Dude, where's my bailout?

Happy Halloween

CounterClckWise holiday! Costumes will be mandatory -- the scarier the better. I'm going to a party as a lottery winner, which is likely the scariest thing this side of decadence.

Before the Dawn -- human prehistory

As a follow-up to the two engaging books that Brian Sykes wrote about how we can trace our ancestors through DNA, I recently finished reading Before the Dawn by Nicholas Wade. The book is a survey of the current research into humanity’s prehistoric (up to 50,000 years ago!) lives and cultures through DNA analysis, anthropology, and archaeology. The writing is refreshingly un-PC—in fact, the author gets pretty far along before even acknowledging the social discomforts that some might feel learning the results of this research. The fundamental point of the book is that evolution has not stopped for man, but rather it has been powerfully shaped by the environments that he has created for himself.

Among the many, many interesting things I learned from reading the book is that primitive man was a far more violent creature than we thought. The idyllic peaceful Eden is an unfounded myth. Mankind lived in bands of 50–150 people that hunted and foraged over territory whose borders were defined by constant conflict with neighboring bands. Wade estimates that nearly one in three men died in this incessant warfare and that nearly all men were engaged in combat many times throughout their lives. The social structure was likely very egalitarian until people began building permanent settlements and developing social hierarchies some 10,000 years ago. It’s clear how so much of the basic nature of man that was selected for and shaped by this environment is in conflict with the settled, domesticated lives that we lead today.

The author argues that even today we are undergoing further natural selection towards a more domesticated society that is better able to trust strangers (e.g., non-kin). One of the pieces of physical evidence that supports this argument is the fact that human skulls have gotten progressively thinner over the last few thousand years. What's amazing is not that the Vikings raped and pillaged a thousand years ago, but that their progeny have such a peaceful culture.

But is this domestication really for the best? Sure, it may be the most profitable way to seed the gene pool but I rebel against the idea that we should turn into a bunch of sheep. Heinlein wrote about people self-domesticating in Beyond The Horizon. In the end, the society was destroyed by a small group of people who refused to undergo gene therapy to remove the violence from their nature. They just herded up the sheep and ate the whole flock. That would be my progeny, too.


Andrew Bacevich has a brilliant and timely article up in commonweal magazine about the crisis we are facing by having all-volunteer armed forces. I was struck by the point that we've created a mercenary army in which the elites (who don't serve) pay the lower classes to implement their policies. The radical split between the decision-making class and the fighting classes could be very problematic. Anyways, read the whole thing.

First, kill all the lawyers...

and then the stupid-ass jurists! I don't think I'll ever stop being amazed at how stupid people can be. Exhibit A is the Quizno's marketing campaign:

What's really amazing is that some lawyers think it's necessary to flash "Dramatization: Do not attempt" on this. And it probably is necessary! Because some moronic jury is likely to award some evil lawyer and his idiot charge a huge settlement for choking on a five-dollar bill. And thus civilization retards the development of mankind and drops our species one more rung down the evolutionary ladder.

Goldberg elaborated on this general decline re: Wile E. Coyote.

the tragic demise of baseball

The rainout of Sunday night's World Series game really pissed me off. It was, I think, illustrative of several problems in the institution of professional baseball. For one thing, baseball shouldn't even be played this far into the harvest. We're already a month into Fall! A game whose source is found in the rhythms of agricultural society should stay connected to those rhythms. If it were three weeks ago, the weather would typically be much better -- even if it rained, at least it wouldn't be 40 frickin' degrees outside. I have hit baseballs in weather like that and it hurts every bone in your body.

I also think it ridiculous that the games don't get started until 8:30 PM. I understand that this is to maximize advertising revenue, but it also shuts out the kids and probably a lot of casual fans as well.

In short, baseball is being run to maximize current profit at the expense of longer-term health of the organization. Sounds like a typical problem in our society, and I think it is. If there's one thing American institutions suck at more than anything else, it is long-term planning.

Baseball also looks a lot like the rest of corporate America in that it's totally in bed with the government. Putting aside the sweetheart property and tax deals that the franchises get from the local governments, professional baseball is actually a protected monopoly that's effectively regulated through Congress, who allows the enterprise to be run by a dictator for life.

None of this is very appealing, but it would be bearable if it didn't directly interfere in the game so much. What's needed is a sweeping change by the broom of ree-form! Since it is our elected officials who have real control over the game's management, I suggest we appoint a Commissioner of the game who would implement the following modest changes:

1. Affordable tickets-- tickets are either $10 (infield) or $5 (outfield). No season tickets -- the good seats have to be shared.

2. Cheap food and drinks--since the stadiums are built by the taxpayers, make it a buck for a beer or a dog.

3. Who's going to pay for all that lost revenue? The players! Implement a single salary system: $10,000 per game per player flat salary (that's $1.62 million for a full season). Full health and (minimal) retirement bennies for life after five years in the game.

