Tuesday, January 31, 2012

- The Army We Have

Mitt Romney is by no means my favorite potential Presidential candidate. But as the man said, you fight the war with the army you have, not the army you want. And I now believe that Mitt Romney, for better or worse, is going to be the Republican candidate for President. Since that’s so, I thought I’d scratch out some of my thoughts on the Army it seems we now have.

The Mormon Thing

I don’t know too terribly much about Mormonism, but I know a few Mormons. They have been to a man some of the most forthright, and respectable people I’ve ever met. They have a practical streak, and are extremely family focused. So if America wound up being more like the Mormons for having had one as President, I’d say that’s a good thing. Their religion may be nuts, but Global Warming is nuts too and lots of people believe that. At least when people believe in Mormonism, good things seem to come out of it.

I believe that although he has watered down his politics to get elected in a deep blue state, he still probably possesses a moral compass that points to something close true north. So I believe it will be his character to drift to the right of his past positions, not the other way around. Truth is though, that’s really anyone’s guess.

The Wall Street Thing

The issue of Romney’s history on Wall Street will really be a double edged sword. He will in fact understand economics and modern finance. After at least one (probably 2) presidents who didn’t understand it, I think that will be a relief. It’s important now too because if we don’t get some rapid economic growth, we’re in a heap of trouble. But on that front I think Romney is as good a candidate as is available. He knows what to do.

There is some question however if he’ll actually be able to do it. Both the populist right and the left have declared war on modern banking and the people who work there. So any move Romney makes that’s seen to be benefiting anyone in finance, and the media will be bludgeoning him as if he were piƱata full of Chivas Regal minis. That will mean considerable pressure on him to stay clear of anything that helps Wall Street, even indirectly.

The ‘Rich Guy’ Thing

I wish he wasn’t quite so wooden about his defense of his success, but all in, I think this is the battle we should be having. If Obama wants to demonize him for being rich, I say “have at him”. This isn’t France, its America. We don’t hate the rich here; we want to BE the rich here. And the voters will see this as Obama showing his true socialist redistributive colors. I don't think that will win him any fans outside the union halls and deep blue districts, and they already love him because he's black.

The “Not A Real Conservative” Thing

Chris Christy is no conservative. He’s an unapologetically anti-gun, pro amnesty, pro gay marriage, northeastern governor of a deep blue state. But the same people who call Romney a liberal think Christy is a conservative. There may be substance to the complaint that Romney isn’t conservative enough, but the people making that complaint at the moment are talking out of their.... hats.

Besides, whatever his past sins, Romney is a lot more conservative than Obama, and in the end that’s the only real litmus test.

The “Wooden Debater” Thing

Newt Gingrich is a big puncher who is looking for an opportunity to land a haymaker and win the fight by knockout. But to do that, he’s going to have to take enormous chances. Those chances will lose the primary for him, and the fact that he would take those chances would make him a bad president even if he got lucky. I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe he has the right temperament for the job. Besdie that, he’s making arguments like a liberal – telling one side of things and hoping that the public are too stupid to understand the whole story.

Romney may not be the fiery orator that Newt is, but I think that speaks for him not against him. And the arguments he makes rely on the people being smart enough to understand the bigger picture. That’s a conservative argument to make if you ask me.

Look. I’m not a huge fan of the guy, but given my choices, he’s looking better and better. And he looks WAY better to me than 4 more years of Obama.

That’s all I’m saying.

- It's 58 Degrees Today At The Beach

...I'm going to make the most of it, and run outside this afternoon. Maybe I'll drive over to the sand in my wife's CRV.

- More Liberal Mythology In Real Time

The image above shows the 'Occupy Wall Street' crowd showing their patriotism in the traditional liberal manner by burning an American flag, which they had just stolen from the Oakland California City Hall. This, as we know from countless articles and news pieces on the subject, is the most important movement of 2011, and a movement which epitomizes the liberal belief in a better America for everyone. (well... everyone except the top 1%)

But if the people who represent the bottom 99% are busy stealing and subsequently burning flags, doesn't it stand to reason that at least some of the 99% must be stealing them from other parts of the 99%? Or is it the position of the leftist media that the only people who are actually buying and displaying American flags are the evil 1%?

The fact is, the very best of these OWS kids are deluded but harmless. But the vast majority of them are nothing but stupid and destructive. And although the official Democrat party positions are less openly contemptuous of America and American values, they are no less driven by the same envy, and hatred of the success of others.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But a great many people have opinions which are stupid. And once they demonstrate that fact, we should all stop pretending that they represent a valid position. The OWS movement is a farce of blatant anti-Americanism. So too is the largest part of the Democrat party - no matter how they may insist otherwise.

Monday, January 30, 2012

- Bad Extrapolation

I have another somewhat more internal musing to offer while my second simulation of the day runs.

As I have mentioned numerous times, my only child is a daughter. But my friend has a son. I’ve had some experience with the boy, and he seems a bright and decent kid to me. Maybe while he’s at home he’s a villain, but I’ve never seen it. All in, I’d say he’s no more ill mannered or surly than any other teenager I’ve ever met. In my view he’s quite literally a normal, slightly quirky kid, who is by no means a horror to be around. And yet, my friend is very concerned about his son’s future.

I don’t mean to butt into my friend’s relationships with their kids, and knowing as little about good parenting as I do, I’m loath to give advice. But I do like to offer what help and entertainment I can. That’s what friends do right? I have access to Wall Street internships for college aged kids (which can be a real career advantage), and access to firearms and a firing range for kids of all ages. Many of my friends have taken up the latter, and a few now have gone for the former. And it’s made their kids a ‘sometimes’ topic of conversation.

So in talking to my friend about his son and some shooting and hunting related activity we’re planning, he expressed to me a worry that his son has a mild form of Asperger’s syndrome. He doesn’t think he needs treatment to function (or if he does, he didn’t say so to me). He just thinks the kid has a sort of emotional disconnection from world and that it speaks of some other broader problems. Personally I’m dubious.

I feel like I’m probably getting out of my area just a little here having never raised a boy. But he is not the only friend I have who has voiced a concern like that to me about their own son. And I wonder if that doesn’t speak to some trend in parenting rather than a trend in the kids. In my experience, teenage boys come in two flavors - those with highly developed social skills (heretofore called ‘charming’) and those without. My nephew is an example of a charming kid as was his father, my younger brother.

And on the opposing side, I myself was an example of a teenager who was utterly lacking in anything called charm. By the time I’d reached the age of my friend’s son I was deeply introverted, loaded down with severe self hatred, and unspeakably, impossibly shy. To anyone who paid attention I looked like a kid who was bright but ‘deeply troubled’, which in fact I probably was. That phrase found its way into a number of school related reports with my name at the top and if anything, I’m probably understating the impact it had on my teenage years. But eventually I grew up. And just as my brother’s copious charm hasn’t solved all the world’s problems for him, my complete lack of it turned out to be less debilitating than it seemed it would for me.

As I got out into the world and came to better understand my place in it, I got over my shyness, became more open with people, and learned that I wasn’t actually the worst human being ever born. I’m not saying it was easy for me, or that to be perfectly frank, it’s easy now. But no one meeting me today would ever recognize the teenager I was. I am, for all intents and purposes, fully recovered from my teenage angst. And it’s my expectation that however Asperger like my friend’s sons may be, I think they’ll probably get over theirs too.

My point is, I think we may be expecting too much from our teenage boys. Maybe it’s harder now with so many of society taboo’s burned in the hippie bonfires of the 60’s and abandoned to the ash heap of history. Most of those taboo's were designed to keep teenage boys in line, so maybe the world looks scarier to parents now that they're gone. But these kids look pretty normal to me even if their parents still have concerns. I just don’t think you can accurately extrapolate a period of life that’s difficult for everyone, and imagine that it will lead to a life of general decline.

Neither of the boys I’m talking about seem to me to be particularly cruel, or nasty. Neither has had much of a problem with peer group violence. They’re reasonably good students. Neither seems likely to join a gang, the Klan, Al-Qaeda, or to take up the crack pipe. They don't even seem like they'll vote Democrat. Maybe it’s easier for me since I don’t have such lofty hopes for them, but when I look at these kids I just don’t see a problem. Especially in the light of having recovered from my own much more serious social issues.

I get that a father wants his son to be more than him. I get that it’s a very difficult thing to look at your child and remember that they are not clay for you to mold. I know it’s tough to avoid disappointment at the idea that they are following a path that will lead them to be something other than what you would like them to be or that doesn't seem to lead to them fulfilling their potential. But speaking directly to my friends who have voiced a concern like this one, I’d like to point something out.

I may not be a billionaire, but I don’t think there is anyone out there who would call me a failure. I make a nice living in an interesting job with fantastic forward prospects; I have a happy wife, a happy child, and a number of intelligent, charming, and interesting friends. I’m a perfectly normal man who is doing pretty well all in, and I'm very happy with my place in the world.

