Monday, September 29, 2003

While everybody is looking to reflexively jump on the White House, or come to its defense, I've got some questions on the Valerie Plame affair. There's parts of the story that just don't make sense...

Novak's story doesn't make the claim that 'White House officials' were responsible for disclosing her occupation. He wrote "Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report". The previous sentence in Novak's column contains "his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction". Nowhere does Novak actually state that these two officials were the ones who told him of her occupation. Indeed as Clifford May at NRO points out, her occupation was an open secret - is it possible for Novak to have already known this and included it in his column himself, without any help from White House officials?

Furthermore, Novak writes that "The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him". Who at the CIA said this, and why was it said? At the very least, it looks like the CIA brought Wilson's wife into the issue - not anybody at the White House.

How would the senior administration official quoted in the Post story know that there were two supposed leakers and that they had called six reporters? 'Two' and Six' are precise numbers, as opposed to 'a couple', 'some' or even 'a half dozen or so'. How could this official be that precise - was there a list, a memo, that this senior administraton official came across? If so, why wouldn' that have been included in the expose?

Dan Drezner thinks George Tenet is this official - if he is, how did he come across this information, being that Tenet is an 'administration official' and the leakers were 'White House' officials? Is Tenet bugging the White House?

Also, it's not clear - did each of the two call the same six reporters or together they called a total of six reporters? Was there any overlap - did any of the six receive calls from both of the supposed leakers?

Why would Karl Rove know the name and occupation of Wilson's wife? Sure, according to his critics, Rove is all-knowing and all-powerful. But does his knowledge and power actually extend that far?

Even if Rove knew, why would he (as one of the two supposed leakers) give out this information? Was Rove even involved in the campaign to defend Bush's use of the infamous 16 words in the State of the Union Address? Wouldn't one expect intelligence/defense/diplomat types to be doing this, not a political advisor? I can't see the meeting where Bush, Cheney, Rice and the rest of the brain trust decides that the best person to start spreading dirt on Wilson is.... Rove. I just don't see it. Nor can I see Rove, who is supposed to be a smart guy, deciding to freelance, going off to call reporters all over town, all on his own initiative.

Even if Rove were one of the two, who's the other? Was this a case of two people independently deciding to go off, or was it part of an organized tag team?

Why would her occupation even come up in an attempt to defend the administration/criticize Wilson? Like the old rebuttal, wouldn't you expect something better than this, a weak attempt at best?

Only Novak ran with the information. Assuming he was one of the six, what accounts for the other five sitting on the information? Sure can't be discretion, the White House press team isn't known for that.

As I said, just wondering....

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Neither Tyler Cowen, who was amazed that US trial lawyers pulled down $40 billion last year, nor Daiblogwho points out that corporate law firms pulled down $47 billion lay out the whole picture.... of the truly incredible amounts of money that go to dealing with litigation in this country...

Let's first look at what corporations pay out in judgments. Start with the trial lawyers $40 billion, representing their cut of the proceeds actually paid by the losers of lawsuits or amounts paid to avoid or settle lawsuits. Using the old standard of 1/3, this means that these payments ran somewhere in the range of $120 Billion.

Now let's add the litigation costs incurred by corporate (usually the target of these lawsuits; they are the ones with pockets deep enough to pay out $120 billion). Start with Daiblog's cite of $47 billion paid to defense teams. Now add the internal hard costs of dealing with lawsuits (actual or merely threatened) - the document gathering, the downtime associated with trial preparation, and the like. From experience and anecdote, I'd venture that these costs run at least 2-3 times the amount that is actually paid to one's defense team - so, using a multiple of 2.5, let's figure that these associated costs run $117.5 billion. And, for good measure, although it's also hard to quantify, let's add a number representing the soft costs of litigation: the lost productivity, the loss of sales resulting from the negative publicity, and the like. Just to be conservative, let's assume that these costs are just equal to the hard litigation costs incurred by corporations, another $117.5 billion. And, finally let's add a number that represents the amount incurred by corporations in attempts to engage in pre-emptive lawsuit avoidance: the processes and procedures, intended to establish a line of defense against future lawsuits or perhaps intended to avoid the situations which lead to lawsuits. Again, lacking a real number, but using experience as a baseline, I'd estimate these costs are at least as high as the costs incurred in dealing with lawsuits that are filed, yet another $117.5 billion.

