Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Transformational Figure

Not just any messiah but ObamaMessiah

Hat tip: RedMassGroup

A little Tolstoy for the quants on Wall Street

If only the smart set on Wall Street could see things as clearly as the common man:
"The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.'"
I'm trying to determine whether Tolstoy's remarks are the same as saying: "You can tell a Harvard man but you can't tell him much."

The Ghilarducci Plan

They haven't taken over all three branches of the federal government yet but the idea merchants of the Democratic Party are contemplating ways to raise revenue. So much for the ownership society.
Under Ghilarducci’s plan, all workers would receive a $600 annual inflation-adjusted subsidy from the U.S. government but would be required to invest 5 percent of their pay into a guaranteed retirement account administered by the Social Security Administration. The money in turn would be invested in special government bonds that would pay 3 percent a year, adjusted for inflation.

The current system of providing tax breaks on 401(k) contributions and earnings would be eliminated.

“I want to stop the federal subsidy of 401(k)s,” Ghilarducci said in an interview. “401(k)s can continue to exist, but they won’t have the benefit of the subsidy of the tax break.”

Under the current 401(k) system, investors are charged relatively high retail fees, Ghilarducci said.

“I want to spend our nation’s dollar for retirement security better. Everybody would now be covered” if the plan were adopted, Ghilarducci said.
Government obviously doesn't like middle-men. Strip their business model away and you too can create a redundant social security system. How does the current Ponzi scheme known as Social Security work for you? Or to phrase it another way, given its potential insolvency, how will Social Security work out for you?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A dishonorable profession.

Jules Crittenden » Embarrassment:
"I figured out a long time ago that “journalist,” with the reek of bullshit about it, already sounds like you’re trying to pull one over on people before you’ve even asked a question or written a word. What the fuck does a journalist do? Journalize?

That’s actually a word. It has nothing to do with news. It means to keep a personal record. Now that I think of it, maybe that does describe what large parts of this business has been doing in this election cycle. ”Dear diary … Obama looked so hot today.”"

As long as I don't have to migrate to Vista!

Ars Technica takes a look at Windows 7 Quote:
"The user interface has undergone the most radical overhaul and update since the introduction of Windows 95 thirteen years ago."

A great institution adapts

The Christian Science Monitor will evolve into a weekly. It will still be a great newspaper. Period.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What to read if you want to understand the financial crisis

You should really know what you're talking about if you are very eager to declare the end of libertarianism. Thank you, Lynne Kiesling for a one-stop slam on the very smug Jacob Weisberg!

Professor Charles Whalen doesn't think much of libertarianism either.

R.I.P. Dean Barnett

Dean Barnett has died. From a great blog post by Dean two years ago:
At one point during my interview, the questioner asked me if I expected to see a cure to CF in my lifetime. I answered no, but that it doesn’t really matter. When you see death up close, a couple of things become clear. One is that we all die, and that death is just part of the deal. The other is that life is such a blessing, that’s it just so great, even though you know the inevitable might be near you still want as many bites of the apple as possible.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

An economics lesson: people respond to incentives

More people should read this.
The bottom line: If you are one of those people out there trying to induce me to do some work for you, there is a good chance I will turn you down. And the likelihood will go up after President Obama puts his tax plan in place. I expect to spend more time playing with my kids. They will be poorer when they grow up, but perhaps they will have a few more happy memories.
Unfortunately, few people will care about this little lesson.

Choke you bastard, choke!

This may be good news!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You don't say! Press harder on McCain

Dog bites man story. Media harder on Republican candidate.
The good news for John McCain? He's now receiving as much attention from the national media as his Democratic rival. The bad news? It’s overwhelmingly negative.

Just 14 percent of the stories about John McCain, from the conventions through the final presidential debate, were positive in tone, according to a study released today, while nearly 60 percent were negative — the least favorable coverage of any of the four candidates on the two tickets.

The study, by The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, a nonpartisan journalism watchdog organization, examined 2,412 stories from 43 newspapers and cable news shows in the six-week period beginning just after the conventions and ending with the final presidential debate.

"Much of the increased attention for McCain derived from actions by the senator himself, actions that, in the end, generated mostly negative assessments,” the study found. “In many ways, the arc of the media narrative during this phase of the 2008 general election might best be described as a drama in which John McCain acted and Barack Obama reacted."

