2010-11-30

Democracy In America

...and despotism in America.

Currently reading de Tocqueville's Democracy in America.

We will take care of you...

The Man Who Somehow Defied Death

Hard to explain the story of Phineas Gage. So, just read it. It truly is amazing.

Man, I got a hockey stick to the side of my head and thought it was brutal, imagine this dude with a metal pole through his skull.

Law & Order Los Angeles

I was reading that Law & Order Los Angeles is off to a slow start.

I don't know why but all I do know the binders the cops carry isn't working for me. And maybe one of them should lose the moustache.

Let The Man Speak

I love this guy.

Interesting exchange. On the surface, this woman seems to be abusing her power for no good reason.

Anyone can add to this? Punching her name up I found this.

Doctor Bribes

Jeez, no kidding. Doctors taking bribes doesn't surprise me. The wait times are way too long. I'm pretty sure this has been going on for a while. The system is just too slow to respond to medical needs.

I love it. The public health system is cracked but they want to build a super hospital in Quebec.

I see a super mess coming.

We have such a fantastic track record of building big things within budget.

Wikileaks Canada

Well, is this surprising to anyone?

Love this quote:
"Judd stated that the video "would no doubt trigger knee-jerk anti-Americanism" and "paroxysms of moral outrage, a Canadian specialty," the cable said."
Sounds about to right.

My friend works for the RCMP and he told me CSIS relies on intelligence from other countries to protect our own borders.

Latimer Free

The Richard Latimer story really was unique when it first broke. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, it was one of the first mercy killing case that captivated a nation and brought awareness to an entire continent about the subject.

What is most interesting is how the majority of Canadians clearly sided with Latimer and against the justice system - myself included. Although I full recognize how difficult it must have been for the legal system to deal with such a case.

Latimer has been granted full parole.

2010-11-29

Iran Up To No Good

Seriously. If you thought otherwise, shlack! Slap to the side of the head. Seriously.

Angel Investors



Some key points I agree with mentioned in the video:

1) Don't be afraid to take and existing idea and making it your own. You don't have to necessarily have a unique idea to run a business. Just a unique approach.
2) It's important to have support; people you can talk to about the challenges you face. You need to talk out your stress. It's not easy to take on a new business.
3) Surround yourself with key people who know the business and can offer important ideas and perspectives.
4) It's all about growth. Not just financial but personal as well.

In my case, I am lucky. I can talk to people and if I really, really need to, I can probably have them be my angel investors. I'm in a critical stage myself as I see my funds dwindling and debts mount as approach my opening date. Looking for other sources of cash is part of the game. You WILL make mistakes and they WILL cost you money. It takes a person who can keep their eye on the big picture in order to not buckle under that kind of pressure. I must admit, I'm being tested every single day.

I've also surrounded myself with a "gold standard" personel that I know will benefit my day care. I will pay more up front, but it's a cost-benefit decision that will in the long-run keep my business viable and probably give me a special edge over competitors. From what I hear, some private day cares aren't always ready to pay for real talent. I am.

Last, capital for investment is always available. They're called 'angel investors.' They're called such because they're all around us even though we may not necessarily see them. Like how we talk to angels, you have to seek them and suddenly they appear. I'm telling you, they exist.

If you have a sound idea that's well thought out, all that's left to do is to self yourself. I don't think people truly grasp this basic but powerful concept. In the end, people invest in people.

So why did I put myself through all this? Because, at this stage in my life, I know for a fact in my heart of hearts, I wasn't meant for anything else but be an entrepreneur. Unless I found a small business in which I could act as a personal liason to the owner, I don't cope within a corporate structure nor was I made for a job in the civil service.

I always knew this to be the case and working in a corporate environment for 10 years only solidified it.

As I've said in the past, it's not for the feint hearted and you better damn well make sure your spouse is ready for the volatility.

Hope this post helps others thinking of entering this realm or already in it.

National Governments And Wikileaks

How are national governments going to react to Wikileaks and its release of thousand of classified documents? The U.S. Attorney-General has already hinted that they may prosecute those found guilty of the leaks.

Leslie Nielsen Passes

Airplane was funny. Liked  the Naked Gun series too. And Men With Brooms.

Would They Have A Parade For The Man Who Discovered Fire Or The Wheel?



Back when I was in junior high (cue 'Glory Days' now!) the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup. It was 1986 and nothing was gonna stop a few of us from grabbing the bus into the city to witness the parade first hand despite warnings from the school that if we juked there would be consequences. Calculating that the odds of being tortured or killed were remote we took our chances and skipped school (cue 'Another brick in the wall' now!)

The following day (I can't remember if we told our parents) the principal, who happened to really be the gym teacher and was temporarily heading the school (he was probably the most fit guy I've ever seen including up to this day), asked us if it was worth it. We answered in the affirmative. Stupid question to ask teenagers, right? He then proceeded to hand out our punishment: A ten-page essay why we thought it was worth it. 'Til this day I'm not convinced he believed in giving it out in the first place - but he had to do something I reckon. Wouldn't want to upset, whoever the fuck would have been angry.

Point is, the Habs were our world. It's hard to explain the cultural significance of the Montreal Canadiens. It's not unlike the Green Bay Packers and New York Yankees but I'm willing to go as far as say maybe even more psychotic. Hockey in general here has confirmed Canadians are born with half their brains filled with a puck.

We just had to go.

Fast forward a couple of decades and the Habs mean little, if anything to me. Sorta like how Mickey and Mantle and the New York Yankees went from icons to meaningless figures to 'C' in A Bronx Tale.

My sports interest is -by and large - emotionally detached now. I read about the history of sports. I'm less interested in the debates about who should be playing with who (mind-numbingly pointless) and more about sports in a greater context in terms of its role in society and all that.

By the way, as for others, I don't begrudge die hards or fans of teams. Far from it. When I went to see the Milan derby between Inter Milan and AC Milan it was something to witness in the flesh the dedication of the tifosi to their teams.

With this in mind, I came across coverage of the San Francisco Giants parade and I immediately wondered, man, would we do this for the person or persons who would find a cure for, say, lung cancer?

Would we take to the streets celebrating a great piece of literature or the discovery of life on Mars?

The answer is no of course.

One of the reporters said, "moment in history they want to be a part of." Yeah, it is a historical moment but it's amazing to see how much of an impact sports retains in society.

2010-11-27

End Of The Pipeline

My wife had some of her long-time friends over for dinner (a dinner I cooked) and one of them works in upper-management for a major pharmaceutical.

We got to talking about the anti-business atmosphere these days (and don't tell me we're not. I see it with my own eyes everyday) and its impact on big pharma specifically. She told me something very interesting...and disturbing. According to her, because regulation on pharma has become so stacked against them major companies have ceased (or are in the process of no longer) developing new products.

They're reached the point where they feel it's no longer worth it. They're getting hit with too many lawsuits despite following the law and the FDA is making it harder for them to bring their products to market:

"We recommend avoiding names that offer little growth or opportunity for a take-out. These include companies which are developing drugs that are likely to face regulatory hurdles. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been exercising more caution before granting approval to new products and several candidates have been facing delays in receiving final approval."
They will continue to maintain existing medicines but as far as the pipelines go (the lifeline to not only their business but our lives), nothing

No wonder pharma stocks have plummeted (they were around 35$ per share during my time in investments) and mergers are now common.

If accurate, how can they ensure the long-term growth of their companies if they have nothing in the pipelines?

Surely the ramifications can be massive.

For example, she said they - her company - were very close to finding a drug for Alzeimers. They stopped development. There will be no cure for Alzeimers in our lifetime she said.

Ouch.

