Monday, October 28, 2013

- Meanwhile From Ft Apache

As many of you know, I'm a member of NJ's largest gun club, Central Jersey Rifle and Pistol, in Jackson NJ.  And it reminds me a great deal of Ft Apache.  A remote and well armed outpose surrounded on all sides by hostile (firearm) illiterate savages who would rather we were gone.  The club is under almost constant political assault from all sides.

Quite a few years ago, we caught anti-gun activists dumping empty beer and liquor bottles into our dumpster so they could claim that we were drinking and shooting.  (Alcohol is strictly prohibited at the club).  And as is the way of things in highly litigious NJ we had to bear an extra expense to prevent such intrusion in the future.  The club was forced to buy electronic gates at the entrance and issue electronic membership key tags to prevent future unauthorized entry. 

In an even more unbelievable and recent instance, we were informed by JCP&L that the ceramic insulators on the high tension power lines which are downrange from our rifle stations, were being 'chipped' by stray bullets.  The towers in question are well over a mile away and several hundred feet high.  At that distance the physics of a ricochet reaching the insulators in question are vanishingly small.  Science would say that it's nearly impossible for the scenario to have occurred.  By far the most likely cause of any 'chipping' was some kids out turkey hunting and blasting the insulators from the ground below.   

But instead of looking at the physics of the thing, new rules were formed by the club referring to target stand height, which must now be manufactured to very specific tolerances.  The new target dimension geometrically prevent ricochet's from missing the huge 'berm' behind out range.  But this also raised the cost and the fuss to members (the club issued specifications, but we each have to make them ourselves), and has inspired a great many rifle shooters to simply give up their membership. 

So in NJ, the sins of gun clubs may in fact be very few, but the perceived sins are legion.  Here then is another:

Some southern New Jersey residents are suing a gun range and the farmer who owns the property.
The residents of Gloucester Township’s Forest Meadows say the Iron Horse Pistol and Gun Club is in violation of zoning laws.

Over the years, some neighbors have said their homes have been struck by stray bullets.

 If a stray bullet struck a home in NJ, it would be surrounded by the police.  There would be swat teams, and canine units, and a helicopter overhead.  The mobs of anxious film crews would be more likely to trample homeowners to death in an effort to get good footage.  And no stone would be left unturned to find the criminal responsible. 

I'm not calling the home owner liars, but I'll bet that there are at least a hundred claims of bullets hitting houses for every bullet that actually did.  And I'll also bet that in this lawsuit, not one piece of physical evidence can every be produced to support that assertion. 

So actually I guess I am calling the home owners liars after all. 

- Why Can't I Keep The Plan I Had?!

This Florida woman's new health insurance plan costs 10X more than her old plan and she want's to know why she has to change.  The answer is obvious.  It's because... shut up you racist!

Obviously CBS news is just a partisan tool of Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

- How Obamacare Succeeded

Details, piddly details.  So the website doesn't run and you can't sign up for your 'mandatory' coverage.  So you can't really keep your insurance or your doctor.  So it isn't going to make your healthcare cost less, or reduce the federal deficit.   So it causes employers to put vast portions of the workforce on a 'part time' schedule instead of full time.  To the people who put Obamacare in place, all these issues are piddly details.  They are irrelevancies.

By far the most important part of Obamacare, and the part where it has been wildly successful, was the part where it rolled up the decision making in 1/6th of the worlds largest economy, under the direct administrative control of Democrat politicians and the people they appoint to handle the piddly details. If those details are mismanaged in some way, no one cares.  No one will be fired for something like that.  Because as far as they're concerned it's most important component worked fine.

It was a power grab, and that power has been successfully grabbed.  If you're a Democrat operative scurrying through the bowels of the Department of Health and Human Services, now is the part where the fun can really begin.  If a Doctor decides that he doesn't like performing a service for any reason (religious, economic, take your pick) you can easily enact a policy to force him to do so anyway.  The same is true of Hospitals and other medical institutions.

If it turns out that some creative medical practice finds a way to make the market more efficient and ends up with a greater profit for their trouble, a simple bureaucratic policy change will allow you to expropriate that money in the name of 'fairness'.  No messy laws need be passed or taxes approved.  The real control is all under the table now.

In effect, HHS has become just like the EPA and the IRS.  It has become a super-legislative body that no longer requires the Democratic participation of the citizenry to change the rules of the game.  It is a swift and brutal hammer, and the leftists that populate the HHS will use that hammer to smash 'profit' in the medical industry wherever they find it.  Never again will a doctor or medical corporation be allowed to make 'too much' money.  The government will be the ones to decide when they've made enough.  I'm betting it will be no more than months before the HHS has it's own SWAT teams and militarized enforcement division, just like the IRS and EPA do.

 There is a new boot on the neck of America, and it's a boot from the HHS. 