But it is none the less true that my father badly wanted me to turn out differently than I have. And to this day he’s not only deeply disappointed in me, but at some levels he's thoroughly ashamed of how I turned out. While that doesn’t thrill me, I have made my peace with it. And the reason I was able to was that while I may not be many of the things that he hoped I'd be, I am many of the things that I hoped I’d be. And in the end we all find our own place.

Your boys seem fine to me - really much better than that. I can see nothing wrong with them that a few years and some experience finding their place in the world won’t fix. And I’m a living example that kids can climb back from much much worse.

So don’t panic.


I guess the New York Times editors read my stuff too. If so, I should really speak to them about their economic view.

- Ender & The Hunger Games

It’s a total aside, but in thinking and talking about the impending ‘Hunger Games’ movie with my daughter this weekend, I find I have another story on my mind. So while I'm waiting for my current simulation to finish running, I wanted to say something about my favorite scj-fi book of all time – “Ender’s Game”.

For those of you who haven’t read it (shame on you) Ender’s Game tells the story of a gifted boy who is sent to an orbital military training academy to learn to command the forces of earth in repelling a fleet of hostile aliens. Earth has developed captured alien technology to allow for instantaneous communication across any distance, but is still limited with regard to travel. So the human attack fleet has been sent generations ago, and while they travel across the galaxy, slowly aging at relativistic speeds, humankind has devoted itself to training the kinds of leaders it will need to command the fleet when it finally arrives. Ender is one of the candidates for that role.

In the past, I’ve talked a little about what it was like to grow up as an outlier. Ender is the epitome of that. Even in a “battle school” comprised of the global best, he’s lonely, isolated, and desperate for acceptance. He’s a sensitive kid, who out of necessity is being summarily tortured by his surroundings as the military commanders of the battle school struggle to meet their deadline. They know that what they’re doing to him is impossibly cruel – but with the survival of the human race at stake, they believe they have no alternative.

If there is a single issue that makes that story particularly gripping, it’s that one. The cruelest people in the book all have unimpeachable motives for their cruelty. Unlike the Hunger Games, there are no truly two dimensional villains in Ender's world. Fear and envy of Ender’s talents among his peers plays a small role, but it’s really the people who care the most about Ender who are the most horrible to him. In fact, even the aliens, who at their first meeting slaughtered humans with no more regard for life than a person would mourn for a trimmed fingernail, turn out to be quite sympathetic (in an involuntarily nightmare inducing way) in later books.

It’s a story of incredible depth, complexity and charm. There are heroes, villains, monsters, and friends. The heroes end up as the villains, the villians as heroes, and the line between victor and victim in nothing but blurred. I don’t know anyone who’s read it who hasn’t said that it’s among their all time favorites of sci-fi. So why I wonder has such a spectacularly wonderful book written all the way back in the 1985 not been made into a movie when, subsequent books have?

The answer seems to be politics.

The author, Orson Scott Card is a Mormon, and has been relatively plainspoken when it comes to political issues. But the thing that really seems to have annoyed the literary critics is that Card treats all the violence and cruelty in the book as justified. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t believe that violence isn’t justified sometimes, but Ender’s Game was published before Fox News and the internet, when a leftist worldview held a unilateral stranglehold on the voice of the media.

The very thing that made Card’s book rich and real to it's fans was the thing it was panned for among critics. And even as the 'Ender' fan base swelled to massive proportions and the book won award after award, it was very vocally criticized and Ender was compared to... (wait for it) ... Hitler. The upshot of it all seemed to be that in allowing Ender to be truly ‘better by birth’ and fairly violent besides, Card stepped on too many progressive toes.

Now though, A more balanced world view seems to be bubbling up in Hollywood and it seems that they are finally rethinking Ender. IMDB shows a 2013 release date for a film, and Card himself has been involved in a screenplay, so it’s unlikely to be too dumbed down. That's a good thing because the fans of this work will be almost as tough to please as those of Ayn Rand. Everyone who knows Ender already loves him and it would feel like a terrible betrayal to see a two dimensional Jonas Brother breaking into a song about being sent to command school. But hopefully it won't go that way.

IMDB shows Harrison Ford as Colonel Graff, and Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham. Asa Butterfield has been cast as Ender. I hope they all do the story justice.

As an aside, the United States Marine Corps lists “Ender’s Game” as part of it’s recommended reading for officer candidates. I find that not at all surprising.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

- The Future Of Obamanomics

Politicians no longer need to seize direct control of 'the means of production'. They can simply control the controllers with regulation. Once they put their regulatory infrastructure in place, they can tweak and tune that regulation to achieve all sorts of political goals. Selected bailouts and special case loans for politically appealing industries; punitive taxes and anti-competitive restrictions for industries that are not so politically appealing. We're no longer on a road to serfdom... now it's more of an escalator.

And of course... since you can't possibly hope to get the same amount of growth in an economy while giving special political favor to some people that the market wouldn't reward on it's own, that escalator only runs one direction... down.

This is the 21st century progressive view. And the cost of that view is low growth, high unemployment, and at least one lost generation. Make no mistake, if you're an Obama supporter, this is future for America that you are voting to achieve.

Someone has to decide who wins and who loses. If the free market truly is 'unfettered' then it's the consumer who decides. Private industry never forced anyone to buy a product... they only asked them to. But as you add layer upon layer of regulation, the people who decide who wins and loses are the politicians. And in that world - our world - if the politicians don't like you, it doesn't matter how well you do. You aren't going to be allowed to win.

That same gun that is being held to the head of big business (otherwise known as the people who used to give people like you a job) is at the moment, ordering them to focus on windmills and solar panels. But it can and will be turned on you the instant the wind changes.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

- Hollywood Making Hunting Look Cool

My daughter is the perfect age for the ‘young adult’ range of literature, and one book she’s taken an interest in is original of the soon to be released movie “The Hunger Games”. Since I’ve started running again, I’ve taken to listening to audio-books and half out of genuine interest and half out of trying to stay in touch with what my daughter is reading, I put a copy of the audio version on my phone.

There is much to admire about the heroine of the book Katniss Everdeen, who is raised in Appalachian ‘Coal country” at a time not too far into the future. But for me the thing that was most impressive about her was her profound affinity for bow hunting. Not only does she use it to keep her family alive after her father’s untimely death in a mining accident, but her impressive skill inevitably saves her life and that of her friend as well.

I’ve tried to imagine how Hollywood could possibly make this movie without making Katniss’s hunting skills seem cool. I know they’d certainly like to … I mean if there is a single reliable villain in the left’s retinue of bogeymen it’s “the hunter”. It may be even more prominent than the rich banker, businessman or CEO, since you don’t see too many of those in animated films.

But Katniss’s skill can’t be extracted from the character without shattering the storyline of the book. To try will make a much worse movie, so it seems an awfully big price to pay to prove a political point. Leave it in and you get a 16 year old girl who is brave, assertive, talented and unique. Take it out and you have… what? I can’t imagine.

For this reason, I think it’s entirely possible that archery in general and bow hunting in particular might just get a boost from Hollywood when the film is released. My daughter, who has some modest experience with archery but none with hunting, is over the moon waiting for the movie. After listening to the first of the three book set (which was absolutely first rate in my opinion), I feel the same way.

Speaks for itself I think:

- The SOTU According To Mike Ramirez

- Obama's Blue Pill

I hate to rip off a user comment so blatantly (because I can’t credibly take personal credit for it so soon) but this really is a Red Pill – Blue Pill election.

The Blue Pill, is Obama’s vision for America where scarcity is a non issue, politicians can make decisions with the even more success and efficiency than people who know better, and the rich will happily be chained to the chariot of state, pulling whoever he says to pull and however fast he says to pull them. His worldview is based on so many falsehoods, errors in judgment, and contradictions of logic that one barely knows where to begin criticism. It’s as much a fantasy and has as little in common with the ‘real world’ as the Matrix ever did.

Meanwhile there is a Red Pill. In the world of the Red Pill, the costs of life are soaring out of control, and the world is rusty and decrepit. The lives of the people are hard, and only made harder by the proponents of the Matrix. They’re fighting a losing battle as the massive machine of the Matrix encroaches on them and their liberty a little more every day. The Red Pill paints a picture of hardship and of scarcity. The only advantage the Red Pill has over the Blue Pill is that it’s the truth.

The people who believe in the great machine of the Matrix are slaves. But they’re happy in their slavery. They prefer a live of delusion to one where they are forced to take personal responsibility for their hardships. And they would be perfectly happy to have the rest of humanity enslaved in the same way. If the Matrix told them they could no longer have their fantasy without the rest of humanity joining them, they would lobby for it and do all they could to make it happen.

