Tuesday 22 November, 2022

59 years ago today…

…he was murdered. I can still remember where I was when I heard the news. I guess many of you can too.

Quote of the Day

”What has made football so uniquely effective a medium for inculcating national feelings is that the imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of 11 named people.”

  • Eric Hobsbawm

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Liam O’Flynn, Arty McGlynn, Christy Moore and Rod McVey | The Point, Dublin | 1997


Four great musicians.

Long Read of the Day


Insightful obituary by Nancy Baym of Microsoft Research, taking apart Elon Musk’s crackpot assertion that “At its heart, Twitter is a software and servers company.” She argues — correctly IMO — that social-network platforms are not just technical architecture but also “the relations among a number of elements” which include the people who have used, and sometimes depended on, it. And also,

the communicative or expressive content – and here Twitter truly excelled. Even as it burned, it’s never been funnier. “Are we really gonna tweet through the end of Twitter?” asked one tweeter. “This is a good dry run for the end of the world” joked another. The norms and understandings of these practices have never been well aligned, which has caused untold conflict on Twitter, and in many ways that conflict has also been the heart of what made Twitter Twitter.

Thoughtful, and worth reading.

Books, etc.

How to Stand Up to a Dictator

My Observer review  of Maria Ressa’s book.

The Filipino-American Maria Ressa may physically be a diminutive figure (5ft 2in in stockinged feet) but she is a moral giant. In 2021, she was one of two journalists (the other being the Russian Dmitry Muratov) to be awarded the Nobel peace prize for their efforts to “safeguard freedom of expression” in their respective countries. She thus joins two other journalists in a select pantheon of earlier winners: the Yemeni Tawakkol Karman, who shared the prize with two other women in 2011, and the German reporter Carl Ossietzky, who was honoured in 1935 for his reporting of German rearmament under Hitler. Ossietzky was unable to collect his prize because the regime refused him permission to travel to Norway, and he died in 1938 after enduring years of torture and mistreatment in Nazi concentration camps.

Ressa was given the award for her fearless reporting of the corruption and brutality of the Duterte regime in the land of her birth, the Philippines. If the president of that unfortunate country had concentration camps at his disposal, she would assuredly be in one of them. In their absence, the regime has had to be content with convicting her for a crime she did not commit (based on an article she did not write, under a “cyberlibel” offence that did not yet exist), and issuing 10 arrest warrants. If found guilty of these other charges, her lawyer tells her, she could go to jail for more than a century. Since 2018, she has been wearing a bulletproof vest when on the road.

Her book is part autobiography and part manifesto…

Read on

Explaining the FTX racket in metaphorical terms

Lovely blog post by Alex Tabarrok

Here’s my high-level explanation of the FTX crash.

Imagine that I own a house and I create a million coins representing the value of the house. I give half of the coins to my wife. I then sell one of my coins to my wife for $10. Now the house has a nominal value of $10 million dollars and my wife and I each have assets worth $5 million. Of course, no one is likely to buy my house for $10 million or lend me money based on my coin wealth but suppose I now get my friend Tyler to buy a coin for $15. Tyler says why would I want to buy your s!@# coin! To encourage Tyler to buy I give him a side-deal that is not very public. Say an extra 5% of our textbook royalties. Tyler buys the coin for $15. Now the coins have gone up in value by 50%. My wife and I each have $7.5 million. Other people may want to get in while they can—Tyler bought in! Are you in? I’m in!

Now if it’s not obvious, I am SBF in the analogy, and my wife is Alameda run by his sometimes girlfriend Caroline Ellison. Who is Tyler?—the seeming outsider who gets a kind of under-the-table deal to pump SBF’s coins? One possibility, is Sequoia a venture capitalist firm who invested in FTX, SBF’s house, while at the same time FTX invested in Sequoia. Weird right? Tyler in this example is also a bunch of firms that Alameda invested in but which were then required to keep their funds at FTX. Many other possibilities exist.

Another relevant point to our analogy is that there are one million coins but only a handful of them are traded, the handful that are traded are called the float. Similarly, many crypto coins were created with emissions schedules where only a few coins were released, the float, with a majority of the coins “locked” and only released over time. Keeping the price high, and thus the imputed value of the stock high, meant you only had to control the float…

It goes on, and it’s instructive.

My commonplace booklet

Understanding your dog

I’m not a dog person, but if I were I’d read this.

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