(Please forgive the amateurish graphic.  I can imagine much better, with the swirly lines of the original HHS logo shaped into a more brutal looking boot, and maybe a little black X for an eye on the face of it's dominated subject.  But I lack the skill or the time to make that one.  To be honest, I'm surprised no one else has thought of it.  Maybe someone should ping the guys at The Looking Spoon.)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

- The Return Of Edwin Edwards

For many years now my all time favorite politician has been Ed Edwards, the former governor of Louisiana.  I named him my favorite because I find him to be such a splendid specimen of the breed.  He is a totally shameless liar, cheat, and womanizer who has never held an honest job.  And has absolutely no regrets whatsoever about having robbed and stolen his way to the pinnacle of Louisiana politics.  He's like a charismatic Jon Corzine, but without the scowl and child molester's beard.

There was no law Ed wasn't perfectly content to break in his pursuit of power, and he laughed and smiled all the way.  The whole time he was extorting his way from one end of Louisiana to the other, the people he was stealing from did nothing but love him for it.  Like many Louisiana politicians, Ed's career in public life ended when he was convicted on bribery and extortion charges.  He was sent to Federal prison in late 2001.

The event that made Ed so popular with me was the following.  In mid 1998 when the Federal authorities were closing in on him for the fourth or fifth time (who can recall) , Ed held a press conference where one of the reporters asked the following question:

"Ed... are you worried at all that these investigators are going to expose some of the skeletons in your closet?"  Ed responded by saying:

"Son, I ain't got no skeletons in my closet, they all out there runnin around on the front lawn."

Well Ed isn't going back into politics.  These days state politics is a gig is for suckers.  Instead, he's going to have his own reality TV show.

Ed's a Democrat of course.  No political figure can lie like Ed has and be forgiven for it (again and again and again) if they aren't a Democrat.  Although for him it was less about principle and more about payola.  He wasn't exactly a hard liner, and was happy to change his mind if the price was right.  And with the arrival if his third wife, it looks like he's better at most things than Bill Clinton.

He's no Barak Obama.  And thank god, Barak Obama is also no Ed Edwards.  Just imagine the trouble we'd all be in then.


- You Can't Get There From Here

The brilliant Kevin D. Williamson:

Fifty years into the Democrats’ declaration of a war on poverty and President Kennedy’s first executive order for affirmative action, while spending $300 million a year on worthless diversity workshops and singing endless verses of “We Shall Overcome,” after enduring endless posturing from Barack Obama and the moral preening of his admirers, that is what black American families have to show for themselves: an average household net worth of $4,955. The average white household in these United States has a net worth of $110,729. Black Americans’ median net worth is less than 5 percent that of white Americans.

Kevin is trying to support a conclusion different from the one I would draw if presented with that data at the same time he was.  But he is a political writer for a living and I am not.  I am much more concerned with policy than politics - which is to say that I don't feel like either of our two major political parties is really on my side and feel no compunction to support them.

Rather, the first question that popped into my mind when I saw that data was "I wonder what would have been the state of things if you given the Irish the kind of preferential treatment that blacks currently get instead?  What would have been the effect of Irish affirmative action or Irish preferential government contracts.

I don't think it's a perfectly clear case that it would have been better for the Irish or worse for blacks.  But I can tell you this, the average Irish net worth would be one hell of a lot more than $4,995.  What I mean is, I don't think it's possible to confront a number like $4,995 without also facing down the number 85.  That's the average IQ of black Americans; a full 15 points lower than whites and 20 points lower than Asians.  Until we hear a dulcet choir rising up from pig farms everywhere, I think it's safe to say that all the government mandated preference given to black Americans has been a waste of time and money - as such efforts always are.  I don't think you can't get there from here, no matter what you do.

But even if I'm dead wrong, you certainly aren't going to make things any better by making things easier for blacks - as has been the way of things for 50 years.  If you really do want to improve the averages for black Americans, the only way you'll do it is by ending dependency, and providing what will turn out to be the few exceptional black men and women who currently have no reason to reach for their potential, with the incentive to outperform.  Most blacks will still be poor, but you'll have a few more high achievers.  Probably enough to pull the average up.

(Let's not forget, the mortgage crisis was really the result of a government plan to improve home ownership among blacks whose credit did not justify their mortgage.  The consequences of this horrible policy has been as bad for we non blacks, as it has been for them.)

Friday, October 25, 2013

- Obama's Legacy

Just imagine what life in America would be like if all these people were being productive instead of being paid to watch TV:

Americans who were recipients of means-tested government benefits in 2011 outnumbered year-round full-time workers, according to data released this month by the census bureau.

That's the real Obama legacy.  A vast expansion of the culture of dependence.  And who is the villain in that scenario?  It's the schmo who went to work.  Because according to the new left, he's an evil, greedy 'exploiter' of the poor, and the welfare recipient is just a helpless victim that needs government to save him.