She also mentioned how it's been forecasted that new diseases will come up with no cures likely to fend them off. Keep in mind, it takes anywhere between 10-15 years for a drug to pass through its clinical trials. That's after they've done years of research.

We should always keep in mind the unseen consequences of our position.

2010-11-25

UK Spending Graph

I've been wanting to put together a chart or graph on how Canada spends its money because nothing beats a good visual while you eat cherries. I looked around for one but we Canadians aren't overly enthusiastic at introspective accounts of our bad habits. But I did come across a British one. You can view and adjust the size here on PDF.

It's a great way to grab a pen and say, "I don't need this, we can cut that" and so on.

Mind you, that's not always easy to do. Recall that we consider a CEO a genius for increasing EPS (earnings per share) by essentially cutting staff. That's not a solution. But it does get them on the cover on some fancy shmancy magazine.


2010-11-24

2010-11-23

Total Human War Deaths

I have no idea how many wars and deaths have taken place in history but I'm pretty sure it's not in the billions. Low hundreds of millions (not including the Plagues) and that figure is boosted thanks to the 50 million dead during WWII.

Blast From The Past

In an accounting class I took in university circa 1993 (yes, my electives tended to be outside the liberal arts umbrella. I did that on purpose) the professor recommended that everyone learn Japanese because they were going to replace the Americans as the greatest business nation on earth.

I took a gamble and ignored her advice.

Death By Disease

In case you haven't noticed, I'm taking issue with a few things that have bothered me over the years. Today, I want to talk about what has been charged by some historians as the American genocide of the Native Americans in North America.

If we're still debating if Stalin committed genocide imagine how much further down the probability scale it is for the United States.

The truth is there was no genocide - at least the way I've come to understand it  - just like the Wild West wasn't all that wild. It was rowdy but not like in the popular imagination.

There were displacements and there were wars and indeed it did unfortubately hasten the fall of many Native American tribes and societies. It wasn't fair but history is history. It's one of those unfortunate moments that has always occured in world history. Mass migration and invasion is stuff of human legend.  Now, how they were treated after the White man took over once and for all is another matter altogether and not exactly something we should be proud of especially considering those who served in the U.S. military.

Canada's own record on Native affairs is cause for shame as well.

Still. The one thing that's always left me uneasy was how "violent" Europeans were against the "pacifist" and "nature loving" Indians. It overlooks, if not outright dismisses, the reality that Native tribes were in a constant state of warfare with one another and caused more war deaths between them than the Europeans inflicted. Instead, some historians or artists or activists paint them as eternally peaceful people of the Buffalo. There were moments of atrocity and massacres. This can't be refuted but it doesn't amount to mass scale genocide.

Lemme tell ya, the Apache (and the Sioux) were one wickedly fierce warrior society. They learned to be that way before the arrival of the Eurocrashers.

What decimated the Natives was, as we all know, disease. But disease is not murder. I agree with this person's logic: Even if the Europeans came with the best of intentions, disease would have still wiped out the Natives. It was a Bubonic plague for the New World. Speaking of which, I've read over the years people assert, not all that wrongly, should Europeans charge India or Mongolia with genocide for the Black Death? I mean, what, 65% of its total population fell to its demise?

The case, to me anyway, for a Western (or American) genocide of Natives was always weak (if not groundless) and it remains so.

***

That all being said, I appreciate the efforts being made to connect to First Nations. We're on the same land now and it's only fitting First Nations is integrated into our collective experience. I thoroughly enjoy learning more and more about them - something we don't do enough of. Indeed, we can learn quite a bit from their wisdom and experiences. We always did mind you.

If These Walls Could Talk

Last year we had to strip one of my father's buildings straight down to the its original wall the tenet did so much damage. What I saw were generations of ideas and attitudes strip away before me. You can tell what people must have thought just by observing the type of brick used and how it was put together. The building was built in 1929 and it wasn't exactly did with perfection in mind, but still, it was solid. Then, as time went on, owners changed hands, new needs necessitated cosmetic adjustments.

Walls were added, thus adding more bricks only this time it was the 1940s, and then the 1960s (my father bought it in 1966), right up until 2009.

While it cost money to renovate it was a chance to reinvigorate the place. To add better materials up to new modern standards. It's always beneficial to rethink and revisit our original layouts.

Same with the building I'm renting for the day care. Where it needs to be done, I'm making sure we bring everything up to speed. It's putting me way over budget but the cost of not doing it may be worse in the long-run for me. Originally built in 1962, the place was in need of some real upgrading.

Which made me think. It's a neat analogy to use about our economic mindset. The current one in place, which I'm not sure what it is but let's just say it's a "theory-based, tax and spend oriented for the collective good' type of economy predicated on unprovable notions of being able to predict and manage risk.

I'm no expert or scholar so I can't put it into academic terms but, what's the term I looking for, this position has gotten really, really stale. Like the walls in my buildings.

Now. The option is to merely build upon the wall with the same attitude and materials so as to make the building "functional" to rent out but that risk there is you will always have the headache of tearing down walls. Fix and destroy. It's a band aid approach. Sort of like regulation in the markets.

Or, you can take a deep breath, shut down for a few months and redesign the sucker to ensure it's as good as new with better materials thus saving you a migraine down the road. Of course when you srip out a part of an extension it gets scarier to look at but it must be done.

It's a choice.

To me, our economic "experts" keep betting on the former strategy thinking it worked once it should always work. Not sure about that logic. Conversely, what didn't work in the past doesn't mean it has no merit. Maybe it does or did but clearly things are a tad askew and the solutions being offered are not solutions but a reverting to a comfort zone we think we know.

What's better to have a series of small mangeable problems where you can solve as you go or having several massive problems that engulf you to the point of near paralysis?

I know I prefer the former. In order to get there though we need to work backwards from where we are. There's little logic in "bailing out" companies based on the reasons given. Remove the safety net and see how risk assessment changes. Nor is bigger better and top-down edicts from clueless politicians are equally as bad. You can't direct things that way and expect to be efficient.

That's what I've learned from two walls (who spoke with a Gaspesienne accent for some reason) in two buildings in two different parts of the city from two different eras.

Your move.

Our move.

And I just got a case of deja-vu as I write this. Seriously.

Copyright Laws

Interesting take on copyright laws over at Reason.

Quentin Tarantino is the perfect artist to use as an example of what it must have been like way back when when nutcase geniuses hammered on a piano or wrote books as if they had way too much time on their hands (I mean, I could write a book if I wasn't hooked on Chuck). Tarantino is the master of borrowing and incorporating into an American sensibility all the film ideas and influences found around the world. He brings various techniques into one film and voila! Instant sensation.

By the way, when I used to take art classes, everything was rules based. Same with writing an essay or novel. Rules, rules, rules. You "must" introduce a character early, or you "must" follow a plot pattern or whatever. Sez who?

I always struggled with that. I used to mix things up a lot and while teachers liked it, they weren't sure about it either.

Tarantino's Italian-Irish-Cherokee heritage also points to something else. What made, in part, Italy a dominant (and once that waned a major center) cultural and scientific center for a good long period, say, 1100s to 1500s was its maritime advantages. Venetian and Genoese merchants were constantly trading with the East. This meant a constant energetic flow of exchanging ideas. Needless to say, it had major implications for the rest of Italy and Europe. As gatekeepers to the world's goods and services, they imported a wide variety of stuffs at which point the Italians borrowed and then (some say) perfected and mastered in la manniere Italienne.

I always say a Ferrari is the aggregate work of many cultures that pass through the veins of the Italians.

The article points to Bach but he's hardly alone in behaving the way he did. History likes to settle on "one" person as if they "invented" something out of a vacuum. That's not usually the case. How much of a difference in quality was there really between Marlowe and Shakespeare? Why did the Wonder Years work, but Freaks and Geeks didn't?

