finem respice

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.

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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


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


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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