Imagine the limits this would put on free agency! Rather than rooting for an empty brand-name logo, we'd actually have some team continuity from year to year. The stars would make their money from endorsements (or play football) and the fans could afford to actually take their families to the games more often.

Oh, and for the owners:
4. Games start at 6 PM local time (except day games, of course). Most kids could manage to make it through the ninth.

5. No more revenue sharing. Of course the Yankees should be more valuable than the Brewers! If Bud Selig doesn't like it, then he should buy the damn Yankees! With my salary cap, it's not like he'd need it anyway.

Think all of this is silly? Well, the fact that baseball is run as a quasi-socialist enterprise is pretty silly in my mind. Better to open it up completely or go whole hog and socialize it. Sort of like the problems we're experiencing in American business as a whole. We sure do suck at long-term planning, and baseball's slow demise is as good of proof as any.

Doom mongering

Check out this fantastic editorial by Mr. Laffer (he of the Laffer curve) in the Journal the other day.

...To alleviate the obvious hardships to both homeowners and banks, the government commits to buy mortgages and inject capital into banks, which on the face of it seems like a very nice thing to do. But unfortunately in this world there is no tooth fairy. And the government doesn't create anything; it just redistributes. Whenever the government bails someone out of trouble, they always put someone into trouble, plus of course a toll for the troll. Every $100 billion in bailout requires at least $130 billion in taxes, where the $30 billion extra is the cost of getting government involved.

If you don't believe me, just watch how Congress and Barney Frank run the banks. If you thought they did a bad job running the post office, Amtrak, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the military, just wait till you see what they'll do with Wall Street.

The fun has just begun...

Patience, precious...

I'm coming back to play -- really. Just gimme a little time out while I get my head on straight after all that yummy yummy vicodin I took.

Until tomorrow, then. In the meantime, here's a prolefeed meme from Marko:

Five really interesting/beautiful foreign places I’ve visited:
Cape Town, South Africa
The border region of Bavaria and Austria
Milan, Italy
The Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia
Cozumel, Mexico

Five countries that are high up on my List of Places I Want To See:

If I could speak one more language fluently, I’d like to be able to speak:
Spanish (it's next)

If I had to trade my citizenship for another one, I’d most likely move to:
Zug, Switzerland

Sick day

I'm on drugs and grumpy. G'way! I'll talk to you later. In the meantime, read this heresy that is keeping my grump shiny.

p.s. note that this was published in 1917! A true rebel before his time.

Reasons to stay in

Saturday looks like an awfully busy sports day, what with the World Series and the Silva-Cote fight. But hopefully I can also get to watch the championship bout of the RPS on teh IntrarW3bs:

By the way, last week's Bisbing-Leben fight was amazing. I can't wait to see Bisbing try to survive Silva -- hopefully the fight will be in Las Vegas so I can see it live!

The Remnant

I've mentioned one of my favorite American thinkers Albert Jay Nock's concept of the Remnant a few times but without elaboration, so here's the original article from which the idea generates. Hie thee hence and get ur think on!

I think it's an important idea for motiviational purposes but the concept is often misunderstood, especially as no one knows who is or is not a member of the Remnant. The Remnant is only an answer to the question of what is the point of howling at the moon.


Via one of my Facebook buddies:

fail owned pwnd pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

Talpra Magyar!

Tam notes that today is the anniversary of the Budapest uprising that became the Hungarian revolution of 1956. When I lived in eastern Hungary I got some variant perspectives about the uprising (the USSR's lackey government set it self up in the eastern part of the country). The standard propaganda line (which quite a few people still believed) was that it was 'just a few students' and that most of the country wasn't involved. This is a tough lie to swallow when you see the bullet holes in the walls of buildings throughout the country, but people have an amazing capacity to delude themselves when it serves their interests.

The Hungarian world view is heavily loaded with fatalism, boosted by a dose of Professor de la Paz-style rebelliousness:
Revolution is an art that I pursue rather than a goal I expect to achieve. Nor is this a source of dismay; a lost cause can be as spiritually satisfying as a victory.

So today, tip a beer for the Hungarians -- but don't clink your glasses together! That's what the Russian and Hapsburg generals did after defeating the 1848 Hungarian revolution, so in Hungary they just slam the bottom of the glass on the table before drinking. Egészségedre!

UPDATE: Sorry, forgot to mention -- the title of the post means 'Rise Up Hungarians!' and comes from Petőfi's poem Nemzeti Dal.

CCW Holiday

Take me out to the ball game!

World Series time; as I posted earlier, this is one of the major religious festivals on my calendar. I'm petitioning Fortuna for seven games of good baseball, and I don't care who wins.