Anyway. It was the same for Britain and its empire in all it's "white man's burden" albatross.

What do you think the Americans do? Yes, they're innovative and dynamic but they too are merely building on the legacy left behind by many great civilizations.

Copyright that.

2010-11-22

The Pretend Gambler

I'm generally a decent office "poolster." I've won my share of hockey, NCAA basketball and football pools. Was ok with baseball but sucked at soccer though. Go figure.

Last year, I picked the right 'straight' winner in a friendly NFL pool 74% of the time. This year I decided to try against the spread. I missed one week but so far I'm 71-73 - almost 50%. I'd be well over that if five games didn't get stupid on me leading to my losing by .5 points. Effen Eagles against the Colts and Bills against the Lions.

Just thought you morons would like to know.

We'll see what the Alouettes do this coming Sunday in the Grey Cup in a rematch against the Sascratchmyass Roughriders - previously known as Sascratchmyballs. Ok, ok. Saskatchewan.

***

It's all luck by the way. Sure I have a "method" that can't possibly be articulated - some call it intuition - and I do glance at statistic but I don't let it decide who I pick. Stats can - and do - lie. Kinda like picking stocks I suppose.

Of course.

Denial

I don't think people quite grasp the severity of the debt crisis. This is not something that will "just get better." Not without a fundamental change to our mindset.

That's how I see it anyway.

Hearing people talk about increasing taxes or spending as if these are the obvious solutions makes me nod my head in disbelief.

The problem, aside from Central banks, is letting entities get too big for their own good and then bailing them out. The problem is taking unnecessary risks with other people's money as the geniuses in government and banking did. The problem is with generous welfare states we can no longer afford.

We need to step back and rethink the whole fucking thing and I don't see that happening. All I see is bull shit "financial reforms" that don't address the main issues. "This time we'll be able to make sure we avoid bad practices." Nonsense.

Don't you see? The system is corrupted to its core with faulty premises.

 All I see is lip service by people who created the mess at which point they'll all continue to give each other jobs and high fives.

We're fools if we see say, "well, what else can we do?" or "if we don't do anything the system will collapse."

Good I say. Let it fall because it wasn't worth jack shit to begin with. All we did was give more crack to the crackhead.

Speaking of too big to fail, call me crazy but I don't see how anyone would want to run a business with more than 100 people. Why give yourself away? Why give up control to the market? I'm almost convinced it's better to not be listed.

St. Cloud's Habs Logo

Man, I really hope the Montreal Canadiens are getting royalties for this - if not, their copyright lawyers aren't doing their jobs.

Of course, I'm guessing the Habs logo came first.

2010-11-21

Pour Les Citoyens De Laval

If you're politically engaged here's a link to an online petition asking for the removal of Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt - The Prince.

'They' Won

Whenever I see something about the TSA, it's become too easy to nod and conclude, "the terrorists did win after all."

Doesn't sound like Homeland Security sees much of a problem with the growing TSA controversy. Yet another growing controversy Obama seems tone deaf to.

At what point will they realize it's not proper?

Obama calls it frustration. I'm wondering if outrage is more appropriate. One day it's a little boy being groped, next it's cancer survivors. Next, it's people being fined or jailed. Clearly, the people behind this are a bunch of dumbasses.

Hope and change. Remember?

In fact, the internet is loaded with examples, videos (just punch in 'TSA' on youtube) and comments about the unacceptable behavior of the TSA.

To be honest, I can't believe anyone would agree this is appropriate. Equally disturbing is the hiring practices that puts people in such a position of power.

It makes no sense on any intellectual level to detain people for merely expressing their disapproval. How in the world does that "keep America safe?"


Question

Is there such a thing as "wisdom of crowds?"

Tax Life

Business has come under heavy critcism in the last few years (taken up a notch under President Obama) and for good reason - sometimes.

Corporate bums and idiotic market theorists who survive by the protection of the state are no more "business" than Karl Marx. Yet, their CEO's pay themselves fat bonuses (their salaries are already drastically inflated) for being fat headed morons. On that front, I'm with the criticism.

Corporations "lie" we're told by activists on the left. And so they do in some cases. At least though, if we leave the damn market alone, the bad eggs DO get squeezed out. They die.

Alas, this is not the case as we talk as if business as a whole is a negative - and this is where I jump off the "capitalism is evil" wagon.

We believe in our hearts we could judge and predict human activity. That's where we tripped up.

Equally corrosive, if not more, is when government lie. At this point, to anyone who really is truly examining with a critical eye, government incessantly lie so long as it meets their needs. At this point, I believe nothing the government says when it wants to ram through unpopular legislation designed to "protect us." We've really arrived at the point where they believe they "know what's good for us."

The cold, hard, reality is they're likely to lie about stats and information as the next guy. They say if a business lies, the market eliminates the share price, and if the state lies we vote them out.

I'm not so sure with the latter anymore. It seems no matter who is voted in it's taken as an ok to introduce laws they didn't campaign for hiding behind the "we have a majority" cop out.

The tax on soda fullfills to things: A cash grab and the need to make ourselves feel good.

It won't do squat. That's not exactly true. We'll invent models to fool ourselves it helped.

Once again from the top:

STOP WITH THE TOP-BOTTOM APPROACH.

Let the individual govern themselves once and for all free of stupid, ignorant and cynical laws pretending to take care of us.

Or take my comment on SE:

"...the idea that the government "will take care of it" lulls people into a false sense of progress."

***

At this point, just tax life. Here in Quebec we pay a tax on a tax on a tax in some cases. What more proof do you need there's a cash grab mentality in place? It's the only lousy answer we have to a problem: Tax.

Never mind that taxes are by their nature inefficient.

2010-11-20

Not Stopping 'Til I've Had Enough

Each time I remove a blog link from my site because someone has decided to call it quits, I wonder how much longer I'll go on.

When will my "what's the point?" moment come?

Until then...

Vintage Punk

I wasn't really into punk, new wave, post-punk, alternative (like my sister) and all the other labels when I was teenager. Nothing personal. I just didn't connect to it. I was a jock. I needed my heat music, know what I'm saying?

It was only a few years later (I know strange) did I begin to explore (and enjoy) it. Siouxsie and the Banshees:

True Liberalism And Bastiat

I don't know if I ever mentioned Frederic Bastiat on this blog. If I didn't, it's a gross over sight on my part. As if my puerile ruminations should be so valuable! Oh, forgive me ye gods!

To me, men like Law, Bastiat, Hayek, Vico, Galliani etc. simply resonate.

I listen to Krugman and it's like, wha?

Meh.

***

How did I come to be what I am today? That is, an utter mess?

Years ago, maybe 20 years ago, I was listening to a French radio program. I forget what the topic was but I do remember the words of one caller that left an impact on me.

He said, "le gouvernement devraient."

The government should - hope my spelling is accurate.

The government should.

Repeat it.

The government should.

It made me realize, we depend way too much on the government. As I've said in the past, it's not the government should, but "I" should."

From that point forward I had little patience with any argument that argued state was the starting point to solving a societal problem.

2010-11-19

Practicing Latin And Valuable Latin Advice

Getting to know my Latin phrases. Or as they spell it in Flin Flon, frases.

Faciem durum cacantis habes.

***

Another one that caught me i's.

Felis qvi nihil debet.

Happy [is] he who owes nothing.

It's funny how we preach this at the individual level - at least that's what happened in my family - but it doesn't extend to the government.

Weird how that works.

***

We're told you can't predict with any certainty the direction of an economy yet when we spend isn't that what we're doing? Betting on some prediction?

