finem respice

Turn Those Machines Back On

Wednesday, January 27, 2021 - 20:19 (+0100) by ep

A long lost institution.

One wonders how essential a part of the decline of empires it is for the plebs to turn on the establishment. Of course, finem respice has its own ideas (as may the always astute finem respice reader) but events in the Western world seem more and more tied to the conflict (quickly approaching lethal) between an increasingly sclerotic (perhaps even corrupt) establishment and a rebellious populist class. At times one wishes the Tea Party had not been entirely gelded, as this meant that a potential safety valve was sacrificed on the altar of progressive hegemony. It is hard to claim that 2016 (and Election Day 2020) was not well earned by the left in the latter months of 2009 and beyond.

Though it was a hegemony destined to be short lived, the crushing defeat in 2016 has now transformed the singular goal of the left to restore it, a quest for which the left is prepared to have others (whether they wish progressives well or ill) pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any foe, oppose any friend, in order to assure the survival and the success of a permanent progressive electoral majority. From across the sea it appears a goal that is within their grasp.

Yet signs of discord now and again appear.

What, for instance, is the finem respice reader to make of the battle between Reddit and Melvin Capital (beyond raiding that fund's 13F filings for potential short theses, naturally) on the field of Gamestop? And what of the earlier "Bull Raid" occasioned by the unlikely likes of Barstool Sports on the even less likely field of Hertz (about which long-time finem respice readers may remember something)? Certainly, the establishment has decided to fight back. NASDAQ threatens, as one does, to halt trading in any stock in which "social media chatter" seems connected with outlandish valuations (at least for some establishment approved definition of "social media chatter" and some decidedly inconsistent establishment definition of "outlandish valuations"). Always introspective finem respice readers will remember Silver Thursday, the Hunt Brothers, and the wholesale cheating and unilateral changing of the rules (to wit: "Silver Rule 7") by COMEX to frustrate their efforts. An example for our current times, no? After all, let's be serious. We cannot have these upstart plebs usurping full-blown ISDA members now, can we? And who among us actually believes that Securities Exchange Commission regulations (or any establishment rules after 2008-2009) are there foster the investment confidence of the "little guy" or the "individual investor"?

And so the plebs shall be quashed. Shall be frozen. Shall be locked out of markets. Perhaps shall be prosecuted. (Can it really be that Janet Yellen shall be the Czar Nicholas II of the First American Empire?) And so the establishment shall hasten the inevitable (and perhaps bloody) backlash that likely follows. And what of those plebs? Well, though Reddit (and the larger world of crowd-sourced plebs) seems ready to flex and test their recently developed muscles; to experiment with their newly discovered power to crush not only Melvin Capital but also the other firms which rushed to its aid (the establishment may be slow to awake, but once roused is vengeful and ruthless--though it would now seem pathetically and not a little comically powerless), there is something that the plebs, so happy to tout their anti-establishment credentials and defy all comity and decorum (even if they do not yet entirely appreciate the full power of decentralised systems) must consider: Be not so quick to affix labels. You may find them adhering to your forehead before all is said and done. Melvin Capital may have been hedge fund yesterday. Today, and perhaps hereafter, it is Reddit.

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A Critique of Crisis

Thursday, March 26, 2020 - 23:31 (+0100) by ep

And so you've watched as they have managed to criminalize the plague. Or, more precisely, the carriers of it. It shall be unlawful for any person to be suspected of possession of controlled substance; to wit: the virus de jour. The fifth of its kind. What's more, you've not only let them shift the burden of proving innocence of such possession to the accused, you've also sat quietly while they have, without just compensation, usurped all private commerce. No one is immune. They have made it nearly impossible to access the testing mechanism to assert innocence and, finally, rendered even a completely persuasive assertion of that innocence irrelevant. You are, all of you, confined to house arrest. At present, there is no evidence that can be presented that will discharge an individual, any individual, from the accusation that he or she might be tainted. It is not just original sin, it is pervasive and indelible sin. Further, the sin persists.

There is a new reality, they insist, after 200,000 years of battling pathogens. It is only this latest virus de jour that mandates a total rework of Western Civilization. The Republic has always been at war with the Eurasia virus. The Republic shall forever be at war with the Eurasia virus. You are all guilty by default (though the state may deign to ignore your offence if you are a member of a currently recognized and disadvantaged class).

The enthusiasm and verve with which they strive to seize power in such moments should alarm you, and yet it does not. You, all of you, slipped in exactly this way back in 2008-2009. You are slipping again. I'm not at all sure you will regain your feet this time. I'm not at all sure you deserve to. It has been tolerable to live an ocean away until now. It is preferable of a sudden.

You have crowned him in Latin. Long live the king. You must now endure his rule (though he is destined to die quickly and you shall be left pulling the yoke for his ministers for much longer).

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Ceterum autem censeo Twiterinem esse delendam

Tuesday, May 7, 2019 - 23:52 (+0100) by ep

Fuck you, Jack.

The fresco is housed in a room that is small, but quite ornate. Four corner-anchored medallions define the lower-than-expected ceiling's borders. Though they are intended to represent agriculture, trade, science, the arms, and the arts, they are often overlooked. Bulky gold brackets that appear to be structural: the only supports preventing the absurdly large chandeliers from dragging the plaster (and the rest of the ceiling) down with them. Like a modern casino floor, they appear intended to draw the eye downward towards the slot machines, the blackjack table, and the roulette wheel, though these exist only metaphorically. The coarse reference to gambling, social engineering, and manipulation should come as no surprise at all. After all, we speak now of the Palazzo Madama, the seat of the Senate of the Italian Republic.