Via Breda, here's a funny on gun control by Cap'n Kirk himself:

The delusion of grandeur

One of the greatest endowments that humanity has received from nature is the ability to completely and utterly delude ourselves. Some Darwinian philosophers may opine that man is what he is through other physical or mental traits, but surely the ability to delude himself is the trait that most separates man from the beasts.

Certainly, this talent for self-delusion is not always benign. History is littered with stories of the foolish missteps that even the most brilliant and competent people are apt to make as a result of deluded optimism, from Caesar's unarmed appearance at the Senate House to the jubilance that greeted the Munich Agreement. Modern people like to look back and laugh at the silly delusions that their forebears held, but they invariably overlook the prevalent idiocies in their own heads. From the great to the small, all of mankind views themselves through a misty and sentimental veil. For example, I think it likely that Mr. Bush really believes that he has been a good President, and likewise that a girl wearing low-cut jeans to let her love handles hang out believes she looks sexy.

Mankind would never have risen from the muck without a deluded self-regard to propel him upward. Whenever man looks at himself with a cold, unsentimental eye the result is invariably something self-destructive like artistry or alcoholism. The delusion that a professor is smart, that the ATF is honest, or that a priest is moral is also responsible for every lurch forward of civilization, albeit through billions of trials and errors and a fair amount of dumb luck.

Random thoughts on Palin

What happens to Sarah Palin after the GOP ticket goes down in flames? After further exposure to her since my first post after her selection, I suspect she will continue to be a force in national politics, but she won't be on the top of the ticket for a while without a serious policy makeover. She's the anti-Hillary -- the left despises her as deeply as the right despises the junior senator from New York. Palin will be most useful in her current role as attack dog/crack for the base, until she gets the opposite of a Clinton makeover. Since she's clearly heterosexual (unlike Hillary), she doesn't need softening so much as sculpting. Perhaps Kissinger will spend the next couple of years giving her an education.

I suspect that she's a lot brighter than she has let on in the national campaign, although she's almost certainly no intellectual. No self-respecting intellectual has the kind of self-discipline and cunning it would take to play dumb for this long. But a Machiavellian power player certainly would. And she's clearly very capable.

While she has tapped into a large reservoir of support, Palin is likely a dead end for conservatives unless she shifts on foreign policy. The National Greatness, Neoconservative foreign policy stuff is likely over with on the Right for a while (although not on the Left!) and the GOP's most productive topic of meditation while in the wilderness is probably a return to it's curmudgeonly roots -- less government, lower taxes, get the hell of my lawn kind of thing. Otherwise, the GOP will lose more and more conservatives. Even a President Obama won't be able to shove his opponents into their arms unless those arms are open.

Rule by mob

The Wall Street Journal put up an interesting Cassandra editorial, decrying the likely dominance of the Democrat's hard left-wing after Mr. Obama takes over the Executive branch. The Journal's editorial staff is right, in that I don't think the American voters know what they are doing. I also don't think they would much care if they did. Aside from their uncritical view of the socialist pap they've been spoon fed since childhood (which I've written about before), I believe that what this country's citizenry wants from its government is to be babied. Every election, the choice is between the Mommy party and the Daddy party and this time we are getting the Mommy.

I say hooray and good luck to my neighbors and countrymen. To deny the people what they want so strongly would be a great injustice. As Mr. Mencken so eloquently put it: "Democracy is the theory that the people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." If that's the definition, then by the gods I'm a democrat.

Of course, the results of the next one-party government will merely be another drunken stumble towards the next crisis that the people demand their masters solve. I'd wager my $450,000 share of the banking bailout that the next crisis will also involve spending the amassed wealth of our forebears, with our grandchildren's inheritance thrown in. To quote Tytler:
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.

Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.

I remember Colby Cosh remarking some time ago that the 200-year timeline is remarkably close to where we are now, and speaks highly of Tytler's predictive capability. It is my view that the American experiment is in the transition from the apathy stage to the dependence stage. The nation is already heavily dependent on the government, and the next decade will likely reinforce this trend until the dependence is almost total (Don't believe America is already dependent? Imagine eliminating social security pensions and the new prescription drug benefit). Dictatorship is likely a generation or two away, but the slide towards it is already accelerating.

Plato argues that it is better to be ruled by a bad tyrant than be a bad democracy, and I agree insofar as it's easier to know who to hang. But bad democracy also has its good points; for one thing, it's pretty damn funny. For another, there's a window in its development right before the dive into tyranny where the system is completely incapable of doing anything well -- it's almost like anarchy, which is the form of government most analogous to liberty. So for those few mad souls who like to be free, this is our time. Enjoy the now! Après nous le déluge...