Americans who were recipients of means-tested government benefits in 2011 outnumbered year-round full-time workers, according to data released this month by the Census Bureau. They also out-numbered the total population of the Philippines.
- See more at:
Americans who were recipients of means-tested government benefits in 2011 outnumbered year-round full-time workers, according to data released this month by the Census Bureau. They also out-numbered the total population of the Philippines.
- See more at:
Americans who were recipients of means-tested government benefits in 2011 outnumbered year-round full-time workers, according to data released this month by the Census Bureau. They also out-numbered the total population of the Philippines.
- See more at:
Americans who were recipients of means-tested government benefits in 2011 outnumbered year-round full-time workers, according to data released this month by the Census Bureau. They also out-numbered the total population of the Philippines.
- See more at:

Monday, October 21, 2013

- Obamacare Gets "Emergency Surgery": Part 2

Yuval Levin over at NRO has had his alarm go off in relation to the 'best and brightest' phrase that I had a problem with yesterday.

As an aside, I got an email today from another friend.  He's a very sharp programmer and a generally bright and clever guy.  After breaking my chops about one of the less skilled programmers we both know he said the following... quoted from his email:

"If that website hasn't devolved into a 'download pdf, fill it out and mail it in' model within 6 months I'll flambé my underpants and eat them for dinner."

So that's confirmation from a guy who's a much better programmer than me, that the problems here look serious and will be prolonged in their repair.

- There Go All My Stereotypes

I just got off the phone with a friend from college who lives in LA, and who I haven't spoken to in nearly 25 years.  He's been working behind the cameras in the film industry all that time, and has done very well for himself.  From my perspective he's a fairly left wing guy although most people would label him libertarian.  But he's still anti-progressive enough that given his industry and location he's probably viewed as being one step away from being a Nazi.

Anyway, we had a nice chat.  The kind of thing we used to do over beers all the time.  Come to think of it, I even mentioned an incident that occurred in our youth that involved having beers with him, in a post from months ago.  We connected on the phone almost instantly just like it was old times, and it reminded me of all the things I liked about the guy.  His wit, his intelligence, and his good nature haven't changed at all. 

The reason I bring it up at all was that he raised the idea that there are things that we all know but never say.  His example from the call (paraphrased to the best of my recollection) was this:

"Suppose the Tea Party or the NRA said that they were going to see their goals enacted 'by any means necessary!!!'  Not only would it make national news, the President would probably call out the national guard and declare martial law out of terror.  Everyone is afraid of the Tea Party and the NRA because we know that when they say something is going to get done, they're competent enough to actually do it.

But left wing groups can say that kind of thing all the time because we know that even though they mean it, they aren't really capable of anything.  They're all dreamers.  They need people who are more grounded than they are in order to get anything at all done.  So when left wing groups say that they're going to do things 'by any means necessary' no one takes them seriously because no one EVER takes them seriously, nor should they.  They just aren't that good at anything except expressing their outrage."

This conversation may not seem like such a big deal to you.  It probably sounds like a fairly obvious thing that, in all humility, I might say on any given Monday.  But I found the conversation shocking.  It was partly shocking because of his politics (although he was sort of apologizing for himself and explaining why he had done so well in LA).  But I think you'll find it shocking too when you learn that my old friend from school is both black, and gay. 

So a black, gay man from Los Angeles (ex New Brunswick NJ), who works in the film industry, just spent an hour telling his ultra conservative friend from college, that left wing folks are mostly incompetent and need conservatives (in his mind libertarians) in order to be able to get anything done.

Look for pork in the treetops folks, cause somewhere there is a pig who is learning to fly.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

- Obamacare Gets "Emergency Surgery"

Since my transition from Caxton to Tudor has come up, I'd like to tell one more brief story.  When I went to work at Tudor I needed to rebuild my trading strategy from scratch.  The way it works in the quant trading world is that all the code you have written belongs to the firm you work for, but all the knowledge in your head about how and why it works, that all belongs to the guy who wrote it.  So I rewrote all the analytics from scratch, and I even did it in a different programming language that I thought would be more cost effective given the Tudor infrastructure.

But there was one piece of code I needed which I wasn't going to do.  It was a simple generic GUI.  I could have written it myself but it's not really my specialty. So with all the time it would have taken me to do, management thought it would be better and faster to farm that portion out and hire a programmer to do it for me.  And even though one of my best and oldest friends was working as the head of systems development at Tudor at the time, because of the way the Tudor's internal cost structure was set up, I had to hire an outside consultant to write my piece of code.

This was all fine with me.  But it was a slight problem that I didn't actually know anyone who did that kind of consulting.  So instead I used a guy who was recommended to me by one of the other PM's who had written some of his code.  The consultant was an academic - a college professor at a major university who also did light programming work on the side.  But he didn't know Wall Street, he didn't know finance, and he had never actually worked as a professional programmer.

In my mind none of that should have mattered.  All I needed was a little gui.  It had to access an SQL database table, display the data, and based on which button I clicked, mark one column in the table with one of three values - on, off, or skip (literally 1,0,or 2).  That's it.  My friend the developer probably could have done it for me in an afternoon.  I've had other people do that much work for me (one particularly sharp former Caxton programmer immediately springs to mind) who could do that much work while I waited at their desk.  It's the tiniest of programming tasks that any second year student should be able to manage in a variety of programming languages.  Had I don e it myself the process might have taken several versions, but probably would have taken no more than a few days.