Keynes himself probably didn't espouse big, expansionist, tax and spending policies for its own sake. Interesting discussion on him here.

Would Keynes support Modern Monetary Theory (MMT)?

Dear Airline

I'm leaving you.

***

Where I can drive, I will drive - even if it's to British Columbia or California. Not interested in being accosted by airport security.

Cute Pyshcho Dolphins

Gang rape? Kidnapping? Sheesh, are we sure we didn't evolve from dolphins?

***

A few years ago I was watching a team of animal activists and scientists save a baby polar bear from the arctic. I forget the whole story but the best part for me was when they took him home they treated him like a baby - literally. Nursing and swaddling it in their arms while it drank milk from a bottle. Then one day, after a year with humans, he was standing drinking milk as a person held the bottle and he attacked him.

It was hilarious.

It was funny because what the heck did you effen expect? It's a fricken polar bear! One of the most ferocious, efficient and powerful predators on the planet.

My brother and I just sat there laughing with a Homer "losers" moment.

I don't get we have to save an animal while in their natural habitat thing. We just love intervening. I guess.

***

The other thing I hate is when journalists say, "killer bears."

No shit.

How is a bear a "killer?" It's what they do: They hunt.

Idiots. Journalists I mean.

***

I love it. We intrude on their territory and then shoot them dead when they attack us. At which point, the media comes in with their "killer bears" nonsense.

Bears don't reflect on the ethics of their existence. They just pounce through thick ice with thousands of pounds of brute force and drag 2 ton walruses along the ice:

2010-11-18

Penn Jillette And Libertarianism; Organic Taste Testing

Beck claims to be...libertarian?

I like Penn. He discusses libertarianism and anarchy here.

Interesting comment he made: "Libertarians are very rules oriented."



***

Check out this video by Teller asking people to choose between organic and non-organic food.

*Face palm*

Prevention Myth And Know-Nothingness

Prevention.

We hear a lot about that now.

The key to avoiding a health problem is prevention.

Magic.

Say it. Logically, it makes perfect sense. Prevention! Let's go to the prevention hospital!

***

Of course, in practice, for a person attempting to take such wise advice to heart they discover one major problem: The public health system is not equipped to help you prevent anything.

It can barely properly service people as it is for basic health issues, you want it to prevent on top of that?

Good luck with that. One of the major problems, aside from the insanity of heavy government regulation, is that the way public health works in Canada is that you need a family doctor (GP) as your point guard. If he signs off on something you're thrown into the system and you wait. If you aren't lucky enough to have a GP (and that would be the majority of Canadians) you're, well, screwed. You ain't preventing anything.

Go ahead. Try.

My family has a history of heart ailments and when my cousin almost lost his life (he was 28) due to a weak heart, the cardio hospital ordered the entire family be checked. I came out alright. A few years later, with all the heavy advertising about checking your heart before its too late, I figured since I already have a file and given the special nature of the family I was a phone call away.

I know. Splendidly naive. Basically, it went something like this, "Hi, I'm The Commentator. I once did an EKG with you guys and my cousin mentioned you guys still..." "Who gave you our number? Who are you? Can't you see we're busy?" Click. Oooooooooooo........that's a dead dial tone.

I was stunned.

No. I never bothered again. Who fucking needs the hassle? I'm pretty sure a monkey in a tie (I mean literally a monkey. I find monkeys in ties drinking Bourbon hilarious. Never gets old) in some unknown health agency devising policy is preventing this relationship for going a tad smoother.

***

My wife and her uncles are still reeling from the death of her father. I don't blame them. He was a special guy.

They want answers to many questions. He already had the cancer so how come they were caught off guard? Even when he was in the hospital they were (or at least acted that way) clueless. They can't believe doctors couldn't have had some measure to help prevent or diagnose things quicker.

***

I'll never regret my time in the bank. For it is there I was able to see, behind the English cut suits, cuff links and fabulous food, was a whole lotta bull shit. One of the tricks so-called experts use is to at least play and look the part. Obama, for example, has this to an art form in politics. He has people fooled.

I say fooled because by now, no one could possibly believe this guy has anything unique to offer.

How?

Investment experts who came to talk to us were good at showing they understood things other than finance. Like, for example, history. It was a smart ploy to use philosophical quotes and show that you knew stuff outside your field. The only thing is that a lot of it was less fact and more just opinion. It had little to do with providing evidence as to why their investment philosophy was better than the next guy. The evidence they provided was enough to raise skepticism.

Why talk numbers? The proof was right there. In the prospectus. Rate of return 8%. "Expected return of 9% because we feel..."

Ah, "we feel!" Gotcha! If they were soooo sure of their theorems (and many were), why did they have all sorts of disclosures about not being able to guarantee returns?

Because, folks, they knew squat at the end of the day. Just like TV execs can't explain why one show works and another doesn't. Or a book publisher knows how one good book sells one million copies, and another good one ten thousand.

Look, I don't profess to have some inside knowledge. Heck, I probably do know less than most, all I'm saying is I couldn't face a client to try and convince him of a narrative I wasn't sold on myself.

One client in particular opened eyes, though at the time I didn't want to admit it. He wanted my opinion on things. He wanted different perspectives. He knew the line he was being fed was bunk. It was too refined for his taste - he was a street wise kinda guy.

Truth is, I couldn't because he wasn't technically my client but my sr. partner. It was like making a pass at someone's wife. I just couldn't go against his views and I told the client this. He wasn't impressed but I had to protect my own image and ass.

But. Lesson learned.

***

When you look at the men who ran/run America's economy what/who do you see? You see a bunch of academics sucking each others cocks swimming in their own cum of nonsensical theories. "Ooo, feels so gooood! You soooo smart!"

That's what you see. To think that the assholes who made a mess of things (some have Nobel prizes) were going to fix it was ludicrous on its own but, hey, they had a new messenger. Snazzy-doo "It's the other guy's fault" Obama. More like "I'm with stupid."

It's simple. They put down the numbers and then build a narrative around the numbers. There's no such thing as a theory in finance.

Sure, some guys have a gifted knack at trading in different specialties like stocks, options, whatever but they represent a miniscule sample. You can't tell me all these guys running the show know something we don't. Ok. Some are Certified Financial Analysts. They grasp basic functional tenets. Beyond that, they ain't Popper, know what I'm saying?

Which brings me back to my father-in-law.

I explained to my wife that doctors, even though they operate in one of the more evidence based disciplines, just don't know. They couldn't and still can't answer her because they don't know.

They. Don't. Know.

It's not because they're stupid. It's because humanity is way beyond our abilities to control and understand.

Credit to the doctors though (except for the odd rude moron who thinks he was sent by God), most are more willing to admit their mortal limitations. Just wish politicians would too.

***

Prevention is a little like finance in that if we get the premise or assumption wrong it can lead to a mess.

And sometimes the wrong premise we invent can have lasting effects on our lives.

Enough of this. Time for some Mini-Wheats.

Bill C-343: The Oh We Feel So Much Better About Ourselves Law

Private bills don't often become law. It says so right on top.

So why debate this insipid bill?

It started innocently enough, help out the families of the victims. Then, it morphed - looks like anyway - into nonsense.

For you unaware, the Bloc Quebecois introduced a Bill where, in a nutshell, parents of an injured youth criminal would get compassionate leave to tend to their child. In other words, if little Timmy broke his arm slapping a girl he was raping his mommy and daddy can take time off work and nurse him.

It gets better. WE GET TO PAY FOR IT!

Feel better?

So. YOU, insert name here, raise an upstanding child to the best of your abilities, will have to pay for someone else's criminal child. Why not just take care of your neighbor's kid at this point? Why shouldn't you have a say in how they raise their kids if you think they're on the wrong track? After all, you're paying for it, no?

