a Subject. In fact, the details of the [NSA Snooping|Verizon Metadata|IRS Political Targeting|Bankruptcy Preference|Fast and Furious|State Department Coverup|Libyan Ambassador|George Takei Facebook Ghostwriting] scandal are meaningless. You are already far too late. It will get worse before it gets better, it may never get better again, and, frankly, finem respice has not a shred of sympathy for your plight or that of your countrymen/women. In fact, given the manner you have quashed the opportunity- almost unique in the history of the species- created by an impossibly rare coexistence of liberty, private property, free markets, the rise of scientific method, and freedom of expression (to name just a few) there is more than a passing argument to be made that your society has squandered one of the greatest intellectual and individualistic fortunes in history.

Moreover, less charitable commentators may one day look upon what you have vainly and arrogantly loosed upon the world and wonder if the word "criminal" might not actually be excessive. To the extent humanity was headed towards something approaching a post-scarcity society finem respice would not wonder if you have collectively set that project back decades, or even centuries.

You see, for generations now you have collectively built and nurtured a massive, living, metabolizing creature. From the inanimate, intellectual detritus of "progressivism" and your unending and increasingly all-consuming narcissism you have kneaded it into a shapeless husk, pouring in rank mud like "Save the Planet," "Global Warming," "The American Dream of Home Ownership," "The War on Drugs", "Mothers Against Drunk Driving", "The War On Terror", "Speculators", "Too Big To Fail", "The 1%", and of course the essence and spark of its life, "…if it saves just one child." In conjunction with (but far more so than the other buckets of intellectual mud) "…if it saves just one child" has created the Golem of Government.

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The "Eretria of America"

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - 18:23 (+0100) by ep

the fruits of defensive indecision

Having grown somewhat tired of the continued presence of their Persian appointed tyrants1 on the sacred soil of Asia Minor- not to mention the annoying Persian habit of constantly sending locals to drab committee meetings in their stead, repeatedly demanding that underlings retrieve fresh coffee, and generally not recognizing their contributions to the Empire at large- Cyprus, Caria, Aeolis, and Doris banished or executed their Persian appointed tyrants and declared themselves free of Persia. The resulting nastiness, which was in no small part encouraged by the tyrant Aristagoras attempting to save his own skin by inciting his charges, the Milesians, into revolt first, is generally termed the "Ionian Revolt."

As a conflict, the Ionian Revolt is as rich and complex as they come, involving as it does a host of allies, some with competing interests, complex, overlapping promises, assurances, supporting roles in campaigns, amphibious landings and retreats, and (what conflict would be complete without?) the ancient contest between Persian cavalry, and the phalanx.

Given the propensity of Ionian shenanigans to spark broader conflicts it is little wonder that the 3rd Viscount Palmerston (Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Member of the Most Honourable Privy Council) regarded as so delicate the matter of the Ionian islands during the "Don Pacifico Affair" that he barely mentioned them at all during the oration that would later become known as the "Civis Romanus sum" speech.

But, alas, dear reader, a comprehensive exploration of the Ionian Revolt (or the 3rd Viscount Palmerston) would be a laborious undertaking mandating, as it surely would, exploration of the voluminous Volumes chronicling the Greco-Persian wars, for which the revolt serves as a sturdy, left-most bookend. Still, a particular aspect of this later conflict bears some mention as finem respice explores the subject that arouses the instant text. Specifically, finem respice turns the aperture of her expository prose to one particular incident of note: The Battle of Marathon.

Some of finem respice's more venerable readers may remember a time (like during the Nixon administration) where any higher-education-bound young man or woman hailing from the developed (and many from the developing) world might explain the origins of the word "Marathon" by describing how the distance runner Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the result of the battle, which he did in a single word just before expiring on the spot.

Art historians (by which finem respice means those who derive their understanding of history solely from art) will recognize the truth of this legend in pieces like Luc-Olivier Merson's "Le Soldat de Marathon," for which the artist won the Prix de Rome in 1869:



And There Was Much Rejoicing! 2

  1. 1. It should be noted that the pejorative meaning of "tyrant" is a relatively modern adoption, Plato apparently having driven the connotations of lawless rule present in contemporary use. Originally this Greek term was merely a descriptive title for an authoritarian ruler.
  2. 2. Merson, Luc-Olivier "Le Soldat de Marathon" (1869).
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Nucleating the False Vacuum of the European Union

