Caveat: not all creativity needs to be bonded by wage

AOC was talking at the SXSW conference. An excerpt:

We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work. We should not feel nervous about the toll booth collector not having to collect tolls anymore. We should be excited by that. But the reason we’re not excited by it is because we live in a society where if you don’t have a job, you are left to die. And that is, at its core, our problem.

We should be excited about automation, because what it could potentially mean is more time educating ourselves, more time creating art, more time investing in and investigating the sciences, more time focused on invention, more time going to space, more time enjoying the world that we live in. Because not all creativity needs to be bonded by wage.

Capitalism is based on scarcity. What happens when there is enough for everyone to eat? What happens when there is enough for everyone to be clothed? Then you have to make scarcity artificial. And that is what has happened.- AOC

Then the moderator said: that’s “Full Star Trek Socialism.” AOC just smiled.

The concept of the “post-scarcity society” has been around for a long time. And now we find that AOC is fluent in this thinking – that was not a prepared speech, but rather a response to an audience question. I’m interested.

Caveat: on agency costs and the capital gains tax

I haven’t been posting much of this type of thing, in recent months – since my change in lifestyle with the move to Alaska. But I still read several economics blogs, and I think this is very interesting and insightful.

Very high top tax rates are a means of encouraging “predistribution” rather than the tax part of tax-and-transfer redistribution. Their purpose, their very point, is to create those “agency costs” that economists from the 1970s until now have derided and demanded be ruthlessly excised from corporate practice. But every “agency cost” to shareholders is income to someone else, whether that takes the form of luxury offices and stupid jet travel for firm managers or better work conditions at higher pay for more employees. The ideologically tendentious presumption of the economics profession post-1970s has been that agency costs yield no real benefits, that they look much more like luxury offices for the C-suite than predictable schedules for service workers. But that was always just presumption, and historical experience does not support it. It is, I will admit, not a slam dunk case, it is only suggestive, that the ruthless efficiencies of contemporary labor markets and the shattering of union power happened just after we, in relative-to-prior-period terms, dramatically subsidized payouts to shareholders over other uses of funds. But it is suggestive. And it is plausible that “Treaties of Detroit” and Bell Labses, that corporate practices generally which favor workers, customers, and other stakeholders, are easier for companies to “afford” when shareholders have to give up less to purchase them. Which is precisely the effect, in the most basic economic terms, of taxing payouts to shareholders heavily.from the blog interfluidity

The point above is that by lowering the capital gains and top tax brackets in the 80s, this encouraged companies (via giving incentives to owners and management) to reduce “agency costs” – which weren’t just perks for managers but also perks for regular employees – things like healthcare, living wages, etc. So the tax cuts of the 80s drove the creation of the new, low-perk, low-security workplaces that we see today.

Just sayin’.

Caveat: from aboard the M/V Malaspina

Here I am, sailing from Ketchikan to Prince Rupert.

I’m on a phone signal… between mountains drifting down among islands.

Pictures from earlier in the day (mostly from the Hollis-to-Ketchikan ferry).











Here is a somewhat random quote that struck me as relevant to my new lifestyle among many retirees on Prince of Wales Island:

One way to find out if you’re old is to fall down in front of a lot of people. If they laugh, you’re still young. If they panic and start running toward you, you’re old.

[daily log: walking, 2km]

Caveat: intoxicated by slogans

A mass movement readily exploits the discontent and frustration of large segments of the population which for some reason or other cannot face the responsibility of being persons and standing on their own feet. But give these persons a movement to join, a cause to defend, and they will go to any extreme, stop at no crime, intoxicated as they are by the slogans that give them a pseudo-religious sense of transcending their own limitations. The member of a mass movement, afraid of his own isolation, and his own weakness as an individual, cannot face the task of discovering within himself the spiritual power and integrity which can be called forth only by love. Instead of this, he seeks a movement that will protect his weakness with a wall of anonymity and justify his acts by the sanction of collective glory and power. All the better if this is done out of hatred, for hatred is always easier and less subtle than love. It does not have to respect reality as love does. It does not have to take account of individual cases. Its solutions are simple and easy. It makes its decisions by a simple glance at a face, a colored skin, a uniform. It identifies an enemy by an accent, an unfamiliar turn of speech, an appeal to concepts that are difficult to understand. He is something unfamiliar. This is not “ours.” This must be brought into line – or destroyed.