Indeed, the increased and increasingly negative media attention for McCain isn’t surprising when looking at how the campaign’s strategy changed since the beginning of the general election.

"We ran a different kind of campaign and nobody cared about us," spokesman Brian Rogers told Politico last month, adding later that “we intend to stay on offense.”

For Barack Obama, the study found coverage “has been somewhat more positive than negative, but not markedly so," with 36 percent of the storiees positive in tone, 35 percent mixed, and 29 percent negative.

So do these numbers reveal a pro-Obama bias? Not necessarily, according to the study’s authors.

Rather, they say, the statistics “do offer a strong suggestion that winning in politics begat winning coverage, thanks in part to the relentless tendency of the press to frame its coverage of national elections as running narratives about the relative position of the candidates in the polls and internal tactical maneuvering to alter those positions.”
Yes the press follows the polls like a pack herd; it's the only mentality it knows. If McCain pulls off a Truman-like victory on November 4, the press will become one of the most reviled institutions in America.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ralph Peters makes the case against Obama

Ralph Peters
Sen. John McCain's campaign has allowed a great man to be maligned as a mere successor to George W. Bush. The truth is that an Obama administration would be a second Carter presidency - only far worse.

Think Bush weakened America? Just wait.
The current media narrative is that Obama, the sainted one, will repair America's "reputation" in the world. It's a sad take that ignores reality.

Read the whole article.

Monday, October 20, 2008

He's a lucky man, smug and rich

'Throw the Blackberry away and enjoy life. Yeah those aristocrats pampering their kids for Harvard, then an MBA and then Wall Street. How much do you want to be most of these overworked preppies are liberals?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tampa Bay Rays make it to the Big Show

The Tampa Bay Rays, who last year had the worst record, are 2008 American League Champions.

I didn't think they could come back from that devastating loss in Boston last Thursday. But they did and with a lot of verve. Plus, David Price is one clutch pitcher.

The church of the insipid

The Episcopal Church is in trouble. And its woes go beyond the controversy around the ordination of gay men. For other reasons, some theological, the liberal or progressive wing of the Church of England has turned a great sect into an insipid modernist church. Flannery O'Connor, the Catholic novelist once said "You have to push as hard as the age that pushes against you." On the march, liberals roll over the traditions -- pushing modernity to all the edges of belief. That's too much for some people including Tony Blair, who are turning for something with a little more chest, and the full throat of purpose. George Will scales the diminishing returns of the progressive church with a dismal future.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A worthy apologia for Palin

A brilliant piece of writing. Aside from the rank hypocrisy, why is Ayers comfortably upper middle class while the woman from Wasilla is scorned by the Hyde Park set?

Who needs Office? SaaS cuts into the behemoth

In a Web 2.0 world, who needs a full-blown word processor and spreadsheet?
Google Apps "don't have the best word processor or spreadsheet we compete with; we get more competitive pressure from OpenOffice and StarOffice than we do from those guys," Ballmer said. OpenOffice, from, is an open source office software suite that goes head to head with Microsoft Office. It is based on StarOffice, which is offered by Sun Microsystems at a lower price than Microsoft's offerings.

Responding to Gartner analyst Smith's comment that half of 400 users surveyed by Gartner yesterday said they were using Google Apps, Ballmer replied "the real statistics are people try, they don't use."

However, Ballmer tacitly conceded that Google Apps are hurting Microsoft in at least one area. University students, who are "the leading edge of all consumerization phenomena" use Office but "when it comes to sharing stuff they use Google Apps, which is why we're moving to Office Live," he said.
More here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A riff hard to forget: Smoke on the Water

An all-star cast pumps up the volume!

Let's not get to far of ourselves!

Usury and paper money should go says Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi a cleric and apparently a major theoretician. Why should we listen to him or his guests in Jerusalem?
"The Western system has collapsed and we have a complete economic philosophy as well as spiritual strength," he said at Sunday's opening of a conference on Jerusalem.

"All riches are ours... the Islamic nation has all or nearly all the oil and we have an economic philosophy that no one else has," Qaradawi said.

He urged Muslims to "profit from the crisis to bring about the triumph of the (Islamic) nation, which holds the spiritual and material resources for victory."