Sunday, March 24, 2013 - 22:30 (+0100) by ep

in my day depositors used to walk to the bank downhill, both ways

When David Eccles was around fourteen his family moved from Scotland to Utah. Once there Eccles assumed such a string of positions, ranging from work on railroads, mills, lumber concerns, and home building, that he eventually amassed a substantial savings. With this cash he became part owner of a saw mill in 1873 before buying out his partners whereupon he began to build a literal industrial empire by following the paths of the railroads (with which he was intimately familiar through the newly founded Eccles/Oregon Lumber Company that supplied railroad ties for the many Railroad concerns in the American West at the time) and founding a slew of new firms to supply the growing demand in the Western United States for everything from electricity, to lumber, and building materials. Eventually, he also helped found short-run railroad lines with a pair of railroad companies, initially to provide transportation for the various goods produced by his manufacturing enterprises. Historians would later point out that the Oregon Lumber Company was known for illegally cutting trees from public lands, and bribing federal inspectors to avoid closer scrutiny. In addition, accusations that the firm committed fraud to obtain title to timberlands have long lingered. A federal suit naming the firm was dismissed (the sometimes cynical and always skeptical finem respice reader might go so far as to say "suspiciously dismissed") on a legal technicality.

Whatever his methods, by 1902 Eccles had also founded or helped found the Utah Construction Company and the Amalgamated Sugar Company. This latter having been created by the combination of the Odgen Sugar Company and the Logan Sugar Company, both founded by Eccles- the former of which served as Eccles' political instrument insofar as he (unsuccessfully) used it to lobby in opposition to the annexation of Hawaii by the United States.

Eccles is widely regarded as Utah's first multimillionaire and at the time of his death in 1912 was serving as President or on the Board of Directors of 47 different firms.

The herculean task of guiding these many enterprises through and beyond the loss of their instrumental and workaholic founder fell to a 22 year old Marriner Stoddard Eccles, one of 21 of David Eccles' descendants (curiously, David Eccles' biography published by the George S. and Delores Dore Eccles Foundation mentions only his second wife, Ellen Stoddard Eccles, and omits any mention of his polygamy or his first wife, Bertha Marie Jensen, and the twelve children she bore him). Marriner expanded his father's interests with great success, particularly in the area of banking, until members of the "Eccles-Browning Affiliated Banks" club spanned a large web intersecting most of the Western States.

Together with his brother George S. Eccles, Marriner founded the First Security Corporation in the summer of 1928. This holding company eventually served as an umbrella company for 20 banks from the Eccles financial empire. Wells Fargo would acquire First Security, which by then had $23 billion in assets and was the second largest independent bank holding company in the Western United States, via a merger in the year 2000 in a transaction that gave First Security shareholders a little over 1/3 of a share of Wells Fargo stock for every First Security share. The resulting swap valued First Security shares at $15.50 each (about or $3.2 billion in the aggregate).

By now the astute and always curious finem respice reader is almost certainly asking: "How did a newly consolidated financial empire consisting primarily of banks in the Western United States not only survive the onset of the Great Depression, which, by unlucky chance, would begin only 16 months later, but thereafter grow to one of the largest independent banking concerns in the United States and continue to endure and thrive for over seven decades?" As indulgent finem respice readers will presently notice, the answer is "simply by being vastly more deceptive than their fellows."

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Mach 4

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 11:40 (+0100) by ep

boom

Ernst Waldfried Josef Wenzel Mach, probably best known today for the "Mach number," a measure of velocity that obviously takes his name, is slightly less well known for the "Mach" lunar crater, and the optical illusion "Mach bands." It is even more often forgotten that Einstein credited Mach as "the precursor of the general theory of relativity." Oddly, the "Mach principle," to which Einstein was referring was something Mach himself never formalized in writing, preferring instead to relate the concept verbally to students and colleagues, though Einstein was probably also referring to this passage written by Mach:

The natural investigator must feel the need of further insight - of knowledge of the immediate connections, say, of the masses of the universe. There will hover before him as an ideal an insight into the principles of the whole matter, from which accelerated and inertial motions result in the same way.

Mach served in the upper house of the Austrian parliament after leaving the University of Vienna and in 1916 died in Munich at the age of 78 on February 19th. That makes today the day of his death, the day after his birthday, and the fourth anniversary of finem respice.

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Rome Was Not Built In A Day (But In 410 AD It Was Sacked In Under 72 Hours)

Sunday, January 13, 2013 - 23:39 (+0100) by ep

unlikely hero?