But it took this guy 4 weeks, he needed 5 different explanations of the specification, and he still did it dead wrong 4 times.  My code (the code that I had written) was doing all the complicated parsing and financial analytics.  I was doing 100% of the math.  All he was doing was reading a table, displaying the values, and reacting to a single clicked button.  There is very likely a chimp in a lab someplace being trained to do that very thing right now.  And even after he finished weeks late and wildly over budget,  I discovered that he done it in the worst possible way from a technical standpoint, and I had to modify my code in order to keep it from locking up from running so slowly.

The moral of this story is, when team Obama tells you that they have drafted the 'best and brightest' to fix the problems of the Obamacare exchanges, don't be so certain that they have any idea what the 'best and brightest' actually means.  Those who can't, teach.  That's not just a parable.  They really do have no idea how to do the things they say they do.  That's how this Obamacare disaster happened in the first place - a bunch of academics screwing around with things they don't really understand.  And I'm pretty sure that's who they think is the people to call when you have a problem.

So I'm betting that this emergency surgery being talked up in the press, comes to more or less nothing, and the problems with the Obamacare exchanges will continue for months at least.  It's a design problem, not an implementation problem.  Get all the carpenters you like involved, they can't fix bad architecture.


Do you have any idea how much work it takes to make 5 MILLION lines of useless code into a workable computer program?    Do you know mow much longer it takes if all you know how to do is manage the public image of people in charge?  I'm telling you, this is a likely to be an unprecedented failure, the likes of which even the federal government has never seen.

And I'm really sorry I didn't see it coming.  With as good as team Obama is at manipulating the press, it's hard to imagine they've had time to develop skills at anything else.  Turns out they haven't, and that should have been obvious.  At some level seeming 'smart' is about specialization.  And they have clearly specialized in nothing but public manipulation and image management.   But a failure like this doesn't wipe right off of anyone, even Obama.

- The Investment Climate According to Caxton

I know Andy Law, though not well.  He took over as head of Caxton Associates when Bruce Kovner (the firm's founder who I worked for) stepped back from active firm management.  But Andy was in the London office and I was in New York, so our paths crossed very little.  When Bruce stepped down as head of the firm I moved on to Tudor, so I never reported to Andy. 

But I have to say, my view of the world right now is very similar to his.  According to Zerohedge and the Financial Times:

What happened [last week] was just another can kicking exercise,” he said of the political deal reached between Democrats and Republicans in Washington to raise the cap on the government’s ability to borrow. “The problem has not been solved and the hopes for a grand bargain are in tatters . . . the lack of visibility is very damaging.”
“We just don’t see how the economy is going to accelerate in the foreseeable future,” he said.

The broader hedge fund industry doesn't seem to have much interest in growing either.  Fundraising has been very modest, and there are few firms expanding in any area.  Most seem to be trying to do no more than withstand the inclement climate in the hope that they'll still be around when the clear skies return.  But they may be waiting a while.

- Get Those Crackers!!!

From Chess, Drudge, and the NY Daily News.  More news from the land of post racial harmony, Brooklyn NY:

A group of 10 black youths — one of them a 12-year-old girl — surrounded a white couple's car in Brooklyn, viciously beating the husband and yanking the wife to the pavement by her hair as they peppered the two with racial slurs, authorities said.

"Get Those Crackers!" some of them screamed; according to court papers. "Get that white whore!"

I had an incident I witnessed in mid July that I'd like to mention.  I was walking to a meeting with a fund in midtown, and I was on 55th street between 5th and Sixth avenue walking east, about 40 feet behind a young fairly attractive black girl in exercise clothing.

The sidewalk was fairly crowded, and there were a few people here and there standing around.  Not many, and the sidewalk is wide there so there was plenty of room.  Up ahead of us was a white woman who was also attractive but was professionally dressed, age about 35.  She was  facing away from us quietly and politely talking on her cell phone, taking up very little space.

When the black girl approached the white woman, she made it a point to smash the woman's shoulder with hers, and then kept walking without looking back.  There was no reason for this that I could see.  The woman was blind sided and was in obvious pain, but rather than raise a fuss, she looked at the girl who had hit her and flashed me a look that said "What the hell was that for?"  I flashed her another which said, "OMG, I have no idea." She then quietly rubbed her shoulder and continued her call.

I don't know why the black girl would do something like that.  She had to go out of her way to run into the woman.  Beyond that, the woman had been doing her best to keep out of people's way (and after living in Time's Square for 10 years  I'm kind of sensitive to issues like that so there really can't be any debate about it.)  The girl was simply some low class attitude wielding mess, who hated the woman, maybe for her skin, maybe for her looks, maybe for her shoes - but certainly for something.