It is impossible to un-see the bottom half of the room and the floor tiles-an insane montage of age-of-discovery era compass-roses fused with a hallucinogenic motif. One might guess that M. C. Escher was consulted but for the fact that Sala Maccari (the "Maccari Salon") was decorated in 1889, nearly ten years before he was born.

To look further is to condemn the eye to blur to the point of watering: gold trim, red stripes, a riot of carved pink granite lining the very doorways-quite ornate to be sure. The walls are lined with modest benches, demure (one does not coddle Senate pages) but for the aggressive, vertical pattern of the upholstery on the cushions, strongly reminiscent of the ribbon worn by recipients of the American Silver Star medal, if the decoration was first stained with blood, that is.

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The Rape of Proserpina

Friday, November 17, 2017 - 00:45 (+0100) by ep

The daughters of the aristocracy (such as it was) simply did not fare well in classical antiquity. Even the eldest daughters of the greatest kings seemed interminably entangled in kidnappings, hostage taking, the political machinations of the enemies of the city-state they called home, demands for sacrifice by the Gods, or simple murder. To be young, from a prominent family, and female was a daunting state of affairs in c. 400 BCE. Interestingly, at least with respect to Roman mythos, it was a state of affairs that that did not persevere into its modern analogues (today even the most ruthless Mafia leader knows that wives and daughters are strictly off-limits).

Scholars of the classical period would be tasked to name a figure more influential and powerful than Erechtheus II, King of Athens. Erechtheus II was, of course, the grandson of (probably mythical) Erechtheus I, the grandfather noted for being reared by Athena herself. Ironically, his conception was the product of Hephaestus' attempt to rape the (then) virgin Goddess when she visited him to commission several weapons. Hephaestus was beset with lust, and, unable to restrain himself, forced himself on Athena. Not content to be deflowered by a mere blacksmith (Hephaestus, who the Romans made Vulcan, was the Greek God of metallurgy, fire, volcanoes, and so forth) Athena fought Hephaestus off, but his excitement was such that his semen spilled on her leg. She wiped it off and cast it away, and from this was born Erechtheus I, the "shaker of the Earth" who would (legend has it) go on to rule early Athens.

One might think that such a lineage would insulate one from the baser instincts of men. One would be mistaken. Athens was at war with Eleusis at the time, and, consulting the oracles (as one does) Erechtheus was told that one of the virgin daughters of Athens must be sacrificed in order for Athens to avoid destruction by its vile enemies. Astute finem respice readers will realize that this did not bode well for the daughters of Erechtheus (Procris, Creusa, Chthonia, and Oreithyia). The name of the sacrificed daughter (because you just knew there was going to be a sacrificed daughter) is lost to the vagaries of history and the porousness of carved stone, but the detail is mooted by the remaining daughters, who, as one, committed suicide rather than live in grief.

Against the tendency to dismiss these feminine horrors as isolated incidents, it bears remembering that Leos' daughters were slaughtered when the Oracle of Delphi hinted that their death would relieve a great famine, and the four daughters of Hyacinthus were sacrificed to Persephone under suspiciously similar auspices (famine, plague, both... the returns on the investment of their deaths is, again, lost to the wiles of time and tide). Readers of finem respice, always excellent issue spotters, may begin to suspect that the nobles of classical antiquity may have several "intentional tort" causes of action against the Oracle of Delphi, but we digress.

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The Paper of Record: Vienna Youth Loses Millions at Baccarat; Julius von Szemso, 'Social Vampire,' Arrested

Friday, November 25, 2016 - 19:14 (+0100) by ep

Vienna, Dec. 9.--One of Vienna's most debonnair social vampires was arrested today in the person of Julius von Szemso, a Hungarian aristocrat, aged 39. He has been in contact with the police on previous occasions, but his arrest is made this time on the charge that at a game of baccarat in his private house he and his brother won no less than 28,000,000 kroner, or nominally more than $5,000,000, from a young Viennese aged 21, whose name has not been disclosed.

It seems that the two Szemso brothers were nearing the end of their financial resources, despite their ostentatious life, and resorted to shearing this young lamb, who is the son of a rich manufacturer. They invited him to the house of Julius for a social evening, but the young innocent found only the two brothers present. They proposed a game of baccarat and stipulated that though they played for kroner the losses should be paid in some foreign currency, dinars being ultimately agreed upon. A dinar is a Serbian coin, twenty-five of which in peacetime equal about $5.

At the end of two hours' play the young innocent found to his horror that he had lost 28,000,000 kroner and was obliged to sign seven bills of exchange for 2,000,000 dinars, this, it was said, being the converted value. In case of trouble with the police the sum was stated on the bills to be in consideration of a loan of 28,000,000 kroner received from Szemso. Even here, however, the young innocent has been swindled. Seems having calculated the dinars at twice the rate of exchange prevailing.

Julius Szemso is well known in certain strata of society as "the man with the yellow gloves," owing to his habit of wearing such gloves when playing cards at various clubs. He lives in a house called the Palais Szemso, where he keeps a large establishment of servants, six motor cars, seven race horses and two milch cows, these being considered of a rarity here nowadays. His adventures have long been a subject of conversation.

He has been previously arrested for engaging in what is known as valuta smuggling, or smuggling currency across the frontier, and for having illegally stamped Austrian kroner notes so as to give them a higher value. Similar charges were also preferred against him in Budapest.

His matrimonial affairs are in keeping with his general conduct. He has had many matrimonial adventures, and not long ago his prevent wife caused some diversion in a fashionable restaurant here by throwing vitriol in the face of a married lady of whom she thought she had grounds for jealousy.

[Copyright, 1920, by The New York Times Company via Special Cable to The New York Times]

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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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