Here is the great temptation of the modern age, this universal infection of fanaticism, this plague of intolerance, prejudice and hate which flows from the crippled nature of man who is afraid of love and does not dare to be a person. It is against this temptation most of all that the Christian must labor with inexhaustible patience and love, in silence, perhaps in repeated failure, seeking tirelessly to restore, wherever he can, and first of all in himself, the capacity of love and which makes man the living image of God. – Thomas Merton (American monk, 1915-1958)

[daily log: walking, 4km; tromping, 250m]


Caveat: a big solving, indeed

It is reported that Seoul has been saved from anihilation. The below is apparently an utterly true transcript.

Dramatis personae: the new space emperor, Kanye West, Jim Brown.

"MR. BROWN: And I like North Korea.

THE PRESIDENT: I like North Korea too.

MR. BROWN: (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Yeah. Well, he’s — turned out to be good. Dialogue. We had a little dialogue. And Secretary of State just came back — Mike. He just came back from North Korea. We had very good meetings, and we’ll meet again. But we’re doing good. No more nuclear testing. No more missiles going up. No more nothing. And it’s — that was headed to war. That was headed to war.

MR. BROWN: Yeah. I mean, it was — to me, it seemed like that.

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. It was so close. We spoke — I spoke to President Obama. I will tell you, that was headed to war. And now it’s going to be — I believe it’s going to work out very well.

MR. WEST: You stopped the war —

THE PRESIDENT: We really stopped the war. Saved millions of lives. You know, Seoul has 30 million people. You don’t realize how big. Thirty million people who are right near the border; 30 miles off the border. Millions of people would have been killed. And I will say, Chairman Kim has been really good. Really good. And we’ve made a lot of progress.

That’s nice that you say that, because that’s a big — that’s a big thing. These folks were covering — they were covering North Korea not — I think not very promisingly. And there were a lot of problems. President Obama said that was his biggest problem. And I don’t say anything is solved —

MR. WEST: You, day one, solved one of the biggest problems.


MR. WEST: We solved one of the biggest problems.

THE PRESIDENT: It was a big solving. And not solved yet, but I think we’re along — I think we’re on the way."

(h/t The Rude Pundit)

[daily log: walking, 4km; tromping, 350m]

Caveat: On Conversation

I don't have much to report. We went out on the boat today. It felt like Arthur had decided this would be a last trip of the season. When we got back, we pulled the boat out of the water.


A cloudless morning.


Driving the boat out the inlet, past the base of Sunny Hay Mountain.


The captain of the boat removes the boat from the water using his cleverly designed boat ramp system with trolley.


In the afternoon, walking down the road, the clouds at last have returned to Sunny Hay Mountain, after our mini drought.


Unrelatedly, here is a thought for the day:

"[M]ost conversations are bad, so your proper goal is to make them worse (so they can end) rather than better." – Tyler Cowen.

[daily log: walking, 4km]

Caveat: On the hypothetical value of a breakfast in the cheapest country

I've been a bit glum and very withdrawn as I confront getting ready for this unexpected trip, the situation with my uncle's health, my own feeling that a sea change of sorts is approaching in how my own life is organized… 

So I settled into an escapist weekend of map-drawing and music (mostly Mexican hiphop – go figure, right?). 

Life goes on. Wednesday, I fly to Seattle. Meanwhile, I have a vast pile of things to take care of for work.

Meanwhile, a humorous, 400 year old quote:

"Your peevish chastity is not worth a breakfast in the cheapest country." – William Shakespeare, in "Pericles, Prince of Tyre."

 [daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: para llevarme lejos

El viento en la isla

El viento es un caballo:
óyelo cómo corre
por el mar, por el cielo.

Quiere llevarme: escucha
cómo recorre el mundo
para llevarme lejos.

Escóndeme en tus brazos
por esta noche sola,
mientras la lluvia rompe
contra el mar y la tierra
su boca innumerable.

Escucha como el viento
me llama galopando
para llevarme lejos.

Con tu frente en mi frente,
con tu boca en mi boca,
atados nuestros cuerpos
al amor que nos quema,
deja que el viento pase
sin que pueda llevarme.

Deja que el viento corra
coronado de espuma,
que me llame y me busque
galopando en la sombra,
mientras yo, sumergido
bajo tus grandes ojos,
por esta noche sola
descansaré, amor mío.

– Pablo Neruda (poeta chileno, 1904-1973)

[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: and the stern winds brood

The Vast Hour

All essences of sweetness from the white
Warm day go up in vapor, when the dark
Comes down. Ascends the tune of meadow-lark,
Ascends the noon-time smell of grass, when night
Takes sunlight from the world, and gives it ease.
Mysterious wings have brushed the air; and light
Float all the ghosts of sense and sound and sight;
The silent hive is echoing the bees.
So stir my thoughts at this slow, solemn time.
Now only is there certainty for me
When all the day's distilled and understood.
Now light meets darkness: now my tendrils climb
In this vast hour, up the living tree,
Where gloom foregathers, and the stern winds brood.