The sixth conference on Jerusalem is being attended by around 300 people representing political parties as well as Muslim and Christian NGOs, from various countries.

It is staged by Al-Quds (Jerusalem) International Institution, which is dedicated to the conservation of the holy city and its sacred places.

Participants include Khaled Meshaal, exiled head of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, and Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iranian spiritual leader Ali Khamenei.

The three-day conference will look at ways of protecting Jerusalem and its holy sites, which participants believe are threatened by Israel.
I think people ought to take a deep breath if they are intent on re-enacting the dark ages.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Pretty good analysis

With 'change' ringing in their ears, the voters are buying Obama's message. They will have buyers remorse to be sure, but the voters are tired and worried.

In this election, voters are leaning towards Obama because:

(1) they have convinced themselves their lives will be so much improved with 'Change',

(2) they have convinced themselves they can afford the purchase (it helps that Obama is selling 'Change' as being cost-free to 95% of America),

(3) they have convinced themselves that Obama can deliver this 'Change' (remember, it doesn't matter whether we believe he can (or will), what matters is whether the voters think so, and it is pretty apparent that they do), and

(4) there's nothing about Obama (family, past activities, friends) that so sours them that they're willing to do without this 'Change'.

They're not concerned with his past, and, despite GOP thinking, it isn't because they don't know of his past associations. They're not concerned with Obama's past because they have feel it is irrelevant to Obama delivering the 'change' they so desperately want (a desperate want is, by definition, a need). Put another way, they don't care if he did X or Y when he was younger, they just want this 'change' he's offering.

Thus, if McCain wants to go after Obama, he has to forget about attacking Obama on #4. Even without the MSM running interference for Obama, there is nothing that McCain could ever say about Obama that would make enough voters decide to give up their chance to get 'Change'.

Likewise, there's no benefit in going after #1; with the markets dropping on a daily basis, McCain is not going to persuade voters they really don't want 'Change'. Nor will it do McCain any good to try and 'Out-Change' Obama; Obama was there first, he occupies that particular real estate, and McCain just doesn't have enough time to dislodge Obama from that spot, even if he did have something nice to try and sell to voters. And finally, since voters think they're getting Obama's 'Change' for free, McCain's not going to get anywhere trying to convince voters he is offering just as much 'Change' as Obama, but at a more reasonable price; you can't sell something for less than zero.

In other words, McCain can't undercut Obama's pitch. And that's why he'll probably end up losing.

At any price, Democrats will do what it takes

Nice group that ACORN, right?

State authorities on Tuesday raided an organization that registers low-income people to vote, alleging that its canvassers falsified forms with bogus names, fake addresses or famous personalities.

The secretary of state's office launched an investigation after noticing that names did not match addresses and that most members of the Dallas Cowboys appeared to be registering in Nevada to vote in November's general election.

"Some of these (forms) were facially fraudulent; we basically had the starting lineup for the Dallas Cowboys," Secretary of State Ross Miller said. "Tony Romo is not registered to vote in Nevada. Anyone trying to pose as Terrell Owens won't be able to cast a ballot."

Agents with the secretary of state and state attorney general offices served a search warrant on the headquarters of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, at 953 E. Sahara Ave. shortly after 9 a.m. They seized voter registration forms and computer databases to determine how many fake forms were submitted and identify employees who were responsible.

They also sought information regarding current and past employees and managers.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Who says the natural state is equalitarian?

Why left intellectuals despise Richard Epstein of the Chicago School: Because he's one smart legal scholar and a very good political philosopher.
Now that yesterday's market nosedive shows the disappointing Congressional bailout has not calmed markets, let the post-mortem begin. Disasters like this latest financial meltdown don't just happen. Mistakes this huge require an impoverished political philosophy to grease the skids. Fannie and Freddie didn't design their horrific lending policies by chance. No, behind this lending fiasco lay the strong collective preference for the "patterned principles" of justice that Robert Nozick attacked so powerfully in his 1974 masterpiece, Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

Believers in patterned principles hold that there is some preordained social order that is more just than others. Accordingly, the function of the state is to use the levers of powers to manipulate behavior to achieve the desired outcomes. These patterned principles stand in opposition to historical principles of justice, which are content to establish the rules of the game and then let the legal moves by individual players determine the social outcomes. For Nozick, the key rules were rules of justice in acquisition (to set up the initial property rights) and justice in transfer, whereby those rights (and others derived from them) could be exchanged or combined through voluntary transactions.