Add it all up: $519.5 BILLION A YEAR in litigation related expenses. Enough to pay for Bush's tax cut, rebuilding Iraq, a lavish prescription drug benefit, private tutors for every kid who needs one, and peace on earth (OK, maybe not the last two).

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

How tall is Arnold?

Some years ago, I sat next to him on a DC to NYC shuttle. His knees didn't hit the back of the seat in front of him! I'm 6'4" and have to go through contortions to sit comfortably in those seats - legs splayed to the side, stuck over on my wife's side, etc. Now, he certainly filled up his seat more than I did - he's got me by some 40+ pounds - but at least he didn't have to stick his legs out into the aisle.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Something that I might have missed....

With the ACLU citing Bush -v- Gore in its assault on the California recall, does this mean that the ACLU acknowledges the wisdom of that decision?

This isn't good enough....

According to Ed Gillespie, the head of the RNC, the Democrats are engaged in political hate speech.

A strong attack by the GOP? NO! Count this as another instance of Stupid GOP PR.

Let me illustrate with an analogy. Someone comes up to you and in front of your kids proceeds to call you an idiot. You reply that this is not the place to make such a comment. Or perhaps you say that the person is being uncivil. Well, you're correct - but you're also an idiot! Why? Because your kid heard you get called an idiot and you did nothing to rebut that claim (and forget about the experts who counsel against confrontation).

In real life, we've got Democrats saying the worst things possible about Bush - the latest was Ted Kennedy's salvo that Bush pretty much invented the reasons for invading Iraq. Bush's response - Kennedy was 'uncivil'. Well, yes Kennedy was. But where's the response that Kennedy was also wrong on the facts? So, the net result: Kennedy is perhaps uncivil, but Bush lied.

When is the GOP going to learn that the Democrats are not playing by the Marquis of Queensbury rules? As the saying goes, what do you call someone who gets beaten up in a street fight by someone who kicks, bites, chokes and eye gouges? A loser.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Thinking about the California recall delay, it seems that the Court of Appeals rationale collides with the way established civil rights law treats disparate impact cases...

Here the court ruled that a higher error rate in counting votes – resulting from the combination of a particular voting method and the demographic composition of certain counties - was wrong.

But the general rule in evaluating a disparate impact case (at least in employment law) is that a procedure that results in a disparate impact is not automatically improper so long as there exists a legitimate business purpose for the use of that procedure and that there was no discriminatory purpose in the introduction of the procedure (a predetermined outcome can’t be the basis for picking a procedure).

With regards to this particular case, let’s assume that disparate impact has been established. On the other hand, I’ve read that punch card machines are not inherently faulty – they’re used elsewhere in the country with no problems (OK, not Palm Beach). Nor am I aware that the plaintiffs introduced any evidence alleging discriminatory intent on the part of county voting officials in using these machines (can anyone think of a reason why any county would want to use a method that underreported its votes?). It’s more likely that costs, and ease of maintenance, had more of a part to play in the choice to first pick and then to keep using these machines – a seemingly legitimate purpose. Thus, shouldn’t the Court have allowed the process, in this case, the use of punch cards voting, to continue?

The Supreme Court, on the other hand, seemed to follow the process in 2000 – they kept Florida election officials from picking a method (actually, methods) of counting votes that was allegedly chosen solely for the purpose of having Gore come out ahead.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Why doesn't Israel arrest Arafat - and put him on trial?

The advantages: it denies him access to the Palestinian terror groups; it denies him access to the Palestinian infrastructure; it creates a leadership vacuum in which another Palestinian leader can begin to exert some leadership; it shows that the most visible symbol of Palestinian resistance is himself, when the curtain is pulled back, powerless (as power is defined in the Middle East; it would allow Israel to exert its legal right to take action against those who commit crimes against Israelis; and it allows Israel to present for public consumption - both domestic and foreign - the case against Arafat. Oh, and by the way, it would also be the worst possible situation for Arafat - the man who traveled the globe, meeting with world leaders (just how many times did Clinton entertain this killer?), speaking to the UN wearing his pistol - now confined to a 12 x 12 foot jail cell for 23 hours a day, under constant observation (by Jews), and denied any outside contact but for restricted and limited access to his defense team. Even better than killing him, I think this would be the best revenge for the hundreds of Israelis (and Palestinians) who have died as a direct result of this man's actions.