Fortuna's favor

Via Barry Ritholz, here's an absolutely fantastic good-bye letter from a manager who returned 866% last year after betting on the subprime debacle. Good for him!

"Dear Investor:

Today I write not to gloat. Given the pain that nearly everyone is experiencing, that would be entirely inappropriate. Nor am I writing to make further predictions, as most of my forecasts in previous letters have unfolded or are in the process of unfolding. Instead, I am writing to say goodbye.

Recently, on the front page of Section C of the Wall Street Journal, a hedge fund manager who was also closing up shop (a $300 million fund), was quoted as saying, “What I have learned about the hedge fund business is that I hate it.” I could not agree more with that statement. I was in this game for the money. The low hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America.

There are far too many people for me to sincerely thank for my success. However, I do not want to sound like a Hollywood actor accepting an award. The money was reward enough. Furthermore, the endless list those deserving thanks know who they are.

I will no longer manage money for other people or institutions. I have enough of my own wealth to manage. Some people, who think they have arrived at a reasonable estimate of my net worth, might be surprised that I would call it quits with such a small war chest. That is fine; I am content with my rewards. Moreover, I will let others try to amass nine, ten or eleven figure net worths. Meanwhile, their lives suck. Appointments back to back, booked solid for the next three months, they look forward to their two week vacation in January during which they will likely be glued to their Blackberries or other such devices. What is the point? They will all be forgotten in fifty years anyway. Steve Balmer, Steven Cohen, and Larry Ellison will all be forgotten. I do not understand the legacy thing. Nearly everyone will be forgotten. Give up on leaving your mark. Throw the Blackberry away and enjoy life.

So this is it. With all due respect, I am dropping out. Please do not expect any type of reply to emails or voicemails within normal time frames or at all. Andy Springer and his company will be handling the dissolution of the fund. And don’t worry about my employees, they were always employed by Mr. Springer’s company and only one (who has been well-rewarded) will lose his job.

I have no interest in any deals in which anyone would like me to participate. I truly do not have a strong opinion about any market right now, other than to say that things will continue to get worse for some time, probably years. I am content sitting on the sidelines and waiting. After all, sitting and waiting is how we made money from the subprime debacle. I now have time to repair my health, which was destroyed by the stress I layered onto myself over the past two years, as well as my entire life — where I had to compete for spaces in universities and graduate schools, jobs and assets under management — with those who had all the advantages (rich parents) that I did not. May meritocracy be part of a new form of government, which needs to be established.

On the issue of the U.S. Government, I would like to make a modest proposal. First, I point out the obvious flaws, whereby legislation was repeatedly brought forth to Congress over the past eight years, which would have reigned in the predatory lending practices of now mostly defunct institutions. These institutions regularly filled the coffers of both parties in return for voting down all of this legislation designed to protect the common citizen. This is an outrage, yet no one seems to know or care about it. Since Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith passed, I would argue that there has been a dearth of worthy philosophers in this country, at least ones focused on improving government. Capitalism worked for two hundred years, but times change, and systems become corrupt. George Soros, a man of staggering wealth, has stated that he would like to be remembered as a philosopher. My suggestion is that this great man start and sponsor a forum for great minds to come together to create a new system of government that truly represents the common man’s interest, while at the same time creating rewards great enough to attract the best and brightest minds to serve in government roles without having to rely on corruption to further their interests or lifestyles. This forum could be similar to the one used to create the operating system, Linux, which competes with Microsoft’s near monopoly. I believe there is an answer, but for now the system is clearly broken.

Lastly, while I still have an audience, I would like to bring attention to an alternative food and energy source. You won’t see it included in BP’s, “Feel good. We are working on sustainable solutions,” television commercials, nor is it mentioned in ADM’s similar commercials. But hemp has been used for at least 5,000 years for cloth and food, as well as just about everything that is produced from petroleum products. Hemp is not marijuana and vice versa. Hemp is the male plant and it grows like a weed, hence the slang term. The original American flag was made of hemp fiber and our Constitution was printed on paper made of hemp. It was used as recently as World War II by the U.S. Government, and then promptly made illegal after the war was won. At a time when rhetoric is flying about becoming more self-sufficient in terms of energy, why is it illegal to grow this plant in this country? Ah, the female. The evil female plant — marijuana. It gets you high, it makes you laugh, it does not produce a hangover. Unlike alcohol, it does not result in bar fights or wife beating. So, why is this innocuous plant illegal? Is it a gateway drug? No, that would be alcohol, which is so heavily advertised in this country. My only conclusion as to why it is illegal, is that Corporate America, which owns Congress, would rather sell you Paxil, Zoloft, Xanax and other additive drugs, than allow you to grow a plant in your home without some of the profits going into their coffers. This policy is ludicrous. It has surely contributed to our dependency on foreign energy sources. Our policies have other countries literally laughing at our stupidity, most notably Canada, as well as several European nations (both Eastern and Western). You would not know this by paying attention to U.S. media sources though, as they tend not to elaborate on who is laughing at the United States this week. Please people, let’s stop the rhetoric and start thinking about how we can truly become self-sufficient.