Because Nozick was no utilitarian, he did not dwell on the powerful efficiency features of this system, which shine through for ordinary real estate transactions. The key function of the legal system is to minimize the transactional barriers and increase the velocity of voluntary exchanges, all of which generate mutual gains for the parties. So long as one is sure that the given distribution of resources is obtained by legal moves from the original position, don't worry about the relative positions of one person vis-à-vis the others. Don't, in other words, use state coercion to create a distinctive pattern of rights deemed ever so desirable in the eye of some political beholder.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Good sense from a CEO!

Must-read article. SAS's chief executive has a lot to say about the U.S. education system. When many CEOs deserve an overdue pilloring, Goodnight is an outlier when it comes to education.
The way Goodnight sees things, the nation's declining high school graduation rate (now estimated at around 70%) and declining proficiency in math and science (U.S. 15-year-olds ranked in the bottom half of industrialized countries in the most recent OECD tests) are just two indicators of the creeping decline of our global competitiveness. High school dropouts have an 8% unemployment rate, make $1 million less over the course of their careers than college grads, and account for 70% of the prison population, at least in SAS's home state of North Carolina. "These kids are doomed to failure pretty much the rest of their lives," Goodnight said in an interview with me last week.

In 1957, he noted, the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik was the wake-up call the United States needed to get its act together on funding education and technology programs, the genesis of NASA, and later Silicon Valley and broader economic expansion. "We don't have a warning like that anymore," he said. "We're slowly, slowly losing our competitiveness as a country."

So what's the solution? Goodnight, who doesn't mince words, also resists pat answers. Despite the triumphs of NASA, big government programs tend to become moribund bureaucracies. In Goodnight's view, it boils down to getting more kids to excel beyond high school, especially in math and the sciences, and allowing the brightest technical minds from abroad to enter and stay in this country.

On the former front, Goodnight sees more potential for education reform and progress on the state and local levels, where SAS has had success, than at the federal level. There, he argues, politicians care more about primping for the party than advancing legislation that serves the national interest (witness last week's partisan squabbling on the House floor over the $700 billion bailout package).

On the latter front, Goodnight has no patience with policy makers and other interests who oppose bringing more smart, talented people into the United States. He said 60% of technical doctorates now awarded in the United States go to foreign nationals, many of whom are told after graduation that they can go innovate elsewhere. Keeping them here isn't just a matter of economic competitiveness: How secure will this country be, Goodnight asked rhetorically, when we have to buy missile and satellite parts from China, where they'll not only be manufactured but also designed should current demographic trends persist?
Apparently the increase in federal dollars and the establishment of a federal Department of Education hasn't done wonders for American education. We'll probably continue down the same insane path of spending more dollars for poor results, particularly if the teachers unions are in charge.

Out of the cold, more facts on the attempt on John Paul II's life

The Soviet Communists have long been accused of having a hand in the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II through Bulgarian proxies. Back then, the international left didn't believe that narrative choosing instead a long run fantasy that included "that free-market economists like James Buchanan and Friedrich Hayek created 'a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures [leading] to today's idea of freedom.'" I know that last piece is just a small detail in left's habit of applying fanciful non sequitur thinking to a wrong headed world view.

But the story is becoming clearer years later.
It is increasingly certain that it was a Soviet operation. Historian Nigel West, author of a number of important books on Soviet intelligence, and the Italian government long ago determined that the KGB, via its proxies in Bulgaria, were deeply involved in the planning and execution of the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II. Back in 2005, the report produced by an Italian government commission was buttressed by a cache of files found deep in the East German Stasi archives.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Not blockheads, blockbuster writers

The top ten authors who make serious money.

1. JK Rowling - $300m (£170m)
2. James Patterson - $50m (£28m)
3. Stephen King - $45m (£25m)
4. Tom Clancy - $35m (£20m)
5. Danielle Steel - $30m (£17m)
6. John Grisham - $25m (£14m)
6. Dean Koontz - $25m (£14m)
8. Ken Follett - $20m (£11m)
9. Janet Evanovich - $17m (£10m)
10. Nicholas Sparks - $16m (£9m)
Source: Forbes magazine