This is what I think Obama has brought us.  The black on white violence is less apologized for.  The black community now feels we deserve it (however violent it is) simply for being white, and good manners and civil treatment can go out the window.  And the newspapers will wait a week and then report it on page 29.

- Some Halloween Thoughts


At one point in the recent past, the monsters that haunt the dreams of America's cultural trend setters in the media shifted from vampires to zombies.  And I think that tells us more than it seems.  The revealing point has probably been made to death by the 'deep thinkers' of the arts.  But for pedantic 'day late - dollar short' business types like me it seems fairly new. 

Vampires of the 90's as depicted by Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Gary Oldman were powerful creatures set free from the day to day concerns of mere mortals, who preyed upon the weak.  They had their limits, but on the whole they were something more than men.  Their violence wasn't random, but targeted.  They swooped down from above upon those who dared to flirt with the danger of crossing their path.  They were subtle, and mostly secret.  They were discreet predators who fed upon their victims but left their world more or less intact.  They were viewed as parasitic and deeply cruel, but on a cultural level, more or less benign.  They didn't ravage cities or cause widespread destruction.  They were precise, and calculating.  Some, even felt guilt for their monstrosity. 

Now though, the thing that keeps screenwriters awake at night isn't the idea of being the victim of the individual predator, but of being swept up in the violence of a mindless swarm.  The Zombie is unthinking, and unfeeling.  Whatever actually motivates them, they are considerably less than human.  They build nothing, and preserve nothing.  All they are is the collective gaping yaw of the masses who know only consumption.  There are no famous zombies.  Zombies are always played by extras and animated in via CGI.  They are more a part of the scenery than a character in the story. 

The Vampire was a monster for a culture that still had direction and was still growing.  They were the evil actor in the more or less good system.  They were a capitalist villain in a productive and beneficial world.  They were nature's lone gunmen.  Individual creatures guilty of only individual harm.  The Vampire didn't end the world back in those days.  They called Mitt Romney a 'vampire' capitalist (though it never really fit).  Ted Forstman, Henry Kravis, and Mike Milken were portrayed as Vampires.  the Vampire is a 'right wing' 'free market' creature.

But the Zombie is what comes after the entire culture collapses.  If not that, then they bring about the collapse themselves.  They are the remains of society turned upon the last of their evil creators, and making sure nothing at all will be left when they're done.  The Zombies are the occupy movement.  A directionless mass of what used to be human, that doesn't even understand itself.  It has no direction or purpose other than to consume and destroy.  They build nothing, and only want what others posses.  And they are utterly unashamed of spreading their pestilence. 

 They are the perfect 21st century 'left wing' collective villain.

- What A NJ Lawyer Thinks

No, not Frithguild (who may yet chime in).   This is a link to an article from Andy McCarthy at NRO, which I think has made an excellent analysis of the politics surrounding the now failed movement to defund Obamacare:

... something also had to be done because Obamacare is a disaster for the productive part of the country. And, more urgently, that something had to be done now. This was not a manufactured crisis. Obamacare was set to commence on October 1. Consequently, Republicans had two options. Option One was the GOP establishment’s “win elections, then repeal” strategy: Do nothing for now; allow Obamacare to be implemented; assume its unpopularity would increase, creating a climate for extended, uninterrupted GOP electoral success, finally leading to a Republican Congress of such substantial majorities that an Obamacare repeal would pass both houses and be signed by a Republican president. As we shall see, core assumptions of “win elections, then repeal” require the suspension of disbelief.

Alternatively, there was Option Two: Because, as a matter of law, Obamacare could not proceed unless both congressional chambers agreed to fund it, and because Republicans control the House, House Republicans could deny it funding. The hope was that Obamacare’s unpopularity and patent unreadiness, coupled with the Democrats’ desire for the rest of government to be funded at today’s exorbitant levels, would pressure the Senate and the president to agree to a delay. Option Two would be tough to pull off, but it was not exclusive of Option One; and, contrary to conventional wisdom, there was the chance that the memory of any government shutdown would fade quickly while raising public consciousness about Obamacare’s downsides would have enduring electoral benefits.

For those of you who don't know, Andy is the former Federal Prosecutor responsible for the conviction of the guys responsible for the first World Trade Center bombing.  He's a hard core law and order guy, and a blue state conservative Republican.  On other issues, he's never come out strongly for gun rights and given his professional pedigree I think that means he's more against them than for them.  And I think it would be a big mistake to characterize his ideas on business and financial regulation as 'libertarian'.  Let's not even talk about his view on America's various 'foreign adventures'.

In other words, his political perspectives and mine aren't exactly cut from the same cloth.  To be perfectly frank, on most subjects I find I don't care for his opinions very much.  He's an excellent legal analyst (at least he seems to be given my very limited knowledge of the subject) but I find that among conservative thinkers, I don't generally agree with him much.

This piece though, I think is dead right in every way.  Yes, defunding was a hail Mary.  But when you're 99 yards from the goal line with only seconds to go,a hail Mary is the move to make.  And you never know...sometimes a hail Mary works.