In my last post a reader made the comment that “The Corner” at National Review was the “Red Pill.” I think it’s better to say that they are crew of the Nebuchadnezzar – passing out the Red Pills every chance they can. They don’t get everyone of course. But hopefully they get enough to preserve the liberty of the few who still value it. That’s where this election comes in. If Obama and the big machine win this one, there may be so few people left that the ‘Real world’ can’t maintain a critical mass. This election won’t be the end for the big machine, but it may very well be the end for those who prefer the Red Pill.

For the Red Pill to work on us, we each need to take it ourselves. We need to believe that a harsh world where we are in control of our own lives is a better one than a world full of soft fluffy promises, where we are little more than slaves to a big machine. Nothing could describe the Obama vision for America better. But unless you’ve already taken the Red Pill, it probably doesn’t look that way to you.


I'd love to see this re-shot with some generic looking 'Neo' and Jonah Goldberg (as arguably the most recognizable face of NRO) in the role of Morpheus. I wonder what that would cost to do?

- We've Heard This Before....

If you're a liberal, let me ask you something. Obama has been 'against the rich' and ready to 'punish big business' for the last three years. How's that been working out for ya?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

- All The Insight... None Of The Trolls

Much of what I comment on comes from the various nooks and crannies of National Review, but I try to restrict the direct cross posting to those things that I feel I can add something substantial to. You don't need me to repeat things you can as easily read for yourself in "The Corner".

I confess, the people there are so smart that they don't often leave a ton of meat on the bone. So there are occasions where I find myself so impressed with a an essay or a particular insight that I end up doing little more than pimping for them. If anyone were paying for any of this I'd feel worse about it. But as it is, I find my conscience can handle it. "Me being impressed" may not seem particularly substantive to you, but my friends send me stuff all the time, and I think of that as doing the same.

This item is a bit of an exception though because I think it casts the past two posts into particular relief. Here is Jonah Goldberg discussion the NRO "Corner" moving into it's second decade. I think most people view the corner as a big time serious intellectual powerhouse for the right. It's a place where intelligence and applied expertise are valued above all other things.

This offers an interesting contrast to a place like Freerepublic where the value of both intelligence and expertise has been discounted to something very near to zero. On Freerepublic, if you are a retired military non-com who has never done anything but soldiering, you are treated as if your opinions have the same weight on something like physics for example, as someone who has a Nobel Prize in the field.

This is the product of anonymity. Anonymous web posting takes away accountability. And just like liberal policies that do the same to real life, they foster so much unproductive behavior that finding productive things becomes harder not easier. In truth, that's why I started this blog. I wanted to be in a position to take a little more credit (or blame) for my ideas, without having to cope with all the unproductive (or really... counter-productive) noise of FR.

I don't write this blog anonymously, but I do make it tough to find me. My full name, town of residence, and employer can all be found in these pages if you take the time to look. I do that more out of paranoia springing from my mis-spent youth than anything else, but it does also cut down on the hate mail. And having received death threats in the past I like to at least make it take some effort to track me down.

But the broader point about the Web is that I think the age of anonymity in political discourse is coming to an end - or at least fading to an irrelevant sidebar. While places like FR which allow anonymous posting increasingly fade to backwaters, (where even supporting one of the two leading Republican candidates is considered too leftist for them), National Review and the corner have shown a greater diversity of opinion, and have gained substantially in influence.

Personally I think that can only be a good thing.

Monday, January 23, 2012

- The Folk Of The Far Fringe

On the political left all the consequences are unintended. To say that they don’t think things through very well implies more cognitive effort than they usually put into things. It’s not about cold calculation to the left, it’s about their feelings. So when that turns out to be a poor way to plan policy, they are the only ones who are surprised. But that isn’t to say that the political right doesn’t have its own brand of foolishness as well.

I wrote this piece over the weekend. It seemed an interesting idea to me – Newt Gingrich as Vice president. The job seems custom made for both his skills and his weaknesses. People tune out the VP in many cases so only the things that really strike a tone are given attention. And while it would let him make a big contribution, it will insulate everyone else from any … idiosyncrasies he brings to the game.

I hadn’t seen anyone raise that issue so I popped it off in an email to a few journalist friends, and posted it on Freerepublic – the well known right wing forum. Freerepublic was never a particularly thoughtful forum, but the last time I checked it was still getting a fair amount of traffic. And I figured I could tune out the most ridiculous and hostile of the comments in the interest of getting the idea out there to the base.

The reaction I got in the 2 or 3 hours before the piece was pulled by administrators was pretty extraordinary. To me it made what’s left of the Freerepublic membership look profoundly paranoid and much more a part of the fringe than it’s ever been. Like I said – the forum always had an element of “shoot first – think later” about it. But this was more like “shoot first, shoot second, shoot some more, and then quick pull the thread before anyone else sees it and is unduly influenced”.

What I hadn’t realized was that at some point in the past, the FR founder had written an essay on why neither he nor his forum would ever support Mitt Romney. OK… fair enough. The truth is, since Freerepublic declared war on modern finance (and the people like me who work in that trade) back in 2008, I haven’t been paying much attention to them. I had already been thoroughly alienated and hadn’t been a regular reader there, so I didn’t realize that they now have very strict rules about the kind of ideas you can offer.

I have no beef with that. It’s their forum so they can do with it what they like. Like I said – it was never the most thoughtful place on the web. But I don’t think they realize that by setting themselves up as being the guardian’s of electoral purity so early in the process, all they’ve done is marginalize themselves. They are demanding that their remaining membership only be a part of a far fringe. And I personally don’t think that’s a way to convince anyone of anything.

I think anyone who looks at me and my ideas and the first thing out of their mouth is “typical liberal Yankee A-hole” is either not paying attention, or not thinking at all. That’s just one of the many … interesting, criticisms I got for that piece, but none of the others were any more substantive. One person even seemed to feel that all this stuff I've written - over 1000 essays and other bits of commentary over a period of several years, was all just a smokescreen set up to mask this moment when I would unleash my real goal of persuading a few military retirees and Evangelical Christians to switch over to the liberal side.

This of course, is OK. I have no deep need to impress any of those people. They don’t seem particularly persuadable to me anymore and they made it clear that someone like me (an accused liberal, Yankee, paper pushing, financial parasite) was no longer welcome there ages ago, so I’m perfectly content to let them go their way while I go mine.

But I think it’s a shame that in trying to differentiate themselves from the left, they ended up so much like them, and in the process have lived up to what the left thinks about everyone on the right. They now have the same thin skin, the same intolerance of dissent, and the same kind of thoughtlessness. They are under the impression that because they feel differently than the left, they are by nature ‘different’ from them. They’ll tell you that they are thinking while the left is feeling. But my moderate essay brought an awful lot of extremely angry ‘thinking’ from a great many of them in the short time before they pulled it…so I’m unconvinced.

It seems pretty clear to me that the Freerepublic membership has decided that they will be the guardians of electoral purity, even if it means they do it one electoral defeat at a time. That’s OK with me if they choose that role for themselves. I just hope it really is as marginalizing as it seems. I think it would be tragic if it really were a broader movement, because it may very well help Obama and the left. And it wouldn’t be the first time the fringe stood nose-less on the sidelines, telling everyone else they’re wrong about everything.

I don’t think this is a broader movement. I don’t think FR represents the Republican base anymore. And I don’t think the actual base will flee for the hills if Romney is the candidate, only to potentially give another victory to Obama. But really, what do I know. I’m no political handicapper and I’m wrong about these things at least as often as I’m right. I can only hang my hat on the idea that if those people are so far out there that someone like me is simply tuning them out, they can’t be very convincing to anyone else either.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

- Newt For Vice President

There have been a number of times in my life when I’ve realized that my instinct was contrary to my interests. It’s no easier for me to cope with than it is for anyone else. But if you want broader success (and I do) then the only option is to set aside those instincts and do the smart thing instead of the thing that feels best at the time. We all must do it sometimes. We’re conservatives after all. We aren’t some childish liberals only worried about intentions and sentiment. We are interested in actually accomplishing things and the only way that happens is if we keep our eyes on the prize.

My personal instinct is almost always the full frontal attack. Charge in, guns blazing and do my level best to decimate the enemy. Yell, scream, insult, attack, offend… do whatever it takes to make the enemy skulk away from the field of battle feeling less than he was when the argument began. My family has always fought this way for better or worse. (I attribute it to some Woad sentiment as yet un-purged from our bloodlines.) And while it may be a highly effective way to win the battle at hand, much of the time it means a loss of the broader war.

That frontal attack very often makes us enemies who may back away from the field of battle, but do so only to skulk in the background and strike back with subtlety when it’s more effective. In my career I’ve had people wait ages to get their vengeance on me. Some (I’m quite sure) are still out there waiting to slip their knife in my ribs for past moments when I failed to follow my own advice. If I’m lucky they’ll never get their chance – but I hate the idea of depending on my luck. These days, I try much harder to ignore my instincts and do what’s in my interests instead.