Alas, the only respite from the choking cloud of mortal horror that sublimates from the formerly solid psyche when confronted with the raw depth of the abyssal absurdity trench into which the United States has now descended has been torn from us. The sharp and always astute finem respice reader will already be keenly aware that, while there was once the prospect that it might endure forever, satire no longer has any effect in the present environment. It has been permanently torn from our bosom and cast into that dank cavern where the powerless and flaccid are left to rot, and where it now lies, whimpering pathetically, huddled in the dim shadows next to the utterly broken and useless bodies of John Edwards and Compuserve (though there's still some hope for Compuserve insofar as AOL has salvage value).1 We know this because Megan McArdle has been reduced to wondering aloud how absurd it would be exactly (if at all) for the President of the United States to be found presiding "over the Franklin Mint."2 However, McArdle failed, we are forced to admit, to beat Paul Krugman to the punch. And Krugman, in turn, leads off his award-winning prose by citing financial journalist heavyweight Joe Weisenthal of that financial press mainstay "The Busineess Insider" in quipping "Joe Weisenthal says that the coin debate is the most important fiscal policy debate of our lifetimes; I agree...."3

On the face of it, all this to-do revolves around the question "Can the President of the United States order the United States Treasury to issue a one trillion dollar denominated platinum coin, deposit this coin with the Federal Reserve and thereby avoid hitting the statutory debt ceiling?" Or, at least, that's about how Bank of America Merrill Lynch framed the question in their research report on the issue.4

Seriously.

It is a simplistic and shallow commentator that takes these discussions at face value (if you will forgive the pun). One need expend only a fleeting amount of intellectual horsepower, of course, to realize that implicit in this question is the fact that this purported executive minting power also triggers in the executive the ability to tell anyone trying to use the debt ceiling as political leverage (or simply to... you know... limit debt) to go pound salt. Those tempted to ask "If this sort of thing works why has the United States Treasury borrowed money... ever?" clearly have no appreciation for the finer nuances of kabuki theatre production.

To the untrained eye the "Trillion Dollar Coin" debate seems but one whacky chapter in a collection of comedic, economic short stories, nestled as it is after other chapter titles like "The Fiscal Cliffs of Insanity," "The Debt Limit is Unconstitutional Under the 14th Amendment," and "Tim Geithner for Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System" but before "Paul Krugman for Treasury Secretary," and "AIG's Hank Greenberg is Suing the United States Government Over the Terms of The AIG Bailout." But to the worldly finem respice reader, what truly amazes is the capacity for anyone to be amazed by this whirlwind of fiscal and monetary chaos. To the always observant finem respice reader there is a larger cause at work. The classically-trained finem respice reader would readily name it "némein," and recognize it as the weapon wielded by the vengeful hands of Nemesis, daughter of Nyx. The finem respice reader sees through to the core issue, the source of the irresistible and inexorable gravitational pull around which all these absurdities now orbit:

Despite (or because of) all her hubris, United States is simply broke, and Nemesis will now have her due.

  1. 1. "The newest version of CompuServe, CompuServe 7.0, delivers a new-look homepage, better ways to organize e-mail and instant messaging contacts, updated Channels, an improved toolbar, better search, a new media player, and easier access to a customized Web page. Each enhancement is designed to make members' online and Internet experiences more relevant and convenient than ever before." (About Compuserve).
  2. 2. McArdle, Megan, "Washington Goes Platinum," The Daily Beast (January 8, 2013).
  3. 3. Krugman, Paul, "Rage Against The Coin," The New York Times (January 8, 2013).
  4. 4. "The Trillion Dollar Tooth Fairy," U.S. Economic Watch, Bank of America Merrill Lynch (January 8, 2013).
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An Open Letter to Dr. Janet Rosenbaum

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 - 09:45 (+0100) by ep

Dr. Rosembaum: It appears today that your efforts to publicize your research ("Gun Utopias? Firearm Access and Ownership in Israel and Switzerland," Journal of Public Health Policy 33, p. 47 (2012)) have accelerated. The most recent showcase for your paper and the concepts that underlie it happens to be Foreign Policy ("A League of Our Own," Foreign Policy (December 19, 2012)) but Ezra Klein showcased your research in an interview for his Washington-Post sponsored Wonkblog some days before ("Mythbusting: Israel and Switzerland are not gun-toting utopias," Wonkblog (December 14, 2012)). It is unfortunate then that the body of your research on Switzerland can only be described as "shoddy," at best. At worst it appears more like raw academic fraud.

Here in Switzerland we resent being pressed into forced labor in the salt mines of America's rapidly devolving culture wars, but this would be somewhat easier service to tolerate if your representation of Swiss law, statistics on firearms related deaths and homicides in Switzerland, and Swiss culture were remotely accurate. They are not. Not even close.

Moreover, it is the considered opinion of finem respice that you know it.