Given the scope of my acquaintance, my estimation of Irish NJ lawyers has risen in recent years. So in spite of the fact that I think he's about as wrong-headed as a conservative can be on most things, I think you should give his piece a read.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

- The Obama Kids

These 'gotcha' videos are getting tiresome.  But these are college kids.  They are definitely being taught all about how "horribly racist" the richest most free country in human history is, but they've never heard of the holocaust. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

- IDGAF - Americans

My wife is horrified by the story of the Florida girl who killed herself because of bullying, and is particularly put off by the reaction to the suicide from one of the girls who bullied her:

Personally I don't find it all that shocking.  This is what's always happened in the bottom 20% of society.  And if you've read your Charles Murray (and god knows you should have) then you shouldn't be shocked either.  

My wife keeps saying thing like "What in the world can these kids be thinking?  How can they think that's OK?"  And my response is, they've been taught to think it's OK, and they're just responding to what they've been taught.  Take this example:

Suppose you're looking for the train station and you're lost.  You see another person across the street and run up to them to ask them where the train station is.  There are lots of things you can say, but the top 20% and the bottom 20% will say the same thing very differently, and get very different responses.

You can say "Yo, where da train station at?"  or you can say "Excuse me, I'm sorry, but I can't find the train station.  Do you by any chance, know where it is?"  Both vernaculars convey the same message, but get differing responses.  And that's fitting since they demonstrate completely differing values.

The person who asks the latter question is conveying the idea that they are at least minimally concerned about how the person being asked feels about being approached out of the blue by a stranger asking directions.  They are using formality to help mitigate any fears that they may have about being approached.  To the person asking, their apology doesn't convey a diminished status, it's just a way of helping the other person feel slightly less threatened.

But for the person asking the first question, the only person's emotions that matter is their own.  They are trying to get information without also conveying that they are somehow smaller for the asking.  They think the way you get 'respect' is by treating others as if they're beneath you.  And they feel that way because they have been taught at every turn that it's their feelings that matter.  

If they feel 'exploited' they have been told that their feelings alone mean that they are.  If they feel insulted, or diminished in any way, then just their feelings on the subject are enough to call that a insult a fact.  They have been taught that if you feel bad in any way, then that's enough to not only confirm that you have been slighted, but is also enough to indict the 'intentions' of the person who 'made you' feel that way.  It's considered 'proof' that they must have meant to abuse you in some way, so long as you feel abused.

The rudeness and bullying comes from poor socialization.  But the validity of the rudeness comes from the bifurcation of our society and the bottom quintile's unwillingness to take responsibility for their own actions.  My wife is horrified by these kids, but I say, what do you expect when an entire generation has been raised to believe that it's all, always someone else's fault and the only person whose feelings matter is their own. 

- Obamacare: The Great Leap Forward

I found this Yuval Levin post very illuminating.  and I think it will be particularly interesting to those of you who are also 'technology literate', and can read between the lines of what the HHS folks are saying to him.  (damned fine piece of reporting by the way for a guy who admittedly doesn't know anything about technology.)   

The Obamacare rollout is the equivalent of a blind man, driving a broken ambulance, down a mountain pass in the dark, while the patient inside continues to bleed.  And the liberals in charge still think the biggest problem is that the driver's license and registration aren't up to date.  These people won't be able to fix this system, probably ever.

In the private sector, a disaster like this would get some people fired and the system itself would be scaled back to the point where someone could claim it was a success at doing some small thing.  Then the rest would be trash-canned, and a new team with a new set of systems goals would be brought in to try again.  But that isn't how government works.  In government what will happen is that if 300 M-illion produced an outcome like this, then the same people will try again only with 300 B-illion instead. Any day now the blame will be placed on 'insufficient funding' and Republican resistance, by the Democrat water carrier press. 
But what this project really shows is the results of liberal decision making on every level.  As we know, liberals believe it's the political outcome that should be weighted above all others.  In their view, if there are a few operation, administrative, or technical problems in a program, you can fix the rest by using the political power you retain to throw more money at them.  Money will eventually solve most problems like those, and has been used in place of actual competence in government for decades.

The problem though is that it takes a VAST amount of money to get enough typing chimps to produce the NYTimes every day.  In other words, the more incompetent your staff, the more money it will take to solve the problems they create.  And the liberals we have running the government seem to be about as thoroughly incompetent as any group has ever been. "The message" is the only issue for these people, not managing actual outcomes.

The President gives a hell of a speech, but has never so much as run a lemonade stand.  And this is the kind of thing that happens when you put people like that in charge.  Imagine taking a high school kid and as his first job, put him in charge of 1/6th of the economy.  The actual healthcare outcome you'll get from that is very similar to this one.

By valuing only political purity over problem solving skills, liberal institutions tend to drive away those who would take the lead in a system that's based on merit.    When the only path to success is 'having the right friends and coming from the right school', there is little point in relying on things like 'talent' to get you to the top.  This is the conclusion drawn in varying degrees, by competent people in all large institutions.  The more 'purely liberal' the liberal institution is, the less competence it manages to retain.  There is less actual talent in government than there is at GE, and less at GE than at Goldman Sachs.  The less merit is rewarded, the less it sticks around.