Right now, Newt Gingrich is doing what feels best to conservatives. We’re oh so sick of the smug and condescending liberal media telling us about how they are the middle of the road, and that we (the majority of the country) are fanatics. We’ve craved for decades for a conservative who would refuse to allow them to define the conversation in their “are you still beating your wife” type style. Newt has the experience, the intelligence and to be frank, the ego to do that. And the voters of South Carolina have rewarded him with their votes.

But I continue to believe that this tactic is contrary to our broader interests. Don’t get me wrong, it feels as good to me as anyone to see those A-holes take a good hard verbal fist in the chops, and I’m enjoying seeing Newt do it. But my goal is not to feel good, my goal is to see Obama beaten in the 2012 presidential election. Newt, for all his strengths, is a wild card. I continue to believe that in his arrogance, he’s going to say or do something profoundly stupid that may very well cost Republicans the broader election. Newt Gingrich’s worst enemy, is Newt Gingrich. And I’ve seen that movie before.

The media gave us Barack Obama as president, and he in turn has set off a wave of regulation and governance that has been unprecedented in its anti-Americanism. Had the media even remotely done their job of vetting candidate Obama, then his hard left sentiments would have been apparent, and we would have probably elected Hillary Clinton president. Maybe that would have been worse – (lord knows she couldn’t have been ‘less competent’) but I don’t think it would have been as openly Anti-American.

My point is, at this moment in history, the desire to smack around the lame stream media is very strong in conservatives. But we should try to find away to set aside our instincts about those condescending jerks from CNN, the networks, and the New York Times. We should focus on what we intellectually believe is in our best interests, not what feels best to us in the moment. We may win the battle that way, but I don’t believe this is how you win the war.

No one will change the minds of the media. They won’t ever be honest about what they believe or be truly objective in their reporting. That sort of honest introspection is completely beyond them. And since that’s so, Newt’s trashing of them, as good as it feels to us, is not in our interests because it accomplishes nothing. We owe ourselves better than that.

The best assessment of Mitt Romney that I’ve heard to date came from Greg Guttfeld, host of Fox News’s Redeye (I’m an insomniac so what do you expect). He said that “Romney is an alpha male who belongs to a religion that rejects Alpha behavior”. Romney’s lack of ‘fist in the gob’ media management is only one example of mildness that primary voters are finding disconcerting. He seems wooden and passionless in the debates and unwilling to berate the media like Newt has. But in truth, I think (not feel… but think) that will make him a better President than Newt Gingrich, who sure as the sunrise, is going to self destruct.

Tell me you want Newt for Vice President (assuming you could squeeze his massive ego into the job) and I’d be thrilled. That would leave his ideas in the mix, would keep him engaged with the media, and give us the benefit of his intelligence without the burden of his poor judgment. But force me to vote for one of the two front runners, (Santorum has no money and won’t be able to keep up in Florida) and I’m voting for Mitt.

In truth I think the job of Vice President is almost custom tailored for Newt’s strength and weaknesses. I mean, the media will never give Newt the kind of carte blanche for verbal foibles that they give to Joe Biden, but they won’t roast the whole administration over the coals whenever he speaks either. Vice president is a job where you are not taken seriously in public, but you are very much taken seriously in private. Newt would be perfect for it.

Bring him out from time to time and let him smack Maria Bartiromo around (verbally of course) and defend broad principles of conservatism. Let him take the CNN team to the woodshed now and then, and offer up his ideas behind the scenes. He’d be perfect for the role, but for the fact that you probably couldn’t get him to accept it.

Then again, politics makes strange bedfellows. After the funding issues in Florida, a Romney - Gingrich ticket might not look so bad to him. It certainly wouldn’t look bad to us.

- Prepper's Are Among Us!

Reuters discovers the "Preppers", which I discussed to much fanfare a few weeks ago here and here, and that I began talking about in much broader terms (in what I humbly think was one of my most persuasive essays ever) here.

Reuters stops short of the conclusions that I came to, probably because they don't really have any idea how likely a 'total collapse' scenario is. But in their defense, it's taken me more than a few weeks to figure out how this will play out too. And the author is just some dumb journalist after all.

Friday, January 20, 2012

- A Few Little Items

17 debates so far... 17. I'm about 11 debates past caring. None of them has anything new to say on anything. Mitt will be wooden, Newt will be clever (in spite of his narcissism) and if Ron Paul gets any time in front of a camera, he will act like a nut. Newt's ex-wife is still mad at him? I'm shocked. Wake me when the polls open in New Jersey.

Clemens, Churchill, and William F. Buckley (last I checked) were all still dead. And since that's so, there is no one who can reduce the world to 128 characters or less that I would care to listen to. On twitter everyone has the substance and profound insight of Snookie. (Take note... even this insight is far too long for twitter.)

The people I know who are most into Facebook, are people who use it instead of actual interaction with people. It doesn't bring people together, it lets people who want to be apart do so without completed cutting themselves off from the world. I'm sure Ted Kaczynski would have loved Facebook so much, that his shack in the woods would have been wired with wifi, in spite of his ambivalence about technology.

In a sense, the technology battles of the 21st century seems to be about willingness. If a company can make you willing (or even anxious) to share your personal details, they can use that for marketing purposes. That targeting and efficiency is what advertisers are paying for. That's why Facebook is easting Google's lunch this quarter. But if it makes all these autodialer calls go away, it will all be worth it to me.

By far the best political quite I've heard this election cycle is that the way the media feels about republicans is "A consensus not a conspiracy". Think about it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

- Building CheckPoint Mikey

Mike Bloomberg, the itty bitty mayor of New York City, is reacting to the recent rash of mis-applications of the City's over the top gun laws by putting body scanners on selected streets. According to him, walking on a public street generates enough reasonable suspicion of your activities to justify the government giving you a body scan to see if you're packing.

If you find this to be somewhat excessive, you are not alone. Both the ACLU and NYCLU have raised concerns. It's no stretch to say that these groups have in the past considered second amendment issues to be ... well... secondary. So that they are raising objections is an indication of how far beyond the pale this particular totalitarian move is.

The scans will be put in place ostensibly to find people carrying guns illegally, but scans for salt, trans fats, and other dietary violations which have been so dear to his majesty, can't be too far behind.

The title of this blog came about from a conversation I had with a friend from Texas. I was explaining to him that New Jersey is like the East Germany of the United States. Now if Mikey get's his way, it looks like we'll even have our own Checkpoint Charlie. It should be at the Delaware river bridge - but it's no surprise that here, even that doesn't work right.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

- Return Of The Confidence Fairy

The "confidence fairy" is the amiably disparaging term my co-worker uses to describe the cause of my 2012 optimism.

We’re both Macro guys, but he tends to rely on the published economic statistics a little more than I do. I’ve told him that I think there is a roughly 15% to 18% "Romney premium" available in stock market valuations for 2012. And as the election begins to look negative for Obama, people will begin to price it in. But since the origin of this number isn’t apparent in the current economic statistics, he tells me that I’m betting on the confidence fairy.

I have to say, in some respects, he’s right. I absolutely agree that the economic statistics don’t show the origin of my optimism. But I think that’s so because the numbers deal with aggregate statistics and the aggregation hides some of the interesting detail. Let me explain.

The economy has not universally gone off a cliff. Some areas of the economy have been much more seriously impacted than others. Housing and construction have been hurt badly as has finance and Healthcare R&D, while things like accounting, regulatory compliance, and manufacturing automation really have not. But the economic statistics that are published tend to smooth out all those differences and talk about the economy only in the aggregate.

But what that masks is that when the emphasis of an economy changes to “risk taking” from “risk avoiding”, it tends to do so from the bottom of the deepest troughs first. Those are the areas where prices have been allowed to fall the most, and will therefore attract the most daring risk takers. So when the mindset changes, it’s the really devastated areas that will be most effected. I believe this will have an out-sized impact on the statistics, even though it isn’t clear from looking at only the averages.

Or to put it another way, right now we have tepid economic growth, but the growth only looks tepid because (as an example) some areas are growing at 3% and some areas are shrinking at 2% giving us a net of +1%. If the economy improves only in those areas where it’s currently shrinking, even if it’s only to bring them back to "flat", then the net effect will be to dramatically improve the aggregate number; much more so than would be apparent by looking at the individual data sets.

I’m exaggerating my point a little to make the point clear to non financial folk, but that is the essence the claim I’m making. The parts of the economy which have been doing worst are the parts which will improve the most through new risk taking, and the overall impact on the broader economy will be larger than expected.

I believe it will also have an outsized impact on how people 'feel' about the economy, which is the more traditional description of things like 'consumer confidence' statistics. The free market has always naturally caused money to flow to those areas which most desperately need it – that’s what happens when you allow prices to float instead being fixed by regulation. So when people take risks, they do so by taking their capital to the areas where it's needed the most. Unlike a government directed economy, it's a naturally efficient system.