– Genevieve Taggard (American poet, 1894-1948)

[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: Boorish

Teacher: What do we call a person who keeps talking even when people are no longer interested?

Student: A teacher.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: touched by His Boolean Appendage

The Speculative Grammarian site has this very clever and utterly wrathful satire of the crypto-creationists' "Intelligent Design theory", here. Given the site it's on, bear in mind that it's a rewrite of the ID theory transferred from biology to linguistics, and called "Wrathful Dispersion" theory, alluding to the Tower of Babel tale in Genesis.

I particularly liked:

One cynical observer has likened WD ["Wrathful Dispersion" theory] to Scientology, which “is a religion for purposes of tax assessment, a science for purposes of propaganda, and a work of fiction for purposes of copyright.”


In particular, a satirical Web-based grassroots pseudo-cult has grown up around the theory that all modern languages were in fact “shat out of the arse of the Flying Stratificational Grammar Monster,” with adherents claiming to have achieved enlightenment upon being “touched by His Boolean Appendage” or “washed in the blood of Sydney Lamb.”

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: 10, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000

What I'm listening to right now.

Samarth Swarup and Asa Singh, "Siri answers."


[Musician: ]
What is ten trillion raised to the power of ten?

[Siri: ]
The answer is… one,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,
zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: not not choose

"I am my choices. I cannot not choose. If I do not choose, that is still a choice. If faced with inevitable circumstances, we still choose how we are in those circumstances." – While this quote is widely attributed (as an English translation) to Jean-Paul Sartre, I can't seem to validate it in any kind of original French-language text. Certainly he said something similar, though.

[daily log: walking, 2km]

Caveat: segmentation issues

I don't have much to offer today. I was being obsessive with a computer thing, and didn't give myself time to think of a post for blogland. So here's this.

"When all you have is a database, everything looks like a segmentation problem."

I have not idea how to attribute this quote. It circulates online.

[daily log: walking, 4.5km]

Caveat: the sound of money

Ōoka Tadasuke (1677–1752) was a Japanese samurai and bureaucrat during the shogunate of Tokugawa Yoshimune. He served as a magistrate of Edo (Tokyo), and his roles included chief of police, judge and jury. He has evolved into a kind of folk hero, as an archetypically fair and honest judge. There is a famous story called "The Case of the Stolen Smell." Ōoka heard the case of a paranoid innkeeper who accused a poor student of literally stealing the fumes of his cooking by eating when the innkeeper was cooking to flavor his dull food. Although his colleagues advised Ōoka to throw the case out as ridiculous, he decided to hear the case. The judge resolved the matter by ordering the student to pass the money he had in one hand to his other and ruling that the price of the smell of food is the sound of money. (Above adapted from the wikipedia).

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: my banggwang is endless

Most students play around during the short breaks between class periods. Then, when the second bell rings, they ask earnestly if they can run to restroom. This is perfectly rational: they want to maximize their fun-with-friends time and minimize the painful class time.

Two minutes after class started, Soyeon asked if she could go to the bathroom.

I said, "Really? You couldn't do it during the break time?"

This is such typical and irrelevant teacher-talk, she didn't even deign a response. And of course, she had to take a friend, because girls are constitutionally incapable of going to the toilet alone, as far as I can figure out. This seems to be some kind of human universal, at least based on the four countries I've had a chance to live in. How did it arise? How is this behavior gendered and socially constructed? Well, I digress…

So they went, and took their sweet time. And then, less than forty minutes later, before the bell was about to ring the end of the period, Soyeon announced that she needed to go to the bathroom again. I said, again, "Really? Are you OK?"

She didn't even wait for my approval – she took it as a given. I'm too nice, I suppose. At least this time she didn't need to take her friend – perhaps she'd seen another friend going by in the hall. Going out the door, she laughed dismissively.

"My banggwang is endless," she offered by way of unidiomatic explanation. "banggwang" is 방광, which is Korean for bladder. This was sufficiently amusing that I forgave her transgression.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: Count Your Legs

Statistical thought for the day:

The vast majority of people have more than the average number of legs.

The above thought is useful for pointing out the difference between mean (average) and median.