I suspect that merit isn't placed in a very high priority on team Obama.  So I don't think Obamacare is going to get 'fixed' very soon - at least not in the way conservatives tend to think of the term 'fixed'.

After reading Yuval's piece, it's clear they still think the most serious problems with Obamacare are the political consequences, not the technical faults. For conservatives, I think this is really the best of all possible outcomes.  The spin and messaging will be skillfully handled, but the actual medical and financial outcomes will not.  And it's tough to spin that kind of thing away.  Republicans should follow Napoleon's advice and try not to interrupt the Democrats at a time like this.

And if you think Obamacare is bad now, just wait until they get it to work well enough to let the hackers get in. 


Thursday, October 17, 2013

- When Liberals Crash Head On Into Reality

The thing to remember about Obamacare is, the people who are trying to fix it still have the wrong ideas about how it's supposed to work.  That's actually worse than being incompetent, because if you have an incompetent programmer, you just replace him - just as if he were a carpenter.  The problem with Obamacare isn't bad carpentry (though the media is trying to portray it that way) it's actually a problem with the architecture. 

And all the great carpentry in the world won't save you if the building you're putting up is designed to look like a picasso painting.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

- The Debt Cieling Deal

The inmates retain  control of the asylum.  The press has successfully characterized the idea of offering any objection to the federal government spending $1.40 for every $1 it takes in as "irresponsible".  So Rome shall burn on, and we all get to enjoy the music  - at least a little while longer.   

 John Boehner and those conservative stalwarts in the Senate like the crafter of this deal Olympia Snow, have been berated into conceding virtually all of what the left and Obama wanted.  And in the end, this decision was made, as it always with is with these types, when they saw the poll numbers. They would rather be mildly unpopular failures than truly despised winners.  Concession, surrender and rationalizing defeat is simply a core part of who they are. 

But if you want to know how to win against the liberal establishment, you should be looking at the only group that does so consistently.  The NRA has won every national conflict between themselves and the left, because they don't care what the press says.  They don't care what the polls say.  They tell the anti-gun crowd that they can go F*** themselves, and that the only options for them is to give in politically, or give in when the NRA decides to stop restricting it's activities to the political.  That's the only way to win with liberals - you scare them.

At this point I'm very dubious that this version of the United States can be saved.  But I do know that if it is going to be saved, it isn't going to be done by a bunch of people who decide their every action based on NYTimes and CBS news polling. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

- What Obamacare's Failure Should Teach Us All

The thing about technology and programming is that for the people who don't understand it, it might as well be magic.  Someone like Obama or one of the other elected class will tell you that it's not as difficult as "providing real leadership" like they do all day.  That's nonsense. 

You can get things wrong all day long, every single day in politics or journalism, and there are never any consequences.  Get a stupid idea in your head (like the type that fill the heads of someone like Nancy Pelosi or Joe Biden) and you can still go your entire career without ever seeing the piper paid.

But in technology, if you are wrong-headed about something there are fairly immediate consequences.  It is, in the end, a mathematical discipline.  Even as abstracted as today's modern programming languages are, if the math doesn't work, the code won't work.  And that's true from the very strategic and abstract level, all the way down to the smallest detail.  That's why Obamacare has failed so spectacularly.

It's also why I know very few liberals who make even passable programmers.  That isn't to say there aren't many out there giving it a shot.  But they're all making a total hash of it.  To a man the best programmers, systems architects and system designers I know are all conservatives.  And that's because the recognize that we live in a universe which is constrained.

A good system design recognizes that there are trade-offs you must make. If you choose to focus on ease of use, you give up flexibility; if you choose flexibility you might give up speed.  And a well designed system is one which takes into account the fact that with every design decision you make today, you are not only choosing what to do now but also what you will not be able to do as a consequence of that decision as you move further down the road.

But liberals live in a pretend universe where there are no constraints. And if you're a talking head or an elected official where no one is ever going to actually hold you accountable for being wrong, that mistake isn't so costly (at least not to you personally).  But in systems design, it's death.  Exactly the kind of death that Obamacare is suffering.  That system was designed to ignore the user experience and by making the political goals it's first priority.  In other words, they torpedoed their own boat.

The details of that failure are explained pretty well here.  And what that corner post doesn't actually say but is made abundantly clear, is that these failures are not failures at all - they are a product of the central design of the system.  And since that's so, it will be months at best if Obamacare is ever fixed.  At best it will limp along minimally until it is redesigned from the bottom up in Obamacare v2.  But if it's done by the same people and with the same design focus, it may never get there.  At a minimum, heads will have to roll first.

 So what should we learn from this?  Well first, that government employees and government contractors are only minimally competent at best.  They are for the most part people who couldn't do the same job they're doing for government if they were forced to try to compete in the private sector.  In many cases, that lack of competence may be the very reason they went into government in the first place.  And if you mix that incompetence with liberal policy initiatives and a top down politically minded managerial focus, you get classic unconstrained train wreck after train wreck. 