None of this is to say that as Obama’s reelection prospects dim it’s straight back to the go-go 90’s. We still have enormous economic challenges to face down. But I figure that as Obama's re-election looks less likely, there is about a 15% to 18% gain that can be had simply because an irrational economic outlook is no longer being offered by our government. That’s what Obama and the far left have advocated – a completely irrational economic plan that is designed to achieve the opposite of what it ostensibly intends. Take that away, and it's like the moment when you stop banging your head against the wall. Fear of the risk takers will begin to subside, and the free market will begin responding as it should again.

Am I mistaken about the number? I dunno... maybe. But if it turns out to be 8% or 11% premium, will anybody be willing to call me out and out wrong? I doubt it. I think the confidence fairy wants to come back, and the real 'hope' for America, is getting rid of Obama and the far left. Then we can begin looking forward again, instead of continuing to cope with our 'managed decline'.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

- You Too Can Be A Condescending D***Head!

Here's a new social science metric that some guy at Slate thinks is brilliance. And although I think I'd be a slow adopter of it, in Manhattan, where everyone is always looking for a way to look down on everyone else, I think it might really take off.

I came to the Slate piece via Mike Potemra whose ramblings on Catholicism I find particularly poetic. It's made me pay attention to some of the other (arguably less worthy) things he says.

The Slate piece he linked has an interesting anti-pretense pretension about it. As if finding people annoying has it's own social hierarchy. It makes me wonder how much of an ACI the wine fans in the bar would call the author and his friend. There is probably some equally high CDH (condescending D***Head) metric that they are quietly mentioning between Pinot Noir references.

I don't care for cigars myself. I know enough about wine to tell the difference between what I like and what I don't (but the pricetag will probably tell me all I need to know), and my favorite single malt is actually Connemara Peated Irish whiskey. So I don't think I'm terribly on the ACI scale.

But what I may lack in pretension I more than make up for in unapologetic snobbery. I have no patience whatsoever for people who pretend to know things they actually don't. Ignorance is no sin in my book so long as you admit it, but shoot your mouth off half cocked and you'll get to see just how stupid I can make someone feel. There are people still holding grudges against me since the 80's for making them look stupid in public.

I guess that may make CDH metric fairly high if you ask the right people - but I probably could have told you that. I've always known that I was an easy guy to dislike if that's what you were in the market for.

In the immortal words of hedonism bot, "I apologize... for nothing".

Sunday, January 15, 2012

- How Cute...

Look what the kids have been up to...

I'm sorry, I just don't get the whole Jon Stewart thing. It's like he's the host of a news program for people who are too stupid or childish to worry about real solutions to problems. I don't find him particularly funny or clever. And in using his "I'm just a comedian" schtick, he gets to raise shallow childish arguments to problems and then duck behind his clown face whenever someone tries to give him an honest rebuttal.

In a way he's the perfect messenger for the new left. He's not a real thinker, he just pretends to be one on TV.

- Liberal Mythology In Real Time

It isn’t every day you get to see liberal mythology being written in real time. Actually... maybe it is. But it's usually it’s an ex-post thing. I guess the Tea Party looks too threatening to the left to leave the ‘story’ until after the fact. I get the impression that liberal outlets like the New York Times have been waiting since the 2010 election to write the legend of the disappearing Tea Party, and to do it in a format that makes it seem that the entire movement was a momentary reaction that will be ancient history by the 2012 election. Lord knows they really need it to be.

But what liberals don’t get about the Tea Party is that the people involved are not political people. They don't dedicate their lives to community organizing or public protest. They devote their lives to running their businesses, taking their kids to soccer practice, and coaching little league teams. The left thinks that if there are no demonstrations, there’s no movement. With the Tea Party, nothing could be further from the truth.

The presidential election was always going to show a bit of mean reversion as the opinions of millions of people are aggregated into a single candidate. And with such a weak field in the running it was unlikely to produce a conservative messiah. All the Tea Party favorites, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christy, have all decided to give a presidential run a pass this year. But none of that means the movement’s influence won’t be paramount in the election.

There is a broad streak of practicality in the Tea Party, that venue’s like the Times never give them credit for. Scott Brown owes his election to the tea party movement, and he’s certainly no Barry Goldwater. But the tea party rightly figured that in that election, for that state, he was the best thing available. The same will be true of the Tea Party’s choice in the presidential election.

What’s more, if it is Mitt Romney who gets the Republican nod, it will be a more conservative leaning Mitt Romney who moves into the Whitehouse thanks to the Tea Party. He’ll know that his every step will be watched by an electorate that’s just waiting for an excuse to give him a primary challenger for his re-election bid. He’ll know that there is a grassroots movement that will require some tribute from him in the form of meaningfully smaller government. So even if his every move is dictated only by political expediency, all his flops to the right will be slightly bigger and more meaningful than his flips to the left.

The modern left lives in a fantasy world, and they spend much of their time trying to convince the rest of us that it’s reality. But the thing that is most frustrating for them about the Tea Party is that the movement represents a group of people who don’t need to be told what the truth is.

They don’t take their marching orders from Rush Limbaugh or some trilateral commission run by the Koch Brothers, the Queen and Colonel Sanders. Each person in the tea party has looked at reality and has independently come to the same conclusions about what path would be best to take. To liberals, who believe that even reality is subjective, that kind of verifiable objectivity seems like to big a coincidence, so they imagine it being secretly ruled from above. But it's just more liberal imagination.

The Tea Party doesn’t need a big rally to know who to vote for. They don’t need public displays of political might to have a focused message. In truth, the movement doesn’t even need a movement at all. We all know what we have to do and who we need to put pressure on. The Republican candidates can take their cues from the Times editorial pages and scoff at the tea party if they really want to. But they’ll only be able to do that once.

They need to remember that while the Democrat Senate majority leader may be able to eak out an election against a Tea party favorite, but no Republican can. And if they try, they’ll be doing it at their peril.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

- Romney Is a Vulture Among Penguins

Once again I find that the man who best describes my feelings on the current state of the GOP primary is an Ex-Englishman, immigrant, Atheist, Mathematician in his mid 60's who writes with irreducible logic, and is described by his kids as "squidward".

Go figure.

In this weeks Radio Derb, among the many other clever quips that we can repeat around the water cooler as if they were our own, we learn that if Mitt Romney really is a vulture then in the Republican field he's a vulture among penguins.

This Weeks Radio Derb
. Download it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

- What I'm Thinking About Today...

I'm traveling home today, so instead of writing a long rambling blog post about how much more dovish the new Fed is I will have anxiety about getting lost, being late, and the long desperate search for a gas station to fill the rental car tank, somewhere near the airport. But a theme has popped into my head that I'm anxious to write something about.

Obama and other progressives want to reinvent how the world works, but they can't. People are very little more than the product of their decisions, no matter if powerful people want it to be otherwise or not. You really can't make a sow's ear into a silk purse. And Obama and his fellow travelers can't make men of poor character into champions.

That is... someone else can't change you, but you very much can change yourself. You can decide to do things differently, and in the process either prove your character or provide evidence of your lack of it. The government can't make winners into losers and losers into winners, but we can each do it for ourselves. In a sense... what I'm thinking is that you really can't keep a good man down.

If you are someone who has made mistakes (as we all certainly have) but have recently made the decision to change the way you do things, this has been a very frustrating time. Thanks to the hopey-changey way the rules have been redefined, there hasn't been as much of a payoff for you as there normally would be. But I'm increasingly convinced that we're entering a time where doing the "right thing" will be rewarded again - not punished. So have faith my friends. I truly believe that the dawn approach-eth.

All this week I've been making the argument that the economy will improve more than the aggregate economic statistics indicate, as a function of the falling political risk. In other words, I believe that as Obama's re-election looks less secure, the penalty currently suppressing the future value of risk taking will fall, increasing it's appeal. Risk takers will begin to take chances and hire people, but since they'll be doing it in the industries that have been most negatively effected by Team Obama's "brave new world', it will have more of an effect on aggregate statistics than we all expect. We won't be on a rocket to the moon, but we will decisively pick ourselves up off the mat.

All of this will take time to analyze and report of course. Don't expect it all to make headlines until well after the end of Obama's ("Insha'Allah" only) term. But I think if you look at your life instead of the newspaper you'll see increased optimism, and the people you know will be doing marginally better.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

- A Growing Share Of A Shrinking Market

This clip is from the movie "Other People's Money". This was back before Gordon Gecko got out of prison and politically favored companies got taxpayer funded bailouts. It was from when America still believed in a free market. Back before hatred of the finance industry became America's only truly bi-partisan issue.

It's worth your time to watch the whole thing.