The disadvantages: it allows Arafat to attain martyr status, as was the case with Mandela (although since Arafat is already playing the martyr card, penned up in his Ramallah headquarters, I'm not sure there'd be much of a difference); it might provoke another series of terror attacks which purportedly would be aimed either at obtaining his release or punishing the Israelis for taking such action (but in reality would be nothing more than another excuse for killing Jews); the leadership vacuum might result in civil war among the Palestinian factions (although if they have to kill somebody, I'd prefer it be each other); the international community would possibly express its disapproval with some type of sanctions against Israel (but, what's another General Assembly condemnation, given the number they've already issued against Israel?), the international community would almost certainly not accept the verdict against Arafat (although it would likely play well at home and in certain, more influential countries).

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Another thought on Iraq...

I was watching Cheney for a bit on Meet the Press - he was defending the progress that has made so far in the four months following the 'end of major combat'.

And, that's when it hit me - it's only been a bit over four months!

Cmon now, let's over react. Four months is certainly enough time for the Americans to have brought every one of Hussein's henchmen to justice. It's been plenty of time for the rest of the Middle East to have been democraticized. It's been plenty of time for the years of terror to have been reversed.

By the way, if we're going to start declaring things failures because of the inability to resolve all issues within a four month period of time...

Then every one of the Democrats running for President is a failure!. After all, they've all been running for far more than four months and none of them have won anything yet.

Of course, I think of them as having been failures even if there wasn't a four month timetable....

I couldn't quite believe it when I saw Yahoo! News - Democrats Ask Bush to Back New Tax Cuts. But, it's true - none other than Daschle and Pelosi themselves are calling on Bush to lower taxes for US manufacturers.

What, no cry about how tax cuts are wrong in this time of fiscal crisis? Is it possible that even the most partisan Democrats really know that tax cuts have stimulating effects, both on the recipient groups and the economy as a whole?

This will sure make me question the sincerity of the Democrats the next time I hear that they're criticizing GOP tax cutting....

And, apropos of my earlier comment, why has there been no comment from the White House on this - both supporting the request as well as reinforcing the need for tax cuts across the board???

Another assault on Bush policies, this time over tax cuts, in the Opinion section of today's Washington Post. This time, it's over the supposed need to pay for the costs in Iraq and how Bush should repeal the tax cuts in order to pay these costs. And yet another attack by Clinton, supposedly over how extreme the Bush Administration is.

To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, I hear a dog not barking. There's a deafening silence coming from the Bush White House on this subject - as with many of Bush's policies, the critics are being given the floor to themselves.

The American people have been and are continuing to be fed a steady diet of criticism - of the tax cuts, of the Iraq policy, of the extreme nature of Bush's judicial nominees. While most of the criticism is over the top, intended for the rabid faithful of the Democratic Party, the absence of a spirited defense will allow this unending assault to have an impact on the moderate Americans, those voters who will decide the upcoming elections.

Bush's dropping approval ratings are evidence of this: the anti-Bush fanatics have always been expressing disapproval. For the most part, the Bush apologists have been equally supportive. It's the people in the middle who influence those ratings. Now, what causes the people in the middle to shift their views? A steady stream of criticism, unmet by any defense.

Let me say it once again: the Administration needs to be doing a better job of making sure the public hears their defense of their programs as much as they hear of the attacks on those programs. Every time.

Furthermore, the Administration needs to go on the attack. They can't merely defend their programs in press briefings and with Condi Rice being nice on a couple of Sunday morning talk shows. They need to go after the opposition, in the same way the opposition is going after them. The Bush Administration needs to attack the motives of the Democrats, to show just how far the Democrats are going over the top in order to defeat Bush.

As an example, why did it take a Democrat to take on Dean over his comments about Israel? Yes, Karl Rove, it's nice when the Democrats go after one another. But, when you have a Democrat making comments such as Dean, it is necessary for the President, as well as his staff and other Republicans, to attack those comments. The GOP needs to find its voice and not be content to sit hoping that some other Democrat jumps in. Not having criticized Dean, the White House is no position to attack him later.

Another example: Cinton jumps in (again). How long will it be before someone on the other side responds with an attack on Clinton, his administration, his motives, his need to constantly inject himself in policy and political debate? Actually, that's a trick question. The GOP won't respond.

As my father once said, when you're faced with an enemy that isn't fighting fair, you can respond in kind and give yourself a chance, or you can go down like an idiot. Let's see what choice the Bush team makes.

Friday, September 12, 2003

So Israel is facing criticism over the thought of expelling Arafat.