With that I say good-bye and good luck.

All the best,

Andrew Lahde"

Being At War With Luck

I've alluded to the reasons for the title and theme of this blog quite a bit, but I don't think I've ever explicitly stated the main rationale. Maybe it's obvious to those of you who know me offline, but I'll explain myself to those who don't.

I've always been one those alpha geeks who get overly obsessed with competitive strategy games and so on. Some time in college I discovered blackjack and then poker (thanks C!), from which I have made a nice chunk of change over the years. But sometime before the Moneymaker poker boom took off, I got a real job in finance and missed out on some of that fun (but I plan a comeback -- more later). Applying those same skills that I used in strategy games and poker, I built a business trading futures for institutional clients.

The common skill to all of those things I've been involved with over my life is to recognize and follow the optimum strategy for any given situation. It's a lot easier to do when playing chess, because all the information is right there for you on the board. That's why there's no luck in chess -- just skill. There's a lot of luck in poker, but skill manages luck's impact over the long term. There's just as much luck in trading as in poker and you have to spend lots more time managing the consequences of luck.

Skill is generally in opposition to luck. There are exceptions, such as when a poker player has a small stack of chips and has to shove it in the center and pray to Fortuna. But even that is skillful in that the move is optimum strategy. So being at war with luck is about being as skillful as possible in your actions and being adaptable to the impact of random events.

The way I view it is that you can't control luck -- only Fortuna can. Trying to control Fortuna is delusional and is the opposite of embracing life. What you can control is yourself and the way you handle situations -- whether those situations are a hand of poker, a bad market for trading, or even bad guys stalking you through the parking lot. Skill in anything -- be it chess or football or a musical instrument -- is built on learning from people who know something you don't and practice, practice, practice.

There's a lot more to it than that, but those other tangents go down all kinds of philosophical rabbit holes that I'd rather break down into bite-sized nuggets for blog posting. I'll post more on those as time goes on, but now at least the main point is out here.

Zen master of risk

Here's Nassim Taleb trying to explain his views of risk to the market cheerleaders on the TV:

While I hadn't heard him speak on the topic before today, my own view of the market meltdown (that almost exactly jibes with his) was directly informed by reading his books. The man is brilliant, but I think he's a bit too risk adverse. Just because a risk is unknowable doesn't mean it should be avoided at all costs. Rather, in a lot of situations it is better to just embrace the variance. Fortuna favors the bold.

[thanks to Barry Ritholz for the link]

Liveblogging will take place here


Don't they look pretty?

Perhaps Senator McCain will try to get under Senator Obama's skin tonight, but based on his past performance he'll probably behave collegially senatorial. Pity really, because it would be so much more fun otherwise. Unfortunately, the debate is probably just going to be a bore but the commentariat's parsing of the minutia should be good for a laugh or two.

With all the seriousness the journalistas put into their analysis, you might think something substantive is happening, but the truth is that the debates are purely for entertainment purposes. In the modern communications age, anyone with a minimal amount of drive can already get all the information about a candidate's positions through media and the Web. Barring a complete meltdown by one participant or another, the vacuous minds of the undecided voters are simply going to be filled with whatever random trash wafts through their ears before they finally make their choice based on nothing but sentiment and catchy phrasework.

By any reasonable standard, it matters not at all whether or not a modern politician is a decent speechmaker -- there are plenty of more effective ways to communicate. But voters demand these kabuki debates, obstensibly to get a "sense" of the man behind the political machine. Like a large subset of NASCAR fans, political junkies pretend that they're watching for the race but what they really want to see is a crash.

Prolefeed for the day

I've been dealing with the aftermath of my trip and a stupid telephone snafu, and I realized that I haven't fed content into your gaping maws yet today. Lots of stuff in the pipeline but for now check out these links:

The Racist Origins of Gun Control.

Libertarianism is fundamentally in error.

Obama's race helps him with certain voter demographics.

Chew on that for a wee while, and I'll be back with some fresh goodies in a bit!


Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.—Frank Zappa

travel day

After spending the morning in a final hurrah at the beach, gotta head back to Vegas in the noon. By Fortuna I loves me some ocean!

More on luck and fate and fortune as the week progresses.