- 7 Moving "Loyal Dog" Stories

Like many hunters, I'm also a dog guy. Our current dog is a tiny little King Charles Spaniel who is the single most affectionate creature I've ever seen. But she won't flinch for a second at the idea of chasing a Deer through the yard or standing up to a much larger animal. Like All spaniels, she's fearless. Some would say that she (like her owner) has more courage than sense.

Go through all of these dog stories. I find the one pictured above particularly moving.

Seven incredibly loyal Dogs

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

- They Want Meredith Graves To Go Away Quietly

I guess the press they got over the bureaucratic stupidity demonstrated when Meredith Graves was arrested on a gun charge has proven embarrassing. They are trying to make a deal with her to make the whole thing go away.

Shame. I'd love to see Bloomberg dragged into civil court over it all. But god bless to Meredith who won't probably won't have to go to prison after all. Good for her.

And three cheers for the few media outlets and journalists who called so much attention to this story and made it clear just how stupid the New York City government and little Mayor whats-his-face were behaving on the whole thing.

- Why US Manufacturing Loses

This is video of a 30 story Hotel being constructed in China. From start to finish it took 15 days. In the same amount of time the useless union hacks we hired were only able to redo the drywall my basement by being so sloppy that they did several thousand in damage.

We're now replacing one of our furnaces and doing some other light plumbing etc., and at this point you can make your reservations on the skating rink in hell before a union laborer will get dollar one from me.

- How We Treat Outliers

In our culture, we say that we admire intelligence and like smart people, but the truth is that most of us really don't. For most people, when they meet someone like that all that happens is that they feel insecure and vulnerable. They'll react to those feelings by ridiculing the person they see as a threat to their ego, and try to tear that person down a few pegs. Eventually of course, Bill Gates get's to fire all the bullies who gave him a hard time in middle school. The benefits of intelligence outweigh the disadvantages. But as a kid, it makes being much smarter than your peers particularly tough.

I was that smart kid. I was an outlier. I was not only smarter than virtually all of the other kids, but I was also smarter than my parents, and my teachers. And what's worse, everyone knew it. So people being people, some of them reacted to that better than others.

My buddy Gary was in a similar situation in his childhood. He and I have had occasion to discuss it and the commonalities have surprised even us. For instance, one thing that we both had in common was that school (that is - the lesson plans and instruction) was incredibly, unspeakably boring to both of us, and we reacted to that in a similar way.

The subject came up because Gary's oldest son, like the two of us, is an outlier too. And just like us, he's receiving an education which isn't exactly structured to challenge a kid like him. The schools in our area are quite good for public schools, but they are particularly awful when it comes to handling the highly intelligent outliers. Their goal isn't to get as much from each student as they can, but to get the same from everyone regardless of their ability. And since you can't get the slower kids to speed up, instead, the schools force the brightest kids to slow down.

The WSJ has noticed this,
but I don't know that an article on the topic makes much difference. So long as we allow the government to be the provider of education as well as the financier of it, they will solve problems the way that government does. In the real world if something isn't working you stop, and try something else. In government if something doesn't work you do more of it, by giving it more funding and more resources. If that still doesn't work, you add more money again.

Most public school teachers (to me anyway) seem very well intentioned and sincere in their desire to help kids learn. But they also seem like pretty dim bulbs. Even the brightest of them wouldn't last 15 minutes in my world. And giving someone like that more funding will not address the issue of how we treat outliers.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

- "I Like To Fire People!"

I know it won't happen, but what I'd really love is to hear Romney grab the knife from their hands and own this phrase. I'd love to hear him say it 50 times a day - everywhere he goes. I'd like him to say it and re-say it so many times that the left will look like idiots for trying to misrepresent it.

But the truth is, I can't handicap politics, and he'd probably be a fool to take my advice on this. Still - as a guy who really doesn't mind firing people who deserve it, (and who would love to fire say... the entire department of education) I'd love to see it.

- NYC Get's One More Gun Criminal

Yet another citizen with no criminal record is finding themselves the target of Mayor Bloomberg's mania concerning the second amendment

To be clear, this mans only crime is to do something which is perfectly legal for him to do, virtually everywhere else in the country. He may not be as pretty as Meredith Graves (I can only assume) but he's just as guiltless in my opinion.

Monday, January 9, 2012

- The FINAL Final Word On OWS

Some of you may remember Charles CW Cooke's brilliantly documented adventures among the (literally) unwashed of the OWS movement. Now he provides what I think will be the FINAL final words on the future of the movement.

I said a few words about OWS in my end of year message, and how the Democrats in power view them as somehow more virtuous than the bourgeois masses. Their only product is political activity. Well with an election coming up, that particular product is one whose value is falling doe to excess supply. So no one is going to want what they're selling - at least until he election is over.

If the Republicans win the Whitehouse, the question is will the mainstream media at least wait until a transition team is put in place before turning on the Washington establishment like a pack of wild dogs. OWS clearly won't wait. As far as they're concerned, they're doing all their waiting now.

Friday, January 6, 2012

- Sounds Pretty Slanderous to Me

I'll defer to the legal minds to define the actual terms, but it seems to me that there is a reason people keep including the word 'alleged' when describing someone who hasn't been convicted yet.

The powder in Meredith Grave's purse was NOT cocaine or any other illegal substance. In light of the tone, I think it's pretty clear that Bloomberg's intention was to cast Meredith Graves in as negative a light as possible, whatever the facts. And I don't think his status as a public figure should exempt him from liability for his false public statements.

Maybe Bloomberg will end up paying Meredith Grave's legal bills and then some. Wouldn't that be divine justice.

- I Am Meredith Graves Too

Kevin D. Williamson relates one of his many "concealed carry" stories from his days as a Newspaper Editor in Philadelphia, and at the risk of setting off an "I am Spartacus" sort of movement, declares that he too is Meredith Graves.

Kevin is now a resident of New York City, as I was for a decade and a half, and as are many people who would otherwise be gun owners. We are no less responsible for having lived there. We are no less capable of safe handling of a firearm. And yet, New York City writes it's gun laws to accommodate a Napoleonic little butt-insky of a mayor who famously feels capable of directing the diet of his constituency, instead of his otherwise responsible and very much law abiding constituents.

There is an echo in Kevin's piece of the recent VDH article I mentioned where Prof. Hanson explained that the police in California's San Joaquin valley have stopped arresting felons because it costs the system too much, and instead spend their time handing out traffic tickets to law abiding citizens because it still generates income for the state. This NYC gun law too is a law that is selectively enforced, and only those people with something to lose are forced to comply with it.

New York city's gun laws aren't used to give mandatory 3.5 year sentences to every felon arrested with a gun, but they are used to constrain the behavior of law abiding citizens like Kevin and I, and to throw the less cautious of us like Meredith Graves in jail. The simple fact is, law abiding citizens would be in no greater danger if Kevin Williamson were allowed to carry a firearm. They would be in no greater danger if I were allowed to. (On the contrary - the data indicates they would probably be safer) And they were in no greater danger because Meredith Graves did.

I don't mean to cast a disparaging eye toward policemen, almost all of whom are in my experience pro-gun. But in some respects I think this may be a question of courage.

Democrats are famous for being cowards, and Democrat politicians, especially so. A white, middle class, southern woman like Meredith Graves looks like a soft target to someone like Bloomberg. There is no ACLU or southern poverty law center to defend her. There is no "La Raza" or racial grievance industry to back her up and help with her defense. She's a woman alone - forced to bear her own costs in her fight against the bureaucratic behemoth. So she's a good target for enforcement of an unjust law.

To a politician like Bloomberg, she represent a small political risk. Policemen are not politicians, but they do work for politicians. Put them in a circumstance where 'some people' are OK to arrest and others are less so, and they do figure out the lay of the land pretty quickly. I still hear stories about people who were to be 'left alone' during the Dinkins administration.

The prosecutors that the police work with are usually managing their own political careers, so they want victory not justice. And since success is the drum that law enforcement marches to, the most stringent enforcement of the law will naturally gravitate to the easiest marks - those that best serve the political interest of those controlling the state. Where NYC gun laws are concerned, those are middle class law abiding citizens.

All this says nothing to the fact that New York City's gun laws are in place contrary to all the latest data on gun safety. Let someone like Kevin Williamson (or in all humility me) carry a gun, and you make New Yorkers safer not put them at greater risk. But Bloomberg, and all the judges in New Jersey don't care about that. Safety isn't really the issue. the issue for them, it seems to me, is to keep the relationship of the people and the government one where the government retains all control.

It's been suggested, by both readers of this blog and elsewhere, that Ms. Graves circumstance was a setup, designed to put public pressure on Congress to approve the federal concealed carry reciprocity act. I'm unpersuaded. Ms. Graves isn't acting like someone interested in making a public stand and neither is her attorney. She's acting like someone who now knows she acted foolishly, but doesn't deserve the treatment she's getting from Mike Bloomberg's law enforcement bureaucracy. I think she's far more victim than criminal, and represents a perfectly honest place for an "I am Spartacus" movement to begin.