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A Series of Unfortunate Events

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - 14:30 (+0100) by ep

back from exercises

As finem respice has acquired a copy of "Gun Utopias? Firearm Access and Ownership in Israel and Switzerland," [156kb .pdf] the study by Dr. Janet Rosenbaum recently the center of much attention in the wake of last week's awful events in the United States, it seems prudent at this point to evaluate the claims it purports to address, and the various sources of authority it cites in support of these claims. The results are not going to be pretty and, after careful review, finem respice believes there are grounds to think that Dr. Rosenbaum has violated at latest one code of academic integrity in connection with this research. As such, finem respice now publicly presents this analysis of Dr. Rosenbaum's work:

Introduction
The attempted assassination of a US Representative in Arizona in 2011, killing six bystanders, renewed interest in the question whether gun control improves or reduces public safety. Gun control advocates claim permissive gun laws such as Arizona’s increase the likelihood of such high-casualty violent events, as well as homicides and suicides within the households of gun owners. Gun advocates claim gun ownership deters and mitigates the impact of violent events by increasing the likelihood of intervention by armed bystanders, without increasing firearm morbidity and mortality. They cite Switzerland and Israel as countries where permissive gun control and widespread gun ownership have improved public health and safety and make three primary claims. First, Swiss and Israeli gun control laws restrict gun ownership only minimally or not at all. Second, gun ownership and licensing rates in these countries are at least as high as in the United States. Third, these governments encourage citizens to own guns for crime and terrorism prevention and to carry private guns in public for personal defense.
This article evaluates these claims with survey-weighted analysis of four waves of International Crime Victimization Survey (ICVS) data, literature search, and translation of Israeli and Swiss gun laws. It will be useful for readers to keep in mind the populations of each of the countries: Israel: approx. 7,418,000; Switzerland: approx. 7,664,000; United States: approx. 310,384,000.

We will give Dr. Rosenbaum a pass on her low approximation of Swiss population. She was, after all, using data from the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, Population Estimates and Projections Section of the United Nations,1 and what's a couple hundred thousand people between friends?

  1. 1. Rosenbaum, Janet, "Gun Utopias? Firearm Access and Ownership in Israel and Switzerland," Journal of Public Health Policy 33, p. 47 (2012) apparently citing: "Switzerland Population (Thousands), Medium variant," Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, World Population Prospects (2010).
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Mark to Myth

Monday, December 17, 2012 - 18:47 (+0100) by ep

i'm waiting for my appointment at the genius bar

There's nothing like a good gun tragedy in the United States to focus the always erudite political discourse in that country with a bit of rational and measured debate. Obviously, the truly awful events of last week there are no exception. Accordingly, it has been no surprise at all to encounter the oh-so-calm ministrations of pundits, a plethora of fact-based policy proposals all possessed of what will certainly be highly-effective non-half measures, the calm allocutions of dozens of well-informed legislators not at all having the effect of suggesting that a start-up venture providing Thorazine suppository vending machines in the nation's capital would be lucrative, and, how could one forget, the appearance of the noble visage of a weeping Chief Executive (his psyche so mortally wounded that his tearful countenance appeared at three different times in three different places in the same 24 hour period- perhaps the Secret Service should make sure he hasn't been too badly dehydrated from the near constant liquidity drain of his ceaseless lamentations), and all the normal trappings of a healthy, mature democracy. In fact, the effect was hardly limited to the United States, given that all these symptoms were projected to one in real time regardless of the jurisdiction in which one may at that moment have been sitting.

As is somewhat common during events of this kind, many of the aforementioned participants in this latest world stage production elected to dust off the example of Switzerland to make one point or another about firearms ownership, safety, crime, cuckoo-clocks (actually invented in Germany), Apple's theft of the Swiss railways clock face design, and the true origins of Swiss Cheese. Another group of the aforementioned participants hurriedly engaged in the traditional biennial attack on Switzerland for their own political purposes. Neither of these groups could be mistaken for being possessed of a scholarly attitude towards what one might so offensively label "facts."

In fact, the absolutely shameless use of Switzerland as ammunition in America's ongoing and rapidly devolving culture wars has been so extensive that one could be forgiven for wondering aloud if, even as the unusually erudite readership of finem respice reads these very words, Switzerland is not formulating plans to invade the United States built around the seizure of key media outlets by Fallschirmaufklärer Kompanie 17 (one wonders which of the Washington Post or the New York Times would put up firmer resistance).

Normally, such events would be beneath the literary notice of finem respice. Indeed, even in the face of persistent prompting by one close friend of finem respice and a referral to an outstanding Swiss myth-debunking piece by another, it was still possible to resist jumping into the fray. That was, that is, until, on December 14th, the field of battle was saturated in a thick, sticky literary miasma belched out by the industrial strength fog machine of American political discourse:

Ezra Klein.

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