Well, they have to do it - not only because doing it is the right thing to do, but also because having floated the idea, to back down in the face of criticism will only reinforce Arafat's belief that he is untouchable, that he could do anything - for example, sponsor terrorist attacks on Israelis - and not have anything happen to him.

If the Israelis are serious about putting an end to 'the cycle of violence', as others have called it, then they can't refrain from taking steps that, while they may or may not work, if not taken, will only embolden their enemies.

Repeal Bush's tax cuts, says Timothy Noah. While Noah acknowledges that we'd still have deficits, he glosses over the fact that, even using a liberal advocacy group's numbers, the tax cut is responsible for less than half of the current year's projected deficit. Yet, there's absolutely no ranting about the spending side. Why is it with liberals that spending is a given?

He also quotes, favorably, Dean's line from a recent debate "I'm not going to raise taxes. We're just going to go back to the same taxes that Bill Clinton had, because I think most people in America would be glad to pay the taxes they paid when Bill Clinton was the president of the United States, if they could only have the economy they had when Bill Clinton was president of the United States". I take it as a(nother) sign of Noah's political leanings that he accepts this at face value: he sure wouldn't if a similar type of comment were made by a Republican. For example, the economy was heading into recession when Clinton left: is this the economy that Noah is so enamored of? And, whatever one thinks of the current economy - for some, it's pretty bad, for the vast majority of people, it's been decent - Noah fails to provide one reason why the (projected) deficit has contributed to their plight. Sure, it sounds good - but upon examination, it's as empty as the heads of most of Dean's supporters.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Anybody wondering why the Democrats aren't up in arms about the latest attempt to use the federal judiciary to interfere with the way a state runs its elections? Probably not, since in this case it's the Democrats are the ones running to federal court, according to Yahoo! News

Just another example of there being no sense of principle at the highest level of politics - anything goes to win power. Criticize the use of the courts if you think it will help, then turn around and use the same court system when you think it is to your tactical advantage to do so.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Do Americans really care that "every person in this country fulfills their God-given potential, nobody left out, nobody left behind", as promised by Dick Gephardt in last night's Democratic debate?

Or are we more inclined to be what the Democrats would label as selfish?

And, if we are the latter, how effective of a campaign slogan does Gephardt have?

Maybe Americans like the sound of what Gephardt says - everybody wants to think of themselves as looking out for others, people who are not as fortunate as themselves. It's the one virtue that hasn't been trashed by the rebellion. Who doesn't want to be thought of as a really nice, generous guy?

But, that's in the abstract. People's viewpoints change, and change considerably, when they're forced to acknowledge the implications of what that means for themselves - someone who has a job, relative job security, a nice neighborhood, and a family that isn't full of either the mentally or criminally imbalanced.

For every dollar that Gephardt would spend on making sure that nobody was left out or behind (what's the difference?), these people know that there's a dollar less for them and the issues that are important to them: easing traffic, public schools that actually do the job they are supposed to be doing (hint: it's educating the kids), solid law enforcement, money spent on parks and recreation, cutting taxes so there's more money available for vacations, cars, college for the kids.

But Gephardt, and the others who advocate similar programs, albeit without the catchiness, have another hurdle to overcome: the fact that most Americans are skeptical of the effectiveness of government programs and bureaucrats to actually improve the lives of many people.

Because what it really comes down to is... how much are middle class Americans willing to give up in order to help other people, if doing so takes money out of their own pocket, even assuming that the effectiveness of these programs were not questionable, which of course they are not?

That's why I think Dick will be coming up with a new campaign line in the not too distant future....

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

A couple of things I'm bothered about Bush's 'UN' speech and some of the accompanying commentary...

Why did Bush let this get portrayed as a defeat, as a setback, his calling for the UN to step up? Why was it not portrayed instead as the logical next step in the reconstruction and rebuilding of Iraq? It's completely reasonable that we would look to other countries to get involved, once we got to a point at which their contributions would be timely and worthwhile. Other than England and a few other countries, none had the ability to contribute in a worthwhile manner to the military campaign. Nor do many other countries have the ability to play in the initial policing and rebuilding. But, now that we are past that point - yes, Democrats, we are indeed past that point - other countries have the ability to play a part, and it was time for us to call them to step up to the plate - both to satisfy their obligations and to allow the US military to serve as only it can, as a first line of defense against terror and threatening dictators. Instead, it's seen as an admission that Bush was wrong.