Predictions for Obama's first term

1. Contrary to white liberal hopes, racial tensions will stay about the same under President Barry.

2. The stock market, as measured by the S&P500, will be lower than it is today.

3. Inflation will be in the double digits.

4. Iran will get the bomb.

5. Ties with Europe will be enhanced. Russia will be more belligerent.

6. The White Sox will win at least one World Series and the Broncos will win a Super Bowl.

7. Young and earnest beltway political types will continue to mistake parody for their own level of earnestness.

8. At least one of my liberal hippie friends will learn to kill and eat their own meat.

9. Millions of acres of bluegrass will be plowed under as the home gardening movement supplants superfluous suburban backyards with productive cropland.

10. Jesus will not return.

A true independent thinker

Camille Paglia is one of my favorite public intellectuals. Here she is giving a little love to Palin.

on the beach

Posting this week is (has been) prerecorded because I'm spending my week on the beach, drinking whisky, having interesting discussions with my friends, and staying away from the screens. My best wishes to all you desk jockeys and my sincere hopes that you don't go batshit crazy and start throwing chairs through the window to get some fresh air in your climate-controlled version of hell. Now close this window before the IT security geeks find out that my site is not work-related.

the right to vote and the right to bitch

Marko sayeth:
Yeah, both candidates suck, but if you don’t vote, you lose the right to bitch about the government for the next four years. Also, too many people have bled and died for their right to vote for me to just sit out an election. At the very least, you can write in your own choice. (I’m dangerously close to writing in Calvin Coolidge this year.)

Sorry Marko, but that's a load of hogwash. I will not vote and neither will I surrender my right to bitch about the government. The idea that voting in such a structurally dysfunctional system is the main test of one's civic virtue is simply bull puckey. As I've said before, voting in this mobocracy is a signaling act that does nothing whatsoever to move the world in a better direction. If you're counting on the wisdom of the crowds, stop depending on a crowd of morons selecting from a pack of lying jackals. My NRA dues are more than enough participation in this broken mobocracy.

On election day, I'll be at the range.

Whoops -- call in the ATF troopers!

Looks like the preacherman is committing at least a dozen federal felonies with his ign'ant good intentions.

A gun buyback program in the city spearheaded by an Albany pastor has already maxed out with 10 guns taken in, the pastor said Tuesday.
Now, he’s looking for ways to continue it.
Pastor Charlie Muller of Victory Christian Church had offered $150 gift cards to Crossgates Mall in exchange for handguns. The cards were funded by the church.

Dollars to donuts he also supports the laws he's violating and votes for the other ign'ants that write them. Maybe he'll get a "teaching moment" at some point during his lengthy incarceration.

Debate lowdown

Bottom line on the debate (and the economic crisis as well):

buy your AR-15s here
buy your ammo here
buy your hi-cap Glock mags here.

President Obama -- a clear investment opportunity!

More crushing of dissent

Here's some typical postmodern psychobabble from the left:
Calling Obama a traitor, un-American and dishonorable may be somewhat effective, but the best thing McCain and Palin have going for them is that Obama is ... black. The subliminal message of all their ads is "scary, black, unknown, black, alien, black, un-American, black." The challenge for McCain, however, is that he can't be explicitly racist: It's no longer acceptable to run Willie Horton-type ads. But ingenious minds find a way to get around this.

That's it -- all criticism is ipso facto racism using code words to frame discourse! Kamiya must be awfully sensitive to pick up on the subliminal messages...anyways, let me stress that I am NOT commenting on McCain or his campaign at all by pointing out this pseudointellectual hysteria, but it's an asinine trait of the hard left to trot it out every four years. Kamiya is a partisan hack. He's as bad as Joe Conason or Michelle Malkin.

[Thanks to my buddy Matt for the link]

UPDATE: Seems that the AP is running this viewpoint as factual reporting. The "analysis" done by the AP "reporter" is just so absurd I can't imagine anyone could take it seriously. Of course, dollars to donuts someone will run a 503(c) ad quoting it as fact that McCain is a racist.


Wouldn't it be nice if there were some short sellers in the market right now, buying stock to take profits? Again, unintended consequences rear their ironic heads...

Market collapse continues

...around the world, and I'm getting lots of questions about what's next. My opinion is that it's still too early to buy stocks. Unfortunately, it seems like there are no safe havens -- not even cash. I still like silver sitting around $11 an ounce as a relatively stable play. But it's too early to get aggressive; better to focus on capital preservation.

UPDATE: Lest you get the wrong impression, let me be clear that I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen in the future. I have some educated opinions about probabilities and that is all. At this point, the outlook just seems far to cloudy for me to be optimistic. And the probability of a "V"-shaped move right back up after this melt-down ends seems pretty low. Sure, it's very possible that the markets will be much higher three years from now than where they are today. But it could also get a lot worse before it gets better. The most likely medium-term scenario in my mind is continued decline, followed by the scenario of basically marching in place. I could very well be wrong and if your risk/reward evaluation differs, then fine -- thinking people often disagree. But if I were running your money I would not be a buyer here.