And second, we don't really want these people doing as much for us as they already do. It isn't really helping anyone to put the least competent among us in charge of everyone's lives.  Snookie and her kin are all idiots, but she knows what she wants for dinner better than any government bureaucrat.

- An Academic Discussion on Doomsday

James Pethokoukis makes sense.  He's dead right about the best way for our country to address it's current fiscal woes, and that the folks on the right are making economic disaster more likely, not less.  And all that has to happen for his best case scenario to play out is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.  Simple.

It must be nice to worry about only academic questions.  How comfortable it must be to focus on what would be best rather than trying to cope with what scenarios are most likely.  Those of us who cope with the latter question don't just look at idealized solutions, we must contemplate how the people involved will make decisions.  And when that's also considered, any solution which even partially resembles the 'best case' is simply impossible.

A slow steady return to rational spending goals with a tightening of the fiscal belt with regard to entitlements is the best thing to do.  But the Democrat party is utterly dedicated to wealth redistribution.  The rapid increase of those entitlements isn't just their political goal designed to keep them in power, it's also what they believe is just and right.  The idiot Republicans have all they can do to hang on white knuckled to the speeding behemoth as it careens around the narrow mountain pass at ever increasing speeds.  The idea that this institution will slowly and rationally do anything is ridiculous.

The only way to make Democrats act rationally when it comes to spending is to put them in crisis mode and in doing so, give them no choice.  If you assume, as history would indicate, that absent a crisis they will continue on their current trajectory, then the future collapse of the system will bring plenty of pain, misery and civil strife.  From that perspective, causing what looks to Mr. Pethokoulis like a crisis today, would really be nothing more than a pressure relief valve.  It will be a much smaller version of the kind of upset that would be inevitable on a much larger scale if Democrats were left to themselves.

 If you read liberal writers, you will from time to time hear them say that only 'shared prosperity is sustainable'.  What they mean when they say this is that if you don't hand over some of the wealth to the people they say 'deserve' it, they will eventually resent the productive classes so much that they will rise up and butcher them.

In other words, there is a level of assumed violence built into their long term economic view.  In that one respect, history does support their view of things.  But from that same perspective, forcing the Democrat train off it's rails today instead of waiting for the 'big blowup' that will come eventually, is making our prosperity 'more sustainable' on the same terms that Democrats always talk about.

That probably won't happen either.  The Republicans are too stupid and cowardly for that.  But if we're having an academic discussion, it's something to ponder.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

- Marathon Update


It takes a special breed of mental illness to start off a perfectly good Saturday with a 20 mile run.  If I run due east and don't turn around at the mid-point, then my journey will leave me about 6 miles off shore in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.  A better choice would be to run northwest where my trip would end almost exactly at the emergency room entrance of Robert Wood Johnson Medical center in New Brunswick.  And if I go south I'll end up someplace very close to where the Hindenburg exploded.  Analogies abound.

But I'm not going to do any of that.  Instead I'll circle my 6 mile long block three times and add a little bit to the end.  That takes me a total of 3400 vertical feet over the hills and farms of central Monmouth county. 

When George Washington fought the battle of Monmouth near here he called this "that horrible low flat ground".  One can only assume he didn't run over any of it.  I find myself wondering if his horse felt the same way about it.  The good news is that the Philadelphia Marathon has less than a 100 feet vertical, so it should improve my time considerably. 

For my part I think it will be a relief not to have to jump over any more deer carcasses.  As of last Saturday there were 6 in various states of decay along my normal route.  They find their way to the side of the road, but no further.  And they are awfully nasty.  The scenery is about 50% farmland, 50% upper middle class suburbia - exactly the kind of environment that puts Deer and car traffic in closest proximity.  It's lovely country, but it's hard to enjoy the view much when the smell is making your eyes water.  However bad Philadelphia's air quality, it's got to be better than all these rotting deer.

 Had I gotten into the NY Marathon, this would be my last long run.  After this it would be just a few weeks of shorter runs to keep fit, and to let my body recover to get ready for the race.  Instead I have 2 more weeks of 20+ mile runs and then the 'scale down'.  But they're getting much easier, so I have to believe I'll be ready for Philly when the time comes.

I'm surprised how big a difference it makes in my fitness doing these very long runs.  My first 18 mile run I wanted to die afterward, and felt awful for most of the day.  Now I recover much more quickly.  Last Saturday I felt so good that an hour later I drove 90 minutes and shot a round of sporting clays with R.A. who was kind enough to invite me with a few of his guys on a business outing. A 20 mile run followed by a round of clays was like some kind of bizarre redneck Olympic event.  I didn't shoot very well but that was more from a lack of mental focus than exhaustion.

But as much as it's gotten easier to finish these long runs, it's gotten no easier to start them.  So enough procrastinating.  I'm off.

At least it isn't raining.