These laws should be changed both in NY and NJ. They don't accomplish the goal they set out to, and they are being arbitrarily enforced against people who represent no danger to the general public. That's the very definition of injustice. And that's been made abundantly clear by both the academic data and the steady news flow of stories of people being unjustly treated. How many law abiding Americans have to go to jail before Mike Bloomberg and his anti-gun political allow the law to be changed?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

An Open Letter To Young Job Seekers

In the next 12 months, I’m going to need to hire at least one person. If things go well with my business, I could end up needing to hire four or five people. But in this economy that seems unlikely. Without a clearer picture of the future I wouldn’t take that kind of chance. So I will probably only be hiring one this year – and hopefully the rest in the next year or three.

Almost all of the positions I’ll be filling will be entry level positions for people with a college degree. Experience in the field will not be required. But any experience which demonstrates your persistence, your attention to detail, and your ability to solve problems or to act independently will be considered. It can be in any field or process. I’m really just interested in learning about your character.

If you majored in Education, English, Journalism, Sociology or any of the “studies” (Ethnic Studies, Women’s Studies, etc) then you won’t be considered for this position. You've already told me everything about your character that I need to know. If you’re one of those people, working in Finance probably wouldn’t suit you anyway or you would have majored in something else. Besides, as far as I’m concerned people with Math, Finance, or Engineering degrees have learned ‘real things’ while those with the majors listed above, really have not. I know you probably feel differently – but I’m the one doing the hiring.

The job I’m filling will not have a huge salary by Wall Street standards – entry level jobs never do. But it will be a way to begin a career. I know many people who started out with similar positions and ended up making millions. So it’s definitely considered a position with a future if you do it right. You’ll need to be very good at it, and to be frank, you’ll also need a little luck. Everyone on Wall Street is above average, so you’ll need to do better than them. But it is definitely a position that can lead to a six figure income – maybe much more.

In this position, you’ll take on all the tedious, annoying and dull tasks of my job while I spend more time on the fun, interesting, and intellectually challenging tasks. It doesn’t work that way because I have more power than you – it works that way because I know how to do the more complicated and subtle tasks and you don’t. But if do the tedious parts of your job well and convince me that you would be worth the investment in time and effort, I’ll teach you the interesting parts too. They’ll become part of your portable skill set and will make you more marketable, leading to more money for you.

You may have gotten it in your head that the perfect job would be working for some non-profit group. You may even think of working at a hedge fund as being morally repugnant somehow. You may have heard in the media that we cater only to the rich, and that we are a secretive industry that tries to avoid being regulated. That may have made you suspicious of our motives or make you believe that we are out to take advantage of the unsuspecting in some way.

But the truth is, what we do in the Hedge Fund industry is as close to an unambiguous good for society as anything ever gets. We provide a very rare and valuable service for our investors, and only make money if they do. Our investors are usually pension funds and other professional investors who are as informed about what we do as we are, so we take advantage of absolutely no one in the process of performing our jobs. That’s more than many retail stockbrokers or financial analysts can say. More than that… we are not too big to fail, and never have been. And of all the areas of finance, the Hedge Fund industry is the only one I can think of, which can make all those claims.

A friend once asked me what the best way is to get to a senior role on Wall Street. I’ll repeat exactly what I told him for you. I said:

“Be a useful tool, to rich and powerful men.”

If you are the kind of person that someone rich and powerful can rely on to make things happen the way they want them to, then you will eventually be rewarded for it. Finding reliable people is the hardest task in the world for men of influence. And if they find one in you, they will help you get ahead... just like someone almost certainly once did for them. The truth is, no one does it all alone… even the people who want you to think that they did. And if you are destined to get ahead, then you won’t do it alone either.

But none of that really applies to an entry level staffer. At an entry level you want to demonstrate your good reliable character, and learn as much from others as you can. No one expects you to have all the answers – they don’t even expect you to have all the questions. They just expect you to perform your assigned tasks without any serious screw-ups, to keep your eyes and ears open, and have a good attitude. I know in the schools you’ve been told that you’re one in a million, but that means there are a thousand people in China who are just like you. And like it or not, until you build some useful skills, they are all your competition.

If you learn fast – that will help. If you learn correctly, that will help too. And over time, the opportunity to stand out will come to you. Time is on your side when you’re young. So be patient, and be ready to rise to the occasion when the occasion demands it. It does eventually for everyone who really deserves it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

- Stupidity In The Pro-Gun Blogosphere

I’m a gun guy. I’m very public about it. My friends all know that it’s a first principles issue with me. I believe that law abiding citizens should be able to arm themselves with only a minimum of intrusion into the decision by the government. In other words, unless you have already given us all some reason to believe that you are unreliable or irresponsible (and even that bar should be set pretty high), then you should be allowed to carry a weapon for self defense.

I consider myself an active member of the subculture which is made up of hunters, sport shooters and gun owners of various stripes. Put the phrase “buying a shotgun” into google and my article on the topic is either first or second on the list. I’ve taken hundreds of non-shooters from the New York area for their first shooting session, and I’ve made more than a few converts to the cause. The pheasant hunting and sporting clays shoots that I host semi-annually draw dozens of participants – virtually none of whom have ever handled a firearm before they met me.

I think my pro-gun, pro second amendment bonafides are well established. I don’t think anyone would believe that I’m an advocate for a restrictionist view or that I’m secretly harboring some government control sentiment. I’m not. So with all that said, let me toss out a few words about the web-talk on the Meredith Graves case.

As you probably know, Meredith Graves is a 39 year old Tennessee woman who tried to check her legally owned pistol while going to see the 9-11 memorial in NYC. She was immediately arrested, and is now facing a 3.5 year mandatory sentence for illegal possession of a firearm in NY. Mike Bloomberg, totalitarian wanna-be that he is, also accused her in his press conference of being in possession of cocaine – a statement which proved to be false.

To people like Mike Bloomberg and to be frank, many other people in greater NYC, ownership of a firearm is in and of itself evidence of intent to commit a crime. So punishing possession of a firearm as if it’s a violent act, makes perfect sense to them. “Why posses a gun unless you intend violence?” They’ll ask. They make no distinction between a law abiding citizen operating within the law to defend themselves and their family, and a gang banger trying to rob a bodega to buy crack.

This is stupid, and the prevailing political opinion in the country reflects that. As the data continues to support the ‘more guns less crime’ thesis, support for gun control is falling rapidly - even in NYC. And those that continue to support it are increasingly viewed as unreasonable. Even devoted leftists like Obama are staying away from the gun control debate because they know it represents political death for them. And it’s entirely possible that Mike Bloomberg’s position as the last anti-gun zealot prepared to ignore the evidence to the last, is the main reason he will never be a Democrat candidate for the Whitehouse.

But the stupidity on the blogosphere from the right has been palpable on this issue too, and I find that troubling. The people on the left have had their minds so polluted by straw men that they can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality. But the people on the right have no such excuse. They’re just being stupid. What’s worse, they aren’t even being polemic in a constructive way. They’re just being plain old idiots. And that idiocy is hurting the cause of changing bad gun law by confirming the biases of the only people left to persuade.

The stupidity of the right on this issue falls into two broad groups. They are the ‘run away’ contingent, and the ‘Alamo’ contingent.

“Who would ever want to go to NYC anyway?!” say the runaway contingent. “I’d never go to a horrible place like that! Whoever lives there should move away to a wonderful place like where I live.” While I can appreciate a feeling of loyalty to your home, this is a stupid argument.

10 million people work in Manahattan and nearly 30 million live within commuting distance of it. The average income in this area is substantially higher than almost anywhere else in the country – much higher than anywhere that has less restrictive gun laws. Life is about trade-offs. And it’s possible that some of us are willing to accept a bit more personal risk in exchange for a higher income. Think of us as the pioneers who braved hostile Indians and a harsh environment to make our way. The only difference is that our risks are imposed by the government instead of the wilderness.

What’s more, if some of us don’t tough it out here, there will be no one clear thinking enough to change the bad law. So if you can’t find it in yourself to support us in our efforts, at least do us the courtesy of shutting your pie hole and not making it easier for our mutual opponents. You aren’t convincing anyone of anything.

The “Alamo” contingent takes a different stance. They all say that Meredith Graves should adopt a course of action that will sacrifice her personally to the broader principles that they think are most important. She should ‘stand and fight’ or “sue Bloomberg”, or some such, even though it will all but certainly mean a loss for her and jail time. They see that personal sacrifice on her part as a small price to pay if it will prove a point for the rights of gun owners. This is obviously idiotic advice, and thankfully, Ms. Graves attorney will never let her follow it.