And they say Canada is a "fair" society. Bah. There's nothing fair with 'one size fits all' and there's certainly nothing compassionate or progressive about this bill.

How did we arrive at the point in our evolution where we consider this to be a "just" way at looking at things?

Not surprisingly, the Three Stooges - Liberals, NDP and BQ - support this incredible bill.
Why not just not distinguish between a victim and perpetuator anymore? Don't we punish victims of bullies who fight back anyway? I mean, Quebec is the place where the supremely unfair 'No-fault' insurance was born.

Just more bad cues from the enablers.

Daycare Update

The municipality where my daycare will be is run by typical nonsensical bureaucrats. I think there's ample information out there revealing how the state grinds dailiy activities for private businesses almost to a halt.

Get this.

The outside truss of the extension the owner built needs, well, to be covered. His option was to use the same existing wood - which is old and cheap - or a new kind of (press) wood material which is of superior quality.

He figured, logically of course (because, you know, he OWNS the building), he'll put the better material. More importantly, he even had the exact same color of paint as the rest of the building. Not only that, his friend was ready to come and install it for him on a specific day because beyond that, he was too busy. It was perfect.

Until the government inspector stuck his fat, stupid nose into it.

Apparently, the owner can't do what he logically wants to do. He needs a permit. Why? Because it's a "change of material."

But wait. He already has a building permit. Nope. Each time you make changes it demands a new permit.

Of course, all this makes sense to a bureaucrat but to those of us on the outside it has absolutely zero worth since it costs time and money. Why? Well, the owner can't use the material and the person he had lined up can't come until January.

Know what he was told? "Not my problem. These are the laws."

Every single time he wants to make improvements he has to take it to the city and then has to wait until they meet (once a month) to make a decision. How the hell does this town function? People have to sit and wait for these bozos to make a decision on stuff they know nothing about?

In other words, "we're behind in our thinking and you must stay at our pace."

Pure joke.

It's excessive interventionism.

Technology Winners

If someone can explain to me how Microsoft and VHS won out over Apple and Betamax it would be appreciated. I was on the losing end both times.

2010-11-17

World Wide Magazine

Before Borat, I reckon, were these guys. World Wide Magazine ran between 1986-2001. Not much more is known about them except its founder Peter Parisi has passed away and this Facebook page. Anyone know more?

Shit, it's better journalism than we see today. Sounds like they were pioneers.


World Wide Magazine - The Mad Russian at the Lesbian Kiss In from Vladimir Noskov on Vimeo.




I don't know why but I couldn't stop giggling through all the videos I watched.

Sadly, Quebec isn't alone with the BS. Doesn't he know it's all about "progress?"



Anyway. Go check other videos out. There's one with the Black Jesus.

It's A Mad World



Pretty much how I see big companies and government functions behind the scenes.

More Quebec Scandals

More scandals. Looks like Maclean's opened Pandora's Box. And looky here, a brown bag and an envelope!

What is it with Canada and these damn envelopes? You can't go without one article that talks about mysterious envelopes with cash being exchanged.

In the 'Duh' segment of this blog, I present to you Laval corruption. Mind you, Laval voters have only themselves to blame. I don't know if it's apathy, cynicism or idiocy or all of the above to explain how we fail to vote a single, solitary opposition to at least keep an eye on him.

***

I worked the elections in the early 1990s and wrote a thesis paper for a course given by ex-Alliance Quebec president Robert Keaton. I saw up close and personal how corrupt Laval was. Just because you don't see a murder doesn't mean it doesn't happen. So it is with corruption. How does one "see" it?

It doesn't take a fricken genius. My sister ran for city council for the Pro Lavallois party and I went door to door with her campaigning. Let me tell you, the ones political engaged were outraged with Vaillancourt and felt a strongman was needed to challenge him. They weren't fooled by the corruption.

It also helps I "knew" people. I heard "tings."

It just wasn't pretty. And it solidified for me that I had no future in politics.

***

Yeah, sure. Bombardier got the metro contract through a fair bid. Sure.

And Snow White gang banged the Seven Dwarfs in the original version.

No Exceptions

Remember the story about how the bank messed up my file? Cost me 60 days. No kidding. I hope one day next year I can sit back and dring my Limonata in splendid peace and pretend it never happened. Until then, stress city.

If no consequences came of that action no biggie, right? Pick and choose your battles, don't sweat the small stuff, think about the big prize, you have your health, people are worse off, blah, blah, bling and other blathering sayings we repeat to ourselves lest we lose our minds.

Was I angry. You bet your Angie's ass I was. I did blow off some steam but it was kept mainly under control because of one reason: I didn't want to hear two dreaded words - Calm down.

That's the worst thing you can tell someone when they're angry. Specifically, when they have the right to be angry.

It only feeds the anger. Kinda like how a third man jumps in a fight that's not theirs. I learned that lesson early in life. It was at a soccer game. And two guys, I reckon, thought it was a hockey match and began pounding each other. Oh, the blood. A third guy, jumped in to help out his friend to try and break it up. Guess what? We had to restrain the pugilist from beating his friend up. "Never get involved. EVER!" he screamed with his emotions clearly still in the heat of battle. That irked him more than the guy he laid out on the pitch.

Let 'em go and let 'em blow off steam.

Intervening is senseless.

But being told to calm down isn't my beef. Two other words make me wonder: No exceptions.

As in, we can't do that, no exceptions. Which is usually followed by "if we do it for you then we have to do it for everyone." Which, in turn, is met with a nod agreeing with it.

This is a tricky one. Lines have to be drawn. I get that. However, where I begin to wane is when it's followed even when it makes no sense; for its own sake. Even when clearly if an exception is made for you, there's no way for it to spread. "I'll make this exception only this one time!" probably happens often.

For example, to get back to my bank story. One of the payments I wanted to claim on my government loan was past the 180 days cut off. No problem. However, the bank (who remain embarrassed as they should) tried to explain to the government the reason I was past the cut off was because of their mistake. The government, because you know, bureaucrats are not permitted to see shades of grey when they don't feel like it, said sorry, 'no exceptions' can be made.

We tried. I knew they were going to turn it down. I just have to chalk it up to one of those annoying things life throws at you.

I go to two Italian restaurants. One charges no tax, the other does. When I asked the latter if we can save on the taxes he told me he doesn't do it because it gets messy after a while and he wasn't interested in it. The former feels the government are a bunch of corrupt, blood sucking rats raping the productive and does it as a form of fuck you protest.

Point is, people choose where they want their exceptions. They understand the world of exceptions and apply it as they see fit.

Here's the thing for me. I live a different kind of philosophical existence. I'm not rigid (I used to be and realized it was idiotic), I learned setting hard policies with no room for flexibility solve nothing, and I realized going around pretending you can live in a world as if it's predictable and organized can make you a little coo-coo since life, well, is a mess.

I learned to become agile and adaptable making decisions on the fly. Making yes or no judgments as they come. I have no preconceived "laws of nature" or laws of anything. Sure, it may seem incoherent or even contradictory but every decision comes with its own unique blend of circumstances and considerations.

In other words, there ARE exceptions in life.

I'm sure the person charged with the decision somewhere in the halls of Bureaucracialand agreed it was "unique" and was an "exceptional" case but hey, rules are rules. Policies are policies.

Hence, I'm the triangle and they're the square.

Unless of course....ah, forget it.

I'd better calm down.

2010-11-16

Tripped Up

We still haven't figured "what ought to be" can't be fused with "what is."

We're obsessed with the "mean." The "average." The problem is who determines what's an "average" for a society? And what happens to those who don't fit into that mould?

Oh, I know. You get 'splendid mediocrity.'