Having made the decision that it was time to involve the UN, why was there not a better effort to pin the Germans and French into a corner? Nobody should have expected either country to come willing. Each should have been expected to use the situation as a way of proclaiming the rightness of their position. Knowing this (or at least, should have knowing this), why wasn't there some very public commentary about how the German and French have been wanting to be involved and we were going to call them on their own comments? In other words, why didn't the White House take the opportunity to take the expected snub by the French and German and make them look like the bad guys?

Another complaint: Bush, along with many of his defenders/apologists are saying it's better to fight the terrorists in Iraq, rather than on US streets. While that is true, their arguments make it sound like it's an either/or, that our fighting terror in Iraq means we won't be suffering attacks here at home. This is not true, we are at risk here at home. Listening to these claims makes it sound like every last Al Queda fighter is on his way to Iraq - I doubt that Osama can't spare one or two to try something here. The problem with the arguments that are being advanced is that when something happens, as it inevitably will, everybody is going to look at Bush and ask "what the %$&^ was that all about?"

Here's where the analogy to Vietnam, in particular the Tet Offensive, is relevant. The Tet Offensive was a victory for the Viet Cong - not militarily - but because they beat expectations, they covered the line. After month after month of positive reports - high body counts and the like - from the front, the American people had such low expectations for the Viet Cong that the VC 'won' the battle just by being to take the field and win a couple of small skirmishes. Forget the number of casualties they suffered, that wasn't important. What mattered was that they covered the spread. And from that point on, the American people didn't believe the oddsmakers, namely the military briefers and the civilian leadership in Washington.

We have a similar situation now. With the Bush Administration not publicly acknowledging that we remain at risk - here at home - all the terrorists have to do is try something in the US and Bush's credibility will be damaged, probably irretrievably so. The attack won't even have to be successful for Americans to question how even an attempt was able to take place.

And, why isn't the Bush White House going after its critics in a more aggressive manner? Sure, right now, the Democrats are playing to their hard core; the sound bites that are being made are tailored to appeal to the rabid fringe that dominates the primary season. But Bush can't ignore these comments - they're being heard by millions of other voters. There's no constant rebuttal coming from the White House. Why isn't the White House trumpeting the success stories? Memo to White House Press Office: if we have to learn from the Washington Post that 200 Taliban fighters were killed in recent fighting, then you're not doing your job. Every time a news report, or a Democratic partisan (yes, they are hard to tell apart) features something that is not going well, the White House, the Defense Department, and even those idiots at the State ought to be out presenting the positive side. It's not to be done with the intent of making it seem like it's Saigon, 1967 all over again; rather it should be done to make sure the American people aren't seeing only one side of the picture.

Friday, September 05, 2003

According to MSNBC Israel's latest killing of a Hamas terrorist "...could deal a blow to reformist Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas’s battle for political survival".

One hears this line of thought over and over again - it must be true, right?

But I thought that Hamas, along with the other Palestinian terrorist organizations, was opposed to what Abbas was trying to accomplish. Can someone explain to me how a group can lose its leadership and be stronger as a result?

Now, ususally one gets rid of one's opponents on one's own. In some cases, the benefit of removing opposition leaders is offset by getting dirty hands. In this case, Israel is doing the work for Abbas. Abbas is getting a two-fer, his opposition taken out (literally) and someone else to take the blame. It's actually even better than that: not only is Hamas losing its commanders, but its leaders who have not (yet) been killed are running scared. They're not leading marches in the town square, encouraging the troops to remain loyal to their cause, they're staying hidden, moving every now and then to avoid detection. Abbas, on the other hand, is free to get out, in order to get his message out.

Which leads me (again) to Arafat. Because the Israelis have (wrongly) decided against killing him, he doesn't have to fear for his safety. Now, he can't get out and roam the streets, but he still can maintain a public presence. He's on the scene, he's able to meet with his supporters, he's able to be an obstacle to Abbas. He wouldn't be able to do so as effectively if he were somewhere else. Why doesn't Israel just go ahead and move him somewhere else?

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Following up on my earlier post regarding the efficient market theory…

I've always been bothered by this theory - it sounds good, but I've always felt that it breaks down somewhere; I just couldn't put my finger on it.

