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July 11, 2014

sshhh

I was totally gonna ignore this in hopes that it would die a slow death, bereft of attention, but I think that it's largely already forgotten and therefor safe to bring up.

Ben Smith, currently of Buzzfeed, is a smart, hardworking guy.  He is also occasionally a knucklehead.  Take this, his very earnest effort to both explain and rename the two dominant wings of the Republican Party:

I propose replacing the messy old terminology with a simple new vocabulary, one that has evolved organically, which has deep and consistent intellectual roots, no pejorative implications, and which political leaders use effortlessly and without reflecting. The division that will define the Republican Party for the next decade is the split between Liberty Conservatives and Freedom Conservatives.

Okay.

What follows is a bunch of words explaining the difference between the two, which makes sense, etc.  But!  Too suggest that Freedom and Liberty be appended to "Conservative" in order to distinguish between them us not unlike suggesting that Democrats be divided into Fascists and Communists.

That is to say, both Freedom and Liberty are so impossibly unassailably positive that it is downright unfair, like naming your child Jesus Christ.  And to suggest this, unironically, suggests a certain lack of perspective that borders on bias.

I mean, why not Awesome Conservatives and Terrific Conservatives?  Or War Hero Conservatives and Movie Star Conservatives?  Pepperoni Pizza Conservatives and Buffalo Wing Conservatives?

I keep trying to give Smith a fair shot, but you really do end up feeling like he should know better.  (And yeah, there's his Koch brothers connection, but that's a whole nuther.)

Okay, let us not speak of this again.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:23 AM

July 9, 2014

now you can buy a ticket to a restaurant

Ah!  A chance to in-your-face one of those Objectivist Silicon Alley knuckleheads!

Background: Tuesday a new app, with whose name I will not bore you, launched in San Fransisco, an app that scalps restaurant reservations.  Really!  A robot takes up all available reservations for hot SF restaurants, and then the app auctions them back to people for cash.  And of course there was an uproar, as it is generally a slimy endeavor that hurts the restaurants, as what seem like fully-booked nights are actually contingencies on the whims of millionaires.  Read all about it here.

But the dude behind this app, Brian Mayer, actually took to his blog to defend himself, as in his conception, he is doing something virtuous:

If someone does pay for it willingly, is it really unethical? The consumer has made a choice, the reservation stands, the restaurant gets a table filled as planned, and I have made money for providing the service. That seems perfectly ethical to me.

There's something very Aleister Crowley about that — "'Do what thou wilt' shall be the law of the land," or whatever — but even with the added gloss of the "consensual transaction" it doesn't make a lick of sense.  What are some other things that people pay for willingly?  Um, drugs, prostitutes?  Now of course those things are technically illegal, not everyone believes they should be.  Okay, what are some other things?  How about contract killings?  How about child prostitution?

Sorry, the fact that the buyer will pay for something willingly is absolutely untethered to the ethics of the situation, and any man that believes otherwise is indeed either unprincipled, stupid or both.

This app is a solution for a problem that does not exist, creating yet another profit margin out of thin air, monetizing something that never should have been monetized in the first place.

Disruption or not, it's yet another example of how these low-rent VC philosopher/kings are basically nihilists,

Posted by mrbrent at 10:44 AM

July 8, 2014

bubbles

Bubbles are marching through today's headlines!  And not the fun kind, either.

On the whimsical side, sift through this episode of history repeating itself, this time with regards to the cupcake industry.  The cupcake chain Crumbs shuttered its remaining stores yesterday, the inevitable result of big business surfing a fad, milking it for all it was worth, and then planting it face-first in the dirt.  The Free Market may solve all problems, but sometimes it demands unsustainable growth at the expense of shareholder value.

And on the scary side, meet the Everything Bubble:

Welcome to the Everything Boom -- and, quite possibly, the Everything Bubble. Around the world, nearly every asset class is expensive by historical standards. Stocks and bonds; emerging markets and advanced economies; urban office towers and Iowa farmland; you name it, and it is trading at prices that are high by historical standards relative to fundamentals. The inverse of that is relatively low returns for investors.

The phenomenon is rooted in two interrelated forces. Worldwide, more money is piling into savings than businesses believe they can use to make productive investments. At the same time, the world's major central banks have been on a six-year campaign of holding down interest rates and creating more money from thin air to try to stimulate stronger growth in the wake of the financial crisis.

What's happening is this: there's just too much idle cash globally, and nowhere to put it that brings back returns comparable with returns pre-Great Recession.  So the idle money is seeking out every possible asset with even a marginal return.

Two ominous thoughts.  First, call me old-fashioned, but the only thing I think about when I see this sort of bubble is the fact that bubbles burst, and the fact that this bubble is pretty much all assets everywhere, that's quite a burst to contemplate.  Our last two "corrections" were (largely) caused by defined, finite bubbles, the tech sector and then real estate.  This bubble is seemingly boundless.  Yikes.

And the second thing is that, in light of the income/wealth income all over the globe, why the hell is there all this idle cash?  Where did it come from, and, better yet, is there a moral reason that it ended up concentrated in so few hands?

Ah, well, such is life!  Have a cupcake.  Have two!

Posted by mrbrent at 9:47 AM

July 7, 2014

corporatists, oligarchs and plutocrats

It's not every day that you come across a paragraph like this one here:
But Democrats can't lean on a single demographic. The corporatists, oligarchs and plutocrats are working in concert. Liberals must marshal all their constituent groups to do the same. Everyone must vote.

Emphasis mine, duh.

See now, that's the way it is, as far as I'm concerned — objective reality is being unnaturally swayed by the corporatists, oligarchs and plutocrats working in concert.  But I'm a pinko, of course I believe such things to be so!  So clearly, the source of that paragraph must be Mother Jones or DailyKos or whatever the hippies are reading these days.

Actually, it's the New York Times, from Charles Blow, one of their regular op-ed columnists.

Blow is definitely a fellow traveler, ideologically, but even so, it is a bit jarring to see those words grouped together in the paper of record.  But maybe the fact that they're right there, fit to print, means that the concept is gaining currency?  Why, that would be a hopeful thought.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:43 AM