***

When I was in school the 'Bell Curve' was the fad. It still may be I don't know. Didn't know much about the curve except that it seemed to be pretty good at nailing smart kids and bumping up idiots - like me.

Here's the thing. I knew I wasn't a good student. By being honest with myself, it allowed me to call things as it was. I didn't delude myself that because I passed a course thanks to a curve it meant I deserved it. Only a delusional moron would think so. Alas, this is exactly how we've conditioned kids. We don't punish them for cheating, we don't challenge them and if we do we fear hurting their feelings or worse the bull shit of self-esteem, we don't teach kids the realities of life; just the ought to be.

***

Which brings me to another character flaw of mine. Whenever people agree with me, I immediately become suspicious and think to myself I must be wrong or must have missed something. I don't believe I know a whole lot.

***

Which brings me to this wonderful video I viewed on SE:



Oof. Lots to digest. I'll only offer a couple of quick personal superficial thoughts:

-It should be abundantly clear that 'one size fits all' is a myth. Seeking a "balance" is probably a game that does more damage than good. "Moderation" in the Aristotle sense, is intensely personal. It can't be applied on a social-macro level. It's just illogical to think it can be achieved. In order to do so, unless you take total control of a society, it means you can predict man's thoughts and actions.

We can't.

-My brain works best late a night. This posed used problems for me growing up. By the time I was sufficiently calm enough to study or entertain deep thoughts for school, it was time to go to bed because I had to get up "early." I completely shut down. It was game over for me before it even began. I was a "great" student until Grade 4, then followed a slow slide into something, something.

I still do my best thinking, reading and writing after midnight.

-I was terrrified of big classes. I still hate crowds. I mean, loathe them. I struggle in tight circles with several people compacted making small talk not unlike those seen at house parties. I move around like a crackhead in search of his next score.

After one hour I want to stab myself in the eye with a spoon. I then begin to nag my social-butterfly better half to the point of exhaustion to leave. After a couple of hours I see no point in staying at a stagnant party. No, "there's cake" or "she's gonna open the presents soon" isn't sufficient for me to shut up and stay.

So, yeah. Hate house parties. My point is school was tortuous because it was designed for a certain mindset and type of person. I wasn't that person. Hence, struggles.

It wasn't until I hit a prep private college did I realize, thanks to several professors in English and History, I could write like a fucking demon.

*Bites head off hamster*

I could write a mean review of 'La Morte D'Arthur.'

Occam's Razor Explained

Misnomer

Political Science.

Politics is no more a science than economics or sports.

No body has anything "down to a science."

If they do, they're lying.

Signed Up

Don't do this, don't do that.
Man, what happened to liberals?  They've changed, man. Now it's all do this, and do that like the man says.

Five Man Electrical Band are what some may call a 'One hit wonder' band.

Whatever.

They're from Ottawa. Ironically.

Ever been driving on the road and there are so many signs one after another you can't read them all unless you slow down and take notes?

Visions Of Suzi Quatro

Suzi Quatro is one of those influential musicians - which female rockers were wearing leather in the 70s eh? - who found more success in Europe than North America. It's one of those things.



Is that, is that Leather Tuscadero? Yes it is. 

Classical Metal And Metal Philosophy

When I was in school, heavy metal was hitting its apex in the 1980s. It was a golden age for bands like Metallica, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Iron Maiden (and before them Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin etc.) - to name but a precious few. While I never really latched on to it, a couple of my buddies were metalheads.

Iron Maiden had the wickedest cover albums. I remember when my friend bought Number of the Beast and we took it home to listen to it. Intense stuff.

The prevailing perception among its detractors - in their infinite linear thinking - was that they were all satanic, nut cases hastening the fall of civilization corroding our youth. The harsh, relentless sound of the music was also extremely hard to connect to. Slayer wasn't exactly something comforting to a parent's ear. It was linking the "sound" to the "content" if you will.

Yet, as a music fan knows, the lyrics of many of these bands are exactly the opposite (in some cases anyway) of what we believe them to be. There's a subtle sophistication to the music. Many are thoughtful, lyrical and poetic, and frequently question man's condition. They sometimes satirized and used the devil to make their point. Few were satanic for its own sake. They were too clever for that. Another thing about metal bands, as is the case with Bruce Dickinson and members of Metallica, is some actually are classically trained musicians and singers. One band, Apocalyptica from Finland, has classicaly trained celloists.

Indeed, there's even a sub-genre of metal called 'Symphonic Metal' where bands (like Therion for example) fuse metal with orchestras.

Here's an awesome post where a classical musician discusses heavy metal singers including Dickinson and Ronnie James Dio.

If you love music go and read it.

Which made me think about libertarianism and anarchy and all other "fringe' philosophies. Although I'm convinced libertarianism is a state of mind and can never really ever be a viable political option. If it were, it means it would have to work within the confines of the existing system which is simply hostile to libertarian thought.

If you listen to people on the outside looking in try and describe these foreign outlooks, it's not unlike what we've heard people say about heavy metal. They fail to capture or consider the magnificent layered subtle aspect to it.

It's a bit of a "if it's not on the ballot or on TV or on the radio" disease that drives people's opinions. Liberalism (ugh) and conservatism (yeesh) are not the only options. The narrative make you believe that but they aren't.

I think we fail to give full thought to other philosophies outside our own.

Rip Them Nuts

Why doesn't Charles Bronson have a site dedicated to him?

2010-11-15

Unintended Consequences

Skeptical Eye made a comment about my "libertarian" impulses. I don't deny it. I do.

The one issue that's come to intrigue me in the last year or so is the "unintended consequences" of excessive government regulation. It seems as evidence mounts of state over reach, we still cling on to 20th century modes of thinking when it comes to government as a tool to gauge, protect and enhance a "just society."

I listen to people like President Obama and he simply doesn't resonate. It's the same old, same old repackaged. He says "we can't go back to the failed policies of the previous administration," I say enough with the stale ideology of a time long since past.

He's not about hope or change but maintaining an old narrative that has no meaning anymore. We do it just because...

I want to see power shifted back into the hands of the people. I've grown tired off watching criminal politicians dictate to us what we can do, think, eat or say.

***

For fun I punched in 'government agencies Canada' in Google.

Now you tell me, do we really, really, really need all of them?

The way I see it, you're not doing your job as a citizen to at least question it. Of course, each department will have its defenders. Some kid will passionately defend 'Western Economic Diversification' or some other agency on some grounds somewhere on Facebook.

In itself, I suppose, there exists a form of anarchy within the state for I simply don't believe the state can function with any cohesiveness with so many departments and agenices.

Here's a thought. Do as I do. Ignore politicians. Don't read the newspapers or watch the news. If you do, keep it to a minmal. I only check headlines but I rarely read articles written by journalists.

The more distance you put between yourself and the "machine" the more clear minded you become.

The Shaft

It's one thing to have many insane regulations on the books, it's quite another thing of outrage to apply them to people who pose absolutely no threat to the rest of us.

When you think of it, the state can fall to its knees adhering to laws citizens know are not right. How can the police, the prosecutors and judge feel all this is "justice?"

They can't. I don't care what the law stipulates because we know an obscene amount of legislation come from the pens of ignorant, bought politicians.

Poor guy. Seven years.

I just shake my head whenever I read someone defending this insanity. It's one thing to be anti-gun and even irrationally so, but to accept this as a "victory?"

***

It truly saddens and frightens me how many people are languishing in jail for petty crimes.

May all the people who put them there face a harsher form of justice one day.

***

The other thing that freaks me out is it sounds as though the judge kept evidence away from the jury. Yet, ironically, Jersey is a place where the mob has great power. They can't arrest them but go after the small-timers.

Sweet.