Then, coincidently, I was thinking about (what I believe to be the) the logic glitch in the movie Minority Report. In that movie, Tom Cruise's character is identified as a "future murderer" by a group of psychics. While being chased by the police, he finds himself in the position of committing the crime that it was predicted he would commit. But, Cruise only found himself in this situation as a result of the psychics 'seeing' him commit this crime. How could they see him commit this crime if his being in this position was a result of an action - his being named by the psychics - that hadn't taken place yet? In fact, it couldn't have taken place but for the actions of the psychics. They would have had to have seen themselves dreaming up something (pun intended) in order to start Cruise down his path - yet, these psychics were supposed to only be able to see actual future events, not imaginary future events.

I think the same glitch - in reverse of sorts - holds for the efficient market theory.

Investors will say they buy stocks that have good fundamentals; they’ll cite their fad rationale of the day: Internet revolution, statistics on trading volume, support levels, P/E rations, dividend yields, and so on. In reality, it's much simpler: people buy stocks because they believe someone will come along in the future and be willing to buy the stock from them at a higher price. Without this belief, there'd be no reason to own a stock (unless for some psychological reasons, such as 'sense of ownership').

The glitch in efficient market theory? Investment decisions are being made today based on guesses about what other investors will be doing tomorrow. Yet, the investment decisions that will be made tomorrow will be in large part based on events that haven’t yet taken place and on the reactions that haven't yet been formed of investors to these events. How can today’s market properly reflect the attitudes of tomorrow, when it won’t be until tomorrow that tomorrow’s investment decisions are actually made?

Now, some people will really be bad at guessing what the future holds. They marry the wrong person, skip a day of buying their favorite number for the state lottery, and so on. On the other hand, there are people who always seem to be in the right place and at the right time. For these people, those who actually have the ability to better predict (1) what might occur in the future, and (2) how people will react to those events – well, I see them being able to consistently beat the market, since by definition the market is comprised of other people who aren’t so good at making those predictions.

And, isn't that what is not supposed to happen?

The theory of efficient markets holds that the stock market has processed all of the available and relevant information, so stock picking is a futile exercise.

However, not everybody will have heard/processed this information at the same time. Not everybody will have learned at the same time of, for example, Dell’s decision to lower their PC prices.

In addition, not everybody will have the same interpretation of how this information will affect the stock price – for example, investors will disagree on whether this information will have any impact on the stock price. They certainly won’t be in agreement on the extent of the likely impact.

Furthermore, investors will differ in their assessment of the future events that may occur that have the potential of affecting stock prices – for example, the likelihood of another serious terrorist attack, the possibility of rises in mortgage rates.

And, investors will have differing opinions on how much, if indeed any, these future events will affect the stock price – for example, what impact will this potential hike in mortgage rates have on the housing market?

The current market price will reflect the balancing of these competing viewpoints. Those who are bullish will exert positive pressure on the stock price, countered by those with less-bullish viewpoints.

Of course, not every investor will be correct. As time moves on, the stock price should change based on how events unfolded. As investors who guessed wrong look to unwind their positions, the stock price should move in the direction that correlates more to the position of those who were correct in their predictions.

Be right enough in figuring out what is going to happen and you'll enjoy better than average returns.

Now, why is it unrealistic to expect that someone would have a better than average ability to ‘read the tea leaves’?

That is what happens with putting together a sports team. There’s a ton of raw data on players that needs to be interpreted. Different scouts will have different viewpoints. The likelihood of future events has to be taken into account and quantified. Yet, some people are consistently able to ‘beat the market’ by assembling winning teams.

Why shouldn’t we expect for someone to do the same with the stock market?

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Regarding the debate over California's (potentially) giving illegal aliens the ability to get a driver's license....

According to the article "...Democrats said up to 2 million illegal immigrants are driving without proper licenses already and that someone who wants to obtain a fake drivers' license can get one now on big-city street corners... Cedillo's bill, they said, would improve public safety by helping ensure that all drivers pass a driving exam and have insurance".

Actually, it would do NOTHING OF THE SORT!

These 2 million drivers (assuming the number is accurate) are already driving! Without a license, possibly without insurance. Just because it would be possible for them to get a license doesn't mean that they will go out and do so!

So, "Iraq unrest tied to poor U.S. planning", says a report cited by MSNBC, among others. Supposedly, the report claims "...U.S. commanders were so busy preparing to defeat Iraq’s military and directing the fight that they were given too little time to properly prepare for “Phase IV” peace".

Now, am I the only one thinks that the military officers who ought to be disciplined are the ones who.... wrote this report? Yes, you - whomever you are. Not the commanders who were devoted their time and efforts to making sure we defeated Iraq's military in the first place.

