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ȘȈǤƝȘ 93: Well Directed Attention

5 min

"If we only wanted to be happy it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are." —Montesquieu

Nuuk, Greenland
Welcome to Signs of Life, our periodic roundup edition sharing the best ideas, art, code, and events from the Other Life community on Urbit and beyond. If someone sent you this, subscribe for yourself here.

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Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street

A few observations from the new documentary about Bernie Madoff.

The SEC seems awful. They looked at this case multiple times and failed to act even when they were given a complete analysis of the situation by a righteous derivatives analyst named Harry Markopolos. This guy literally wrote a document called THE WORLD'S LARGEST HEDGE FUND IS A FRAUD, which detailed more than 30 red flags and showed that Madoff's returns were mathematically impossible. The SEC's inability to shut down Madoff after all of these opportunities reeks of either extreme incompetence or some kind of implicit collusion.

It's unclear how Madoff thought he was going to get away with it. I don't understand how he ever planned to exit and win this scam. Perhaps there was some endgame, but it wasn't clear from the documentary.

The way the situation unwound, legally, is pretty interesting. The trustee—the guy who has to sort out all the assets and liabilities—was a guy named Irving Picard. Picard identifies which of Madoff's clients profited from their relationship with Madoff. Those profits are technically ill-gotten gains. Picard sues those clients to "claw back" their money, and he is incredibly successful. He clawed back more than 14 billion of the total 19 billion dollars that Madoff took from investors. The thing is, many of these clients were just normal, middle-class families who got duped by Madoff and now all of a sudden they're losing their retirement funds. Meanwhile, Irving Picard through this process earns more than a billion dollars in fees!

Finally, JPMorgan Chase. They had the clearest view on Madoff's dealings of anyone in the world because Madoff held the ponzi bank account with them. Due to laws such as the Bank Secrecy Act, banks have to monitor all large transactions by their clients. They're legally bound to know what's going on. And this bank account had billions of dollars in it, with millions going in and out to simulate the activity of a legitimate operation. It seems unlikely that JPMorgan Chase was not, on some level, privy to what Madoff was doing. But JPMorgan Chase is essentially more powerful than the government, so they get away with anything. "A 20-year long RAP sheet that includes at least 80 major legal actions that have resulted in over $39 billion in fines and settlements... wide-ranging, predatory, and recidivist lawbreaking... from 1998 through 2019."

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🎧 Writing in the Age of Machine Intelligence. Why AI will increase the economic power of deep classical education and unique personalities.

🎧 The Violent Focus of Francis Bacon. The unique force and violence of Bacon’s paintings derive partially from his small and hyper-concentrated studio.

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Selected posts & discussions

Discussion of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, posted by Scott P. Scheper (3 comments). "I read it at a point where I had stopped using drugs and drinking entirely but was still utterly miserable. The gritty depressive realism was attractive and I felt comradeship with his relentless exposition of the intricacies, boring or no, of the world. I see it in hindsight as a kind of search for authenticity which is not developed past this self-aggrandizement and into the exploration of world and concepts themselves. DFW is a genius, and his appeal is to this kind of baser depressive jouissance I think we are all capable of." —Eliot Rosenstock

Call for Theory of Languages, posted by ~milfex-lostex (6 comments).

Share Your Newsletter Here, posted by Joel Carini (14 comments).

How Can I Make My Essays More Appealing to a Wide Audience? (4 comments).

I just got my Tellurian from Native Planet

I now have an Urbit ship hosted from my house, thanks to the Tellurian by Native Planet. This little steel-encased machine simply plugs into a wall socket and connects to your WiFi. You setup your ship from a web page, then it's fully hosted 24/7 without any dependence on third-party providers like Digital Ocean.

Paired with the Realm desktop client from Holium, it's obvious that Urbit development is going through another level-change.

ETH wallet is coming to Urbit this week

"What if you could send and receive ETH, with the ease of a DM? It's ready. Just a few finishing touches before we ship," says Holium.

The ETH wallet is built into their desktop app for Urbit communities, Realm, currently in private alpha. Connect with Holium in their off-Urbit hub on Telegram here.

If you'd like to try the private alpha release of Realm, I've been given a batch of invites just for readers of Other Life. Get access here.

"We should only do those righteous actions which we cannot stop ourselves from doing, which we are unable not to do, but, through well-directed attention, we should always keep on increasing the number of these actions which we are unable not to do." —Simone Weil


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