My ball club is awfully streaky, not just because they rely on the long ball this year. The starting pitching has also been a little to uneven. For example, down the stretch and now in the playoffs John Danks has been a complete terror to opposing lineups while Javier Vasquez might as well have been serving it up underhanded. Aside from losing the last four games that he's pitched, Javy compiled a stunningly craptastic 12-16 record for a division winning team. The wonder is that if the Sox beat Tampa Bay tomorrow, then Javy pitches in the decisive game five. If I were Ozzie's advisor, I'd tell him to just start the game with the bullpen already up.

Back from Vegas

Even, minus the gas. All in all a wonderful waste of a weekend.

More like her

It's been far too long since I posted something about Miranda. So here's her new video:

UPDATE: Damnit, embedding is disabled on this video, but here's the link.

Abuse of History

I remember what a total reorientation it was the first time I read Paul Johnson's Modern Times, back in my undergrad days. At the time I considered myself mildly leftist, convinced that the smart people could fix everything if only those dumb yokels would stop clinging to their guns and religion. Well, reading that book put me on a very different track towards understanding public policy. One of the most startling things to my world view was his variant opinion on FDR and the Depression. I mean, of course Roosevelt was a great president! Of course the New Deal brought us out of the Great Depression! Those opinions were taught as fact in my public schools. Well, I'm glad to have had my eyes opened on those points along with many other shibboleths that Johnson challenged in his book (living under a post-Iron Curtain Socialist government in Central Europe went the rest of the way towards opening my eyes).

History's verdict on the New Deal is clearly on Johnson's side over that of the public school text books. Amity Shlaes has a terrific book out (that I mentioned in this post) on the New Deal that demonstrates how government intervention crowded out alternative solutions to the crisis and then screwed the pooch in implementing its own solutions. If you won't take the time to read her book, then please at least read Jonah's short article to get the summary points. All this is pretty much right on to a person with my particular reading history and ideological groundings (thanks again Mr. Johnson), but then my views on our political system (along with Thomas Jefferson's) are now considered to be extremist and practically anti-social!

But most Americans still view the 1930's through the lies they were sold in public school. Thus go unquestioned the pathetic mischaracterizations by Schumer, Biden, et. al, of the current liquidity crisis on Wall Street as a market failure; a consequence of 'deregulation' that only government intervention can cure.

Palin's response to this crisis in the VP debate was the most pathetic of all, however. Clearly the American people are so sold on the progressive lies that the McCain campaign has calculated that countering the anti-market idea is a complete political loser. So their tactic is to run against the market too! Her string of non-sequiturs about regulation, corruption, and abuse were just a bunch of populist BS because that's what the people want to hear. The people not only don't know any better, they don't want to know better. Much safer to stick with the simple, comfortable lies they were taught in school. There is no home for Reason.

UPDATE: I reworded some of this after rereading it sober, but the point is the same.

Biden's lies

Wow, I knew he was lying on policy and just hamming it up on his folksy roots. But, by Odin's cock, could he at least name a restaurant that wasn't closed 20 YEARS AGO? Face it Biden, your home town is Washington DC and you're slithering through it like a true snake in the grass. From Delaware Online:
Katie's was actually at the corner of Sixth and Scott streets in Wilmington's Little Italy neighborhood. (Not Union Street.) It had been a local and much-loved institution, well known for its rich, thick Italian gravy (tomato sauce) and spaghetti. It was opened in 1936 by Silvio Spiezio, who later sold it in 1945. The Fugilino family owned and ran the restaurant for years until it was sold in the 1981 after Frances Mae Fugilino's death.
Katie's then changed hands again in 1985, but kept the venerable name.
But it eventually changed hands again - at least 10 years ago, maybe even more like 15 years ago - and was renamed C.J. Bart's, which according to features reporter Ryan Cormier in a May 2008 News Journal story became " a spot with an unsavory reputation as a magnet for panhandlers and worse."

Yes, yes, politicians lie [yawn]. I'm not really outraged as much as baffled that in the information age someone can lie so bald-facedly and think he can get away with it. I guess I need to shed the last vestiges of my belief that anyone actually gives a damn about the truth. Only then can I reach anarchist Nirvana.

Biden being Biden

Yes, I watched the debate. I called it a small win for Biden on points, which is a victory for the McCain campaign. Palin seemed to do well in getting out of her own way finally, but she just didn't have the background knowledge to call out Biden on some of his more egregious bullshitting. So she missed some opportunities, but then she didn't screw it up either.