What kind of a warped mind would a military officer have to have for them to feel that it was it more important for the military's limited (yes, limited) resources to have been devoted to the aftermath of the conflict, instead of devoted to ensuring that we won the conflict?

In football, you're taught "catch the ball, then run". A receiver who looks to run before they catch the ball often ends up not catching the ball. In baseball, kids are taught to "catch first, then throw". Failure to do so results in dropped balls. Teams are exhorted by their coaches to "not look ahead to next week, to win this game first". As many have opined, my Terps lost their football game last week because they weren't properly focused on the game at hand, focusing instead on the game against Florida State which would be played the following week.

Why should it be different for the military? I'm thrilled that they didn't get caught up in the hubris of assuming that battle was won before the shooting started. I'm glad they devoted their resources to first fighting the fight. I'm glad that the authors of this report are buried in some Pentagon basement office and not entrusted with the responsibility of actually planning a battle.

And, if a consequence is that the so-called peace is a bit bumpier, so be it. Look at it this way: there's been somewhat fewer than 100 US combat deaths since May 1. Better planning could - no guarantee - have helped reduce that number. But how many more US casualties would we have suffered prior to May 1 had the military planners taken their eye off the ball?

All in all, this is just one more example of critics looking for something to criticize, and losing all perspective in the process....

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Just an undate: the markets since the GOP took back control of Congress....

The Dow - up 9%

NASDAQ - up 28.5%

Just another reminder that good things happen when the Democrats aren't allowed to be in charge...

So "...(John) Kerry emphasized his Vietnam experience as he explained why he would be a better wartime president than Bush", according to Fox News

What an ego! What a disconnect! The idea that a guy who 30 years ago crawled around in mud and the jungle, shooting at and getting shot at by the enemy, will make a better wartime President - because of that experience - is ridiculous on its face.

Let's start counting the ways...

1 - Kerry's experience, while certainly appreciated, was limited. He saw action in one small part of one branch of the service, in one area of operations. No experience with Europe or Korea. No hands-on experience with the Air Force, the Marines, or the Army. Nor the Coast Guard or the Merchant Marine. Even his experience in the Navy was limited - nothing with the submarine service, the air fleet, the blue seas Navy, planning or supply or intelligence (no jokes here, this is a serious posting).

2 - I'm not privy to his personnel records, but why should we assume that he was an expert in whatever he was supposed to be doing? Brave, definitely. Competent, probably. But expert? Was he even the best of his peer group? If not, then I'd want to hear from whoever was the best, not from somebody in the middle of the pack.

3 - By definition, an expert (in whatever) stops being an expert the day he stops practicing whatever it is he is supposed to an expert in. You think aspiring film makers today want advice on making movies from some guy who last directed a film when Judy Garland was alive? I don't want tax advice from a guy who last prepared returns using ledger paper and a #2 pencil. Kerry's experience was with a war that took place 30+ years ago. This means Kerry stopped being an expert - to the extent that he ever was an expert - some 30+ years ago.

4 - Serving in a relatively low-level position in an organization does not - to the chagrin of many who are in such positions - make one qualified to run the organization. The guy who wears the Goofy costume is not presumed to be capable of running Disney (you're safe, Eisner). Nor should the person running a paint machine expect to be next in line to run Ford (sorry, that actually happened - which could go a long way to explaining the great shape Ford is in right now). There's more to the top job - any top job - than a limited amount of exposure at the low ranks of the organization. That Kerry doesn't know this should in itself serve as grounds to disqualify him from serious consideration.

5 - The experience Kerry were to bring to the table - well, that's experience that Presidents have the luxury of having other people deal with. Kerry's insights into how to, for example, properly run an jungle river insertion behind enemy lines are the same insights enjoyed by probably a minimum of several hundred other officers. There are thousands of military guys who have gone out and requisitioned paper clips for their unit headquarters. I'm not looking at any of them to put in charge of buying the tanks and planes and ships that the military needs.

6 - Even if Kerry were to have had more experience, and at a higher level of responsibility than he did, all that means is that he has more experience. Organizations don't automatically take the employee with the most experience and give them the job. Nor should they, as it takes far more than extended tenure with an organization to be able to properly run that organization. Colleges don't take the professor who's been around the longest and make them the next college president. Newspapers don't take the guy/woman who's being writing their column for the longest time and make them the next editor.

Sure seems Kerry is counting on the American people to not really pay attention.