Cupcakes Are Dangerous

Rules are rules. Wanna bake cupcakes? Fork over the cash for a permit.

All a racket.
I don't believe for one second permits and licenses are there to "protect" us. They're there to serve as a cash cow for the coffers of the organizations and government agencies that create them.

2010-11-14

Personal Ruminations

Stock forecasts: We tag the stock a 'Buy' with a one-year forecast of $48. Hold on. We didn't see that coming. We're revising our estimates to $23 but maintain our 'Buy' rating. Oh, my. Didn't see that either. Who knew? back up to $41. However, it's a 'Hold.' What's that? Sell, sell, sell! Now! Too late. Oh well.

The same can be said about oil prices. Analysts had it going down - as in away from current levels - towards the $20-25 range. Then the war came and it shot up at which point, experts revised their forecasts. They chase the wind. "What we really meant..."

Moral of the story? Ignore forecasts and predictions outright.

NOBODY knows. Not even trends and patterns can help you out. More often than not, we fail. Besides, what's the fascination with needing to predict things? Prognostication is a miserably humbling experience - unless your shameless and always have an excuse as to why you miss your predictions.

***

I used to be asked this in interviews all the time: Where do you see yourself five years from now?

"In your pants, honey. Although I think all I need is 20 minutes..."

It was (and remains) such a stupid question it had become a standard question asked by the interviewer.

"Oh, he sees himself as President of the company in five years. I like that. Either he's a dreamer, is crooked or is after my job. Let's hire him!"

***

I look at projections with enormous skepticism. As I described with my bank loan fiasco, I had to project my business figures two years out. Very blah, blah.

Projections are going to tell me what I input. Nothing more or less. If my entire assumptions are off - and it can happen because life stinks and is unpredictable - then the projections I made will make me go bankrupt. Of course, society ridiculously looks disapporvingly upon bankruptcy. "You were what?"

I love all these people scrutinizing projections as if they know anything. "We just want to make sure you're not over looking anything." Which means "I'm paid to nit-pick over things I know little about."

Of course, we're missing something! And that's ok!

Do your due diligence. Don't be a fool. But all you need to do is basic math. Be honest and realistic. You don't need a degree in finance or have an MBA (the system wants you to believe you need that) to determine if your business plan is a winner or loser.

I don't care who you are, unforeseens are part of the game and there's no way to account for that. None.

Don't buy the "we're just managing your risk" angle either. A component of risk no one talks about is luck making it hard to control and manage.

***

Which is why, a point I try to hammer out here on this blog, I scoff and laugh at anyone trying to "plan" our existence. Bureaucrats or CEO's - both are fools for thinking, based on whatever models they adhere to, they can regulate anything.

Which is why, Hayek to me is severely under appreciated.

Arrogance makes us believe a piece of legislation can put humanity on a leash.

Life is BOTTOM-UP; not TOP-DOWN.

What's so hard to understand?

***

Which is why (I like that phrase) I don't use Excel or any of these software that are a "must" today in the business world. Whenever I used it I couldn't help but think to myself "well, here's a fine tool designed to trick me." But wooowwww! It's so cooool!

"B-but, the excel sheet said..."

All I need is a damn phone and a copy book just to jot down the ESSENTIALS. Everything beyond that is just cosmetic trying to justify an existence, outlook or job.

I'm serious. I rarely had a bag or knapsack in University. All I did was carry around a beat up red binder containing the contents of all my classes. I paraphrased lectures since for the most part professors didn't say much. I usually looked for a comment outside the realm of academia - e.g. personal opinion - and wrote that down and would use it as a focal point for a paper.

People would copy word for word a lecture like possessed machines. 15 pages of nothing but wasted ink or lead. Some would bring in tape recorders. Might as well write in a test, "And the professor then said this is so. I believe him because he go that idea from another professor and I'm faithfully continuing this tradition."

It's how any great institution works. It worked. Notice how we say, "he's no dummy. He went to Harvard!"

I agree. He's not dumb. Just not necessarily street smart.

I always wondered if they'd actually go home and listen to their recorders. Not me, man. If I retained it or wrote it then it was good enough for me. I'd stew on that. If it was good enough so be it. If not...no Masters for me. Boo-hoo.

Maybe I was too aloof. I don't know. God bless real students.

Seinfeld was on. And then I had a date. And then I'd go play hockey. And then I'd study. And then I'd get a B or A.

Whatever those letters meant.

2010-11-13

Psst. I Wanna Tell Ya A Secret

When I was in the investment world, I didn't understand, maybe, let's say 50% of the crap and jargon I heard and read. Funny thing is, I betcha it was the case with most of my colleagues. The only thing they mastered was the art of their pitch. They managed to bury themselves in the set narrative and believe that somehow nonfarm payrolls had a significant impact on how they chose stocks.

All an illusion of expertise.

Every some morning we had to watch the figures come in, GDP, CPI, GTI, CIA, whatever. Sure, it was information but it was, on average, useless. You can write down in your copybook all these stats and still it told you nothing.

"Hey Commentator, how 'bout those durable good numbers, eh?"
"Yeah."
"What you gonna do?"
"Wait for the softer numbers. You?"
"Dunno. I already churned my accounts."

The other thing I discovered early was the uselessness of listening to analysts. Smart people so well-versed in their jargon. I never knew what the heck everyone was talking about. I got the sad sensation that maybe either I didn't belong or I was just the only one to admit to myself we're all tricking ourselves.

Those analysts and all their rational dissection of stocks with quirky terms like EBITDA (earnings before taxes, depreciation and amortization. Each time they'd say EBITDA it was akin to someone scratching their nails on a chalk board. I came up with EBITDATVD - pronounced EbitDavid or earnings before taxes, depreciation, amortization, tea and verbal diarrhea) made me laugh. Problem is no one was laughing with me.

So EBITDA for the quarter...
*Commentator breaks out in laughter. Pounds fist into mahogany table*

That's another thing. Quaterly figures. We lived and died by quarterly earnings. We'd judge a business every three months. Dunno 'bout you but that made about as much sense as Paul Krugman.

Speaking of which, he's a nice addition to this discussion. How a man can write things that basically add up to "you need to spend more to make more because that's how it's done" remotely be recognized as an expert? Oh, he has that Noble Prize. So-ree. Mr. Shmart. He must "know" something we don't.

They don't.

Just like the CEO's who are made out to be "visionaries."

Prizes and awards (not all admittedly but I'm guessing a majority here) are just confirmations of our superficial narrative.

Almost always we'd follow the analyst's advice and the stock would....drop.

Bummer.

In the boardroom it was even more hilarious. What you realized in the boardroom was that these guys weren't experts. They were salesmen. The firm tried to bring some sort of professional chic to it but these people were one stepped removed from selling vinegared turnips.

Only difference is they made a lot of money for their illusions. Most successful brokers were very, very lucky. Of course, they'd tell you stories of how "they pounded the pavement eating just the top of the muffins in Tim Hortons back alleys" to get where they were at. Indeed, that was the case for some but for most either they got a friendly push, knew enough people and were plugged or were at the right place and the right time as was the case with some guy in my office when his partner croaked and left him with the entire lucrative book. I would probe my own partner and discover he too was more thanks to the economic climate than anything he amassed so many clients. At least he admitted it - "It was easier back then. I was lucky" -  even though he'd conveniently forget I knew this when he'd pull his own "Tim Hortons" bull.

Isn't that usually the case?

They Don't Know

Politicians don't know anything.

I'm serious.

Do people seriously, truly, honestly, logically believe, say, President Obama understands economics, the military, climatology, and education in any deep way? Heck, people in those specialities barely know anything. He gets informed and then makes a decision not based on any real solid understanding of each discipline but by his personal ideological outlook on life. When you vote, you vote for the outlook; not the knowledge.