[daily log: walking, on legs, 7km]

Caveat: Бу айыллыбыт / Арылы халлаан алын өттүгэр

Бу айыллыбыт
Арылы халлаан алын өттүгэр
Куордаах эттээх,
Куодаһыннаах уҥуохтаах,
Оһол-охсуһуу доҕордоох,
Иирээн-илбис энээрдээх,
Ириҥэ мэйиилээх,
Иһэгэй куттаах,
Икки атахтаах үөскээн тэнийдин диэн,
Анысханнаах арҕаа халлааннаах,
Иэйиэхситтээх илин халлааннаах,
Соллоҥноох соҕуруу халлааннаах,
Холоруктаах хоту халлааннаах,
Үллэр муора үрүттээх,
Түллэр муора түгэхтээх,
Аллар муора арыннаах,
Эргичийэр муора иэрчэхтээх,
Дэбилийэр муора сиксиктээх,
Ахтар айыы араҥаччылаах,
Күн айыы күрүөһүлээх,
Араҥас илгэ быйаҥнаах,
Үрүҥ илгэ үктэллээх,
Элбэх сулус эркиннээх,
Үгүс сулус үрбэлээх,
Дьэллэҥэ сулус бэлиэлээх,
Туолбут ый доҕуһуоллаах,
Аламай күн аргыстаах,
Дорҕоон этиҥ арчылаах,
Тоһуттар чаҕылҕан кымньыылаах,
Ахсым ардах ыһыахтаах,
Сугул куйаас тыыннаах,
Уолан угуттуур уулаах,
Охтон үүнэр мастаах,
Уһун уйгу кэһиилээх,
Сытар хайа сындыыстаах,
Буор хайа модьоҕолоох,
Итии сайын эркиннээх,
Эргичийэр эрэһэ кииннээх,
Төгүрүйэр түөрт тулумнаах,
Үктүөлээтэр өҕүллүбэт
Үрдүк мындаалаах,
Кэбиэлээтэр кэйбэлдьийбэт
Кэтит киэлилээх,
Баттыалаатар маталдьыйбат
Баараҕай таһаалаах,
Аҕыс иилээх-саҕалаах
Алта киспэлээх,
Аан-ийэ дойду диэн
Муостаах-нуоҕайдаах бэртэһэ
Туоһахтатын курдук,

The above is a fragment of a poem in the Sakha (Yakut) language, and is part of the Yakuts national traditional epic poetic oeuvre, Olonkho.

Obviously, I don’t know the Sakha (Yakut) language. On a really good day I command a few hundred words of rusty college Russian, at best.

But I like unusual languages. And I like poetry. And, if you accept the controversial Altaic hypothesis, perhaps Sakha is a very distant relative of Ancient Korean. Anyway, they’re sort of in the same cultural neighborhood, albeit a bit farther north, in east-central Siberia: today it is -41 C in Yakutsk, while here in sunny 고양시 we have a balmy -8 C.

I came across a translation of the poem on the blog of the philosopher and polymathic philologist Justin Erik Halldór Smith. Smith is currently a professor at the University of Paris 7 but he is a native of Northern California – like myself and, furthermore, he is of my generation, more or less – and thus he is someone whose occasional reflections on his youth in the green-hilled, hippie-infested comarcas of The City [San Francisco] have always had exceptional resonances for me. Anyway, his translation is strikingly good poetry, in itself, and, I presume, faithful to the original, given his scholarly abilities.

Under that primordial
shining and lucid sky,
where the two-legged, having
a mortal body and hollow bones,
knowing war and battle,
acquainted with strife and discord,
having a vulnerable brain
and a trembling soul,
must be fruitful —
with the cool windy western sky,
with the good generous eastern sky,
with the insatiable thirsty southern sky,
with the impetuous whirling northern sky,
with the shivering breadth of the sea,
with the heaving depth of the sea,
with the swelling abyss of the sea,
with the twirling axis of the sea,
with the unbounded reach of the sea,
with the revered aiy [nature spirits] who lie beyond,
with the radiant aiy [nature spirits] who guard,
with abundant yellow nectar,
with generous white nectar,
encircling us in the manifold of stars,
in the herds of countless stars,
in the traces of rare stars,
with the full moon accompanying it,
with the bright sun leading it,
with purifying roars of thunder,
with the smite of bolts of lightning,
with moistening cloud-bursts of rain,
with sultry hot breath,
with the drying out and again the replenishing of waters,
with the falling down and again the growing up of woods,
with inexhaustible generous gifts,
with origins from gently sloping mountains,
with gardens from earthen mountains,
with a hot and giving summer,
with the turning axis of the center,
with four converging sides,
with such high firmament,
what you tread on, will not give way,

what you rattle, will not lurch,
with such an unfathomable breadth,
what you press, will not bend,
eight-chambered, eight-sided,
with six circles,
with disquiet and worry,
in luxurious attire and ornament,
serenely peaceful,
always-existing Mother Earth,
shining like a silver buckle
on a horned hat with a feather.

[daily log: walking, 7km]