One of the salient things I took away from that debate was a reminder of what a loathsome blowhard Biden is. He is almost a caricature of a politician from old-time movies. Jonah Goldberg has his number:
What struck me the most about the debate – and it probably helped having quintessential Obamaphiles in the room – was how Biden’s “gravitas” is derived almost entirely from the fact that he can lie with absolute passion and conviction. He just plain made stuff up tonight. I read a long list tonight in my debate with Beinart here at Wash U, we can visit the details tomorrow.

Just a few: Flatly asserting that Obama never said he’d meet with Achmenijad; that absolute nonsense about spending more in a month in Iraq than we’ve spent in Afghanistan (“let me say it again,” he said as if he was hammering home a real fact); the bit about McCain voting with Obama on raising taxes; his vote in favor of the war etc.

It’s amazing how the impulse to see Biden as the more qualified and serious guy stems almost entirely from his ability to be a convincing b.s. artist. I’m not saying Palin was always honest or unrehearsed, but when she offers up a catchphrase or a talking point, you can tell. When Biden spews up a warm fog of deceitful gassbaggery the response seems to be “what a great grasp of the issues he has!”

His ability, nay his eagerness, to fake not only the “facts” but his sincerity is so shameless many pundits seem either mesmerized by it or scared to call him on it. I’d call his fakery passive aggressive except it’s actually just aggressive aggressive. Beyond being a tool of trial lawyers, I never saw much similarity between Biden and John Edwards, but tonight I was really struck by how alike the two are. Edwards fakes being an everyman, and Biden does too. But his real fraud is intellectual seriousness. He talks like an intellectually mature person, but that’s all it is – talk.

I suppose it's no surprise he's already been busted for plagarism more than once. When a politician speaks, you can pretty much count on a lie coming out of its mouth.

Irrational voters

Here's a semi-scholarly paper on voters' decision-making processes. Lots of good stuff there, like the fact that it's unlikely that one side or the other is entirely right. As he says:
That is, suppose that liberal beliefs are, in general, true, and that this explains why there are many people who generally embrace this cluster of beliefs. (Thus, affirmative action is just, abortion is permissible, welfare programs are good, capital punishment is bad, human beings are seriously damaging the environment, etc.) Why would there be a significant number of people who tend to embrace the opposite beliefs on all these issues? It is not plausible to suppose that there are some people who are in general drawn toward falsity. Even if there are people who are not very good at getting to the truth (they are stupid, or irrational, etc.), their beliefs should be, at worst, unrelated to the truth; they should not be systematically directed away from the truth. Thus, while there could be a ‘true cluster’ of political beliefs, the present consideration strongly suggests that neither the liberal nor the conservative belief-cluster is it.

Anyways, check it out.

It's my fault

I'm sorry, Ozzie and boys -- I forgot to wear a black Sox shirt for the game today. I'll wear one tomorrow and every day you play until the Series is won!

And by the way, in the off season we need to trade Vasquez for a new mop and a six-pack of Coke Zero. About 75% of his pitches are unhittable and 25% of the time their freakin' batting practice. Put 'em together and you get a double-digit ERA.

Sparrow for Prez

Well, other than his democracy fetish, this guy seems to be a little more sane than all the other dorks running...and his bumper stickers are the best, bar none.

Go Sparrow!

(found via 2Blowhards)

Cult of Personality

Here's a terrific remix of that creepy Obama video:

...and what the hell

Let's throw in a Mencken quote, too, in honor of tonight's debate:
A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in. -- H. L. Mencken

Is it possible to be a laughing Stoic? Time to brush up on my classics, I suppose...

Stoic Quotes of the Day

Be content with what you are, and wish not change; nor dread your last day, nor long for it.
You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.

-- Marcus Aurelius

Crap Sandwich

In which Jonah nails it:
I loathe populism. But if there ever has been a moment when reasonable men’s hands itch for the pitchfork, this must surely be it.

China and the Irish

I finally saw Balls of Fury for the first time. I know it was remiss of me to delay viewing it for so long, especially considering that I am an expert on China and this film could be regarded as the definitive work on Chinese culture. But I was working on some detailed Cantonese translations (concerning how a courtyard should be swept) that I needed to finish before broadening my research parameters.

One of the most interesting features of the film was the work of Maggie Q (for Quigley), who demonstrates the sublime potential of mixing Chinese culture with South Asian and Irish blood. Her stunning portrayal of the eponymous Maggie character moved me deeply. It's great that Hollywood is finally overcoming its prejudices against us Irish and providing the opportunity for such an incomparable talent to shine. Here's an Oscar scene from an earlier Hong Kong work (many Irish have worked in China, where the discrimination against us wasn't so blatant -- much like the African-Americans who moved to Paris last century):

Now that's a major talent!

Interneccine squabbling

There's a fun debate going on with my boys over on Culture11 about Sarah Palin.

It is true that TV presence does not correlate with character and leadership. It is also true that a political selection should be judged on its political effect.