It was well known the guy was a total liberal. What did people, especially Independents, expect? That he was somehow going to magically become "pragmatic?" We're so delusional.

We're fools to believe a politician actually has, for instance, any real impact on "creating jobs." He doesn't know and if he implements a policy and it works, it's not because he knew, it means he got lucky. What it further means is people then base models on this outcomes to "empirically" prove this is how things should be done (from now on); and if it doesn't (as it usually does) then you just refute, tell people to hang on, say things like we weren't aggressive enough, or blame something else.

In Quebec, I like to pick on education as proof we know nothing. Their intervention has led to the slow degredation of the quality of our schools. Does a minister, who ran a grocery strore, or is a lawyer, really know the needs of kids and teachers? Do they understand the impact of their decisions? Not unless they sit their asses down in a classroom for an entire year they don't. If the state wants to maintain its hard grip on education the least they can do is have a teacher as a minister every time.

On a side note, education is indeed a two-way street. Parents have abandoned their responsibilities thinking the state can "handle" things. The state, for its part, got too involved to the point of playing the part of an enabler.

Long story short:

It's all bull shit.

Or as Bugs Bunny says, it's a miragee.

***

A few years ago I wrote a post arguing that one branch of experts I considered to possess a deep knowledge of life (history, politics, culture, strategy etc.), weren't CEO's or politicians or any other person you care to add but military generals. If you ever have a conversation with one you'd know what I mean. It's almost as if they're born to cut through all the bull shit and get to the heart of matter.

Some of the most interesting thoughts and interpretations about Arab culture since 2003 come from military minds. Not journalists or politicians.

Hydro Dividend Cheque

Heard a Quebec minister say that "Hydro-Quebec" belongs to Quebecers.

If I own it, where's my dividend cheque?

Don't these people know the miracle of dividend payments and its role in creating wealth?

Infatuation

Infatuation: A woman you stalk and plan to marry and then put a wig on.

2010-11-12

A Familiar Friend

Things I remember after a long, long night in a catatonic state.

Teach Basic Self-Defense Training

Last week the gals spent the weekend with the matriarch while I hung back to protect the castle. As I sat and read and watched a little of the Lord of the Rings, I began to think harder about something that's been swirling around my squirly brain for a while now.

I wondered, if someone entered my house would I have the proper self-defense skills to protect myself? That is disarm and wrestle him to the ground? The answer is no; half a year of kick boxing not withstanding. I mean, I have two reconstructed ACL's who am I wrestling? Now, give me a bat it's a different story.

I used to know how to handle a rifle and have been a thinking for a while I want to join a gun club.

How militia-like of me! But it's nothing of the sort. We've been taught to believe those hobbies are not necessary. I betcha a few of you are squinting and squirming as you read this.

I realized then and there, on my couch while eating an Eskimo pie, the governments of the West in all their liberal fantasies have turned us into a civilization of weenies. The thinking was, and it was drilled into us in school, violence begets violence. So if an intruder came into your house the first thing you're told to do is dial 911...and wait. Offer tea while your at it.

We've been conditioned to accept that only the police force can ensure your security. If you use excess force in your own home, be ready to be prosecuted for injuring or killing someone.

There I sat suddenly feeling weak. I was no Aragorn.

I'm not saying we should all become Bat-Man. What I'm suggesting is society should equip its citizens with basic self-defense training and survival skills that have been a part of our human heritage for thousands of years. We've all but eliminated this from our consciousness. Heck, schools have been cutting back on gym and extra-curricular activities.

Teach people, say, Judo. Teach them how to properly use a firearm. Teach them the philosophy of criminal justice. Basically ratchet up what the Boy Scouts do and then some.

Why emasculate citizens; empower them. Watch how fast the cue is sent to criminals. Home invasions would be a thing of the past.

Right now, criminals know the social and legal cues are in their favor. Tip it back a little in our favor.

Our Military And Intelligence Communities Can Use Some Bulking Up

If the Americans feel they're spending too much on the military budget, it can be argued (and it is) Canadians are under spending.

1% of our budget goes into our military. I wonder if part of the reason is tied into the psychological fact we live next to the United States. Canada's military standing continues to erode, while the U.S. maintains its top billing.

The Americans are at 4%. In percentage terms it's not a whole lot. In gross total dollars it's staggering because of the size of its economy. Still. Is 4% that much?

***

Having a small army is tough given our activity on the world stage. Canada really doesn't push itself on the "hard" power angle. What happens? We get spanked at the UN as we did when we lost a seat on the security council to Portugal of all countries.

We want to exert sovereignty in the Arctic but don't really have the muscle and resources to do it. Rather than purchase ships, planes and helicopters, why not just build them ourselves? Don't we have the talent and technology?

I mentioned Potash in an earlier post. Natural resources are the stuff of gold these days and if you believe some authors and commentators, wars for these resources, of which we have in abundance, will increase. Is Canada prepared for that?

I heard on the radio the other day how CSIS -  barely 30 years old - which unlike its European and American counterparts like the CIA, don't carry weapons and have to work with local police forces (ie OPP, SQ and RCMP) to arrest criminals. CSIS is more like the FBI but even then, its powers seem pretty narrow.

When will we expand its powers given the reality of homegrown and international terrorist cells active within our borders? Why do we rely on Interpol and the CIA for intelligence relating to our national security? Should we not field our own spies to focus on this?

I know Canada is considered young, if not immature, but at some point if we want to hang out with the big boys we have to act like it.

Offer For Potash Corp. Rejected

Everything is sellable. Even Potash Corp. You know the saying here in Canuckistan, "If Wayne Gretzky can be traded..." The company is not headquartered in Chicago but in Saskatchewan as the link seems to suggest. In today's globalized markets, everyone owns a piece of you.

They may have warded off an Australian company after Ottawa rejected its offer but it's only a matter of time before someone else offers the "right" deal. Economic nationalism has its limits. The irony of course, is that Potash shares are majority held by foreigners (as pointed out in the House of Commons) - mostly Americans. Although I'm not sure how it came to be Ottawa could reject an offer made by two private companies.

As a proud Canuckistanian, we also have to acknowledge Canada is a trading nation and we do our own buying of natural resources in other countries like Chile and continents like Africa. Potash imports phosphate from Morroco - which itself is controversial.

In a more "Age of Aquarius" context, natural resources belong to the human race not to some nation who happened to be lucky to be sitting on pots of gold so to speak. I mean, what Brazil is doing to the Amazon - the world's oxygen system - is a crime against humanity, no?

Just saying.

Our New Health Obsession

Per capita mortality obesity rates.

In absolute terms.

So much for the perception of Italians being "fat." 

Alleged myths about obesity.

On the other hand.

I'm pretty sure more government isn't the answer. The last thing people need is another "war" on something. It presuppoes obesity is mostly link to diet. We know that just isn't so. $4.5 billion later. Nothing to show for your cash spent. Meanwhile, since money is scarce, it gets shifted away from areas where government could have had a far more direct impact - like palliative care for cancer patients.

Notice all the organizations involved. Think about all the minds chiming in to fight the problem. It doesn't matter it really isn't jelled into a cohesive unit. The sheer number of people in agreement is enough. It has determined, in its version of wisdom, it's a worthy cause justifying the action. All those people and their "solution" won't amount to a hill of beans. Pick whatever kind of beans. I don't care. 

In North America, we haven't solved the war on drugs, the war on poverty; a war on anything. Yet, we continue to delude ourselves.

We have to learn to examine and take serious the unintended consequences of decisions; what we don't see doesn't mean doesn't exist and what we see doesn't mean it needs intervention.