What Ms. Graves should really do is make any deal she can which lets her escape NY with a minimum of cost and inconvenience. Beyond that I leave it to her lawyers who know the terrain much better than I to give her specific advice. As a full time resident of one of the most tyrannical state government’s in the country, I’m not a believer in sacrificing one self to make a point; especially when the bad laws will almost certainly be changed in the near future anyway.

I see no need to climb up on that cross when they are about to ban crucifixion. Laws aren’t changed by self sacrifice and I don't believe in martyrdom - especially for the one who would be martyred. Although few will admit it, the bureaucracy prides itself on its ability to steamroll individuals, and I see no point in fighting losing battles. Shut up... nod... and live to fight another day when you stand a better chance of winning. That's my take on it.

New York’s gun laws are going to be changed for two reasons. First they don’t accomplish the goals of minimum ‘gun violence’ that gun banners have hitched their ‘control of everyone’ wagons to. Most people, even in New York City, only view government control of their lives as a reasonable cost if it accomplishes something. If it doesn’t, then they’d rather be left alone. More and more that's the prevailing view in New York City regarding gun control.

Second, I think they step over the line with regard to constitutionality, (certainly they violate the spirit of it as applied) but that’s a subject for legal debate. Either way though, I can read the tea leaves and tell what’s coming. The laws are going to change. The trend has been going that way since the Clinton Administration, and it shows no sign of reversing. Gun banners are increasingly marginalized and rightly so. So it does no one any good to offer up stupid arguments. All we do is confirm the biases of people sympathetic to a gun ban position, and delay the inevitable victory for our side.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

- A Caucus Note

I didn't know anyone who was going to vote for John McCain in the primary. His squishiness was well known and he didn't inspire anyone. After he had won, I was at the gun club milling around with the other shotgunnners, almost all of whom were a minimum of 20 years older than me, and I started asking around.

"Who did you vote for?" I asked one guy I knew.

"John McCain" he said. "Me too's" sprang up all around the room.

I was blown away. McCain inspired no one. But these guys had all been in the military back when there was still a draft, and his military record meant something to them. So they lined up and voted for McCain, even though I don't the he ever had a real chance of winning anything. I didn't realize this because the only elderly people I talked to regularly were my in-laws, and they grew up in post WW2 Transylvania, which might have been the 15th century for all it had in common with Americans of a similar age.

It occurred to me that the elderly have a very different perspective on America than the rest of us. They don't see the decay of the culture or the apocalyptic fiscal mismanagement in Washington. Their idea of the future, is next winter. And they voted for McCain for the same reason they voted for Eisenhower.

Pollsters say they account for those differences, but I'm unconvinced. this year (I hear) the elderly like Romney. I hear there will be a big turnout. I'm awful at predicting these things, (like Freddie Prinz used to say... its not my job) but I think that will help Romney.

- Making The Most Of The Carter Legacy

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a creation of Jimmy Carter. He catapulted to local prominence when he and his compatriots stormed the US embassy in Tehran taking a number of hostages. Carter then spent a few years flailing about ineptly, trying to micromanage some action to free them, but to no avail. Ahmadinejad used that fame as the first steps to the Iranian presidency, where he continues to Treat America as if Carter is in charge.

Now, the Iranian president seems to be reading the American political tea leaves and trying to take more ground while a devotee of the Carter School is still in the Whitehouse. Mitt Romney is no Ronald Reagan. But being tougher with our enemies than Jimmy Carter or Barack Obama (otherwise referred to on this blog as 'our first woman president') is no great challenege.

Here's the thing. It's one thing to say "I will crush the American Navy" and another thing to actually do it. I imagine the admirals reading the latest Iranian press release, looking at each other, and then bursting out laughing at the idea. I don't think anyone (apart from Barack Obama) believes that the Iranians would have a chance.

But Obama is devoted to the idea of taking America down a peg, and if that means Iran gains a peg or two, that's OK with him. He'd see the virtue of a retreat in the interest of not 'antagonizing' the Iranians. But the Iranian Navy won't be shooting at Barak OBama, they'll be shooting at the US Navy. And just because their leader has all the toughness of a teenage girl, doesn't mean he's leading teenage girls.

They may be willing to get a political victory out of this from Obama, but I'm sure they know that an actual military victory is not within their grasp. I'm betting this whole thing blows over without a shot fired.

- The School Of Short-Term-Ism

Broadly speaking, you can think of the two dominant economic schools this way:

Keynesians practice the art of the short term. It's advocates think (and generally talk) only of the first and most direct effect of any policy and any other effects are thought of as something that happens way off in the mists of the future - where some other equally omniscient being like them will address them as if they were 'primary' effects.

Austrian Economists are the ultimate long term thinkers. The Austrian school is the only one that will be correct about absolutely everything it predicts... eventually. But it's so naturally far sighted a discipline and it's so focused on the visible endpoint, that although it can say absolutely whether a thing will happen, it can't possibly say when.

This tells you something about the people who advocate for each of these schools as well. Austrians tend to toward Apocalyptic (over a long enough time line everyone's survival rate falls to zero), while Keynesians tend to always choose to have another drink - and hangover or for that matter the drive home be damned. Austrians choose early mornings and exercise even though it feels bad, and Keynesians choose Sweet Tea Vodka in big gulp cups (and in your case probably a Roofie) because they feel so good.

Get a room full of Economists drunk, and by about 3AM, they all start sounding like Paul Krugman. Krugman's particular poison is 'power and influence'. That's what he's really after. It's no secret that he goes to sleep at night dreaming of a world where Economists dictate the actions of the masses following a grand plan that only they can fathom. Good idea - bad idea ... Krugman doesn't care. So long as it's his idea, and everyone is commanded to follow it, until he changes his mind.

If you imagine that the difference between these two schools of thought should be evident to anyone with a Nobel prize in economics, then I personally would agree with you. But if you believe that, then the only conclusion you can come to is that Paul Krugman must be more interested in spreading shadow than light. Actually, he's probably interested in spreading anything at all so long as it leads to greater influence for him. Thankfully for the rest of us, he thinks the New York Times and it's collapsing readership is a path to that power.

The simple fact is, if you still take him seriously as a thinker or writer, then you either have something in common with him, or you are a useful idiot for him. You are either passing out the roofies, or slugging them down.

Monday, January 2, 2012

- Meredith Graves, Meet Mike Bloomberg

The laws concerning concealed carry of a firearm are a jumble, and there has been some very timely confusion of this issue recently. While a law which will use federal authority to 'force' states to recognize concealed carry permits issued by other states is working it's way through the congress, a pretty 39 year old medical student from Tennesee has been arrested for trying to check her legally owned firearm while visiting the 9-11 memorial.

In New Jersey, where it is expressly illegal to be in possession of a firearm except under very limited and specifically defined circumstances, we in the firearms community have no choice but to have an understanding of the law. What's more, the laws were written to be ambiguous - giving maximum legal flexibility to the arresting officer and prosecuting attorney. So we not only need to know the law, but we need to know how the law is 'likely' to be enforced.

But in the rest of the country that isn't the case at all. In fact, in the vast majority of the United States they feel that 'shall not be infringed' actually means what it says, and that law enforcement is there to protect the law abiding, not punish them. The Net result is that a great many firearm owners who live in other parts of the country don't realize that in this part of the country, firearms are almost completely illegal.

Meredith Graves didn't know it. And because this obviously law abiding woman wasn't a better lawyer and more familiar with the various ins and outs of New York City's laws concerning firearm ownership, she's very likely going to spend three plus years in the NY penitentiary system.

Personally, I tend to view stories like this with suspicion. Ms. Graves is an attractive woman who was so obviously without criminal intent that even anti-gun politicians in New York are saying so. As such, I think she'll illicit much sympathy from a jury. And she'll also make an appealing example of someone being unjustly treated by the current law - underlining the need for the new concealed carry reciprocity act. This was all so obvious that I instantly suspected a setup.

But facing three years in prison if convicted is a big chance to take to prove a point. And after hearing how she tried to check her gun before going into the memorial, I tend to believe that she was just a foolish woman who was under the mistaken impression that law enforcement in the greater New York City area is there to protect people like her.

The map of above indicates that NY, NJ, California and a few others all fall under the description of 'may issue' with regard to carry permits. The long and short of that is that's it's at the discretion of the issuing authority, whether you are allowed to carry a concealed firearm. In New York City, that means that you must be famous, well connected politically, or be a big political contributor. In New Jersey it's simply a disguise for a procedural ban.

But if the concealed carry reciprocity act goes through (and I'm hearing that it may actually do just that), then in a place like New Jersey where no permits are ever issued, people from other states will be able to carry their firearms here, while New Jersey citizens will not. So it will be a great way to pressure the local legislature.

Bloomberg and the few remaining anti-gun politicians out there are on the losing side of history. The law will change eventually, I'm convinced of it. The only question now is, will it change fast enough to keep Meredith Graves out of prison.