Small fines, and faint damnation

In USA Today for 22.Apr.2019, columnist Ken Fisher pointed out that small fines are really a buy signal.
So, adding my two cents: The dynamic of imposing a small fine is similar to the dynamic of praising via faint damnation.
The ‘small’ fines Fisher refers to are actually large sums of money – sometimes billions of dollars, but are small in relation to the wealth of the companies concerned. This is a good example of the nature of ratio data (the four types of data – or, ‘levels of measurement’ as they are more technically called – being nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio). That is, items of ratio data are most appropriately compared, just as their designation says, via ratios. Since we are talking ‘small’ billions here, it is apropos to include a couple famous references along that line:
1. ‘Only a Billion’ is a title used somewhere by Isaac Asimov (as a chapter title, I believe, in his book ‘On Numbers’);
2. “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”
— Senator Dirksen (attributed)

Merchant Cemetery Ball

A large ball-shaped stone sitting on a grave marker has been rotating since jump street.
The best explanation I’ve seen is that of uneven thawing of ice. That is, ice forms at the base, thereby lifting the ball slightly (due to the fact that water increases in volume upon freezing), and then melts unevenly, as the sun is on one side of the stone, thereby causing the stone to roll (ever so slightly). (BTW, There is a famous poem by Robert Frost titled ‘Fire and Ice’, which can be taken as an unintended ironic reference to the Merchant Cemetery Ball. The poem discusses the end of the world, whereas the stone ball marks the end of a There is also a poem by A. E. Housman referencing fire and ice, regarding the living.)
Here is the link to one of the sites discussing this phenomenon.


Censorship can be short-term or long-term.

Long-term censorship does not depend only on direct prohibitions, but on keeping foreground corrupted enough that anyone of awareness will venture there but rarely. (This is a special case of the fact that anyone seriously advancing some agenda does not just issue an edict and then sit back and wait for it to be carried out. For example, the taxing authority does not just sit back and wait for you to pay your taxes at the end of the year, but takes out your estimated tax from each of your paychecks throughout the year. Another example is the military front: The government does not simply order soldiers to advance, but has special soldiers whose job it is to shoot those soldiers who do not advance.) Being instrumental in keeping foreground corrupted pays very well, and many highly talented people make a prosperous career out of it.

This insight is certainly not new. It is what Voltaire was getting at when he said, “We must tend our garden.”

Short-term censorship is another matter. Firstly, it is inevitable, as it is not possible to foreground everything immediately. The sheer volume forces a selection, or prioritization. (This selection, or prioritization, constitutes a kind of emergent order. The study of emergent order is called Ramsey Theory.) Secondly, it often happens that details embarrassing to someone connected with a news story are suppressed if publication of the details would serve no public utility, or if the publication of certain details would aid criminal activity, or encourage copy-cat crime.