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Ennui or Interest?

August 4, 2014

There’s been a fair amount of whispers these days that the Republicans’ best chance for 2016 might be Mitt Romney.  As Hot Air notes, the Washington Post brought that to light this weekend.

“Democrats don’t want to be associated with Barack Obama right now, but Republicans are dying to be associated with Mitt Romney,” said Spencer Zwick, a longtime Romney confidant who chaired his national finance council. He added: “Candidates, campaigns and donors in competitive races are calling saying, ‘Can we get Mitt here?’ They say, ‘We’ve looked at the polling, and Mitt Romney moves the needle for us.’ That’s somewhat unexpected for someone who lost the election.”

For a party without a consensus leader — nor a popular elder statesman like Democratic former president Bill Clinton — Romney is stepping forward in both red and blue states to fill that role for the GOP.

This isn’t exactly saying the same thing as saying he’s going to run, but I think the weary nation turns lonely eyes to him in some fashion.  That’s fine at one level.  Gov. Romney is a sharp man with solid ideas that play well will a large constituency, and that means a lot when considering him for a future presidency.  He’s also a savvy businessman, who rarely makes the same mistakes twice, and a Romney campaign would develop a significantly better ground operation the second time around.

But with that said, I never got the impression — especially in the post-campaign retrospectives — that Gov. Romney was particularly interested in the actual presidency, other than, “Well, if nobody else wants it that bad…” sort of way.  The press seemed to think that the base was not very enthusiastic about his candidacy, when it seems to me that it was more the other way around.  He wasn’t excited enough to excite the base.  Contrast that with John McCain four years before, who definitely wanted the presidency, but was not a favorite of the base.

I’m not a Republican, and I usually spend more time bemoaning the run-up to an election than I do watching it, but I’d expect that the next Republican candidate will have to be someone who obviously wants the position and can motivate a strong base to pull the reluctant partisans along for the ride.  Unless he’s changed in the last two years, I’m not sure that Mitt Romney fills that.  I guess we’ll see how he does winning hard votes in the midterms and what the base thinks.

People Don’t Like Each Other. Yawn.

July 31, 2014

Noah Rothman and Hot Air has a post today detailing the media reaction to new Lois Lerner e-mails that have come out.  These e-mails provide her pretty clear opinion of conservative causes.  Perhaps the media is shocked that she doesn’t appear to like them, but I’m not all that surprised.  It’s not that I know Ms. Lerner… it’s more that I know people.  We’re a strange breed, we have opinions, and some of them are pretty strong.

I have to admit, one of the things I’ve been noticing in politics lately is an assumption that you must hate what you don’t agree with.  There’s a lot of stuff I disagree with, and I’ll say that I don’t hate it… but then again I’m a strange bird.  I see friends on both sides of the spectrum that really don’t like certain topics or the opinions people have on them.  We’re fallen, and that creates extremes like this.

So… I’m not shocked when I see a person who takes an extreme position against other people who disagree with (in this case) her.

What I do object to, though, is that person participating in the use of one of the larger, and certainly one of the most feared, government agencies against what she doesn’t like.  In technology, I have to work against fierce competition.  Anyone who’s worked with me long enough knows that I’m pretty militant when it comes to my opinions on some of my competitors.  But I recognize their value and I stay above-board in my efforts to win business.  I see many others doing the same thing, and I’m fine with rivalry and competition.

I’m not fine with unfair business practices, and I’m certainly not fine with using an unfair leverage against a weaker opponent.  The fact that this is not the subject of media examination of Ms. Lerner and the IRS is getting to the point of disturbing.


For Once, I Said It Simpler

July 29, 2014

A caught this opinion by Adam Hachschild on WWI… you’ll see a lot of articles on this for the next couple years.  He does a great job of explaining why the Great War was so deadly.  But I have to admit, I say it a lot more simply when I teach my strategy classes.

The reason that WWI was so deadly is that lethal technology advanced significantly, while battle strategy did not.

This could be the first time in a long time that I said something more simply than someone else.

You could argue that the Civil War in the US was similar, but not really.  There were huge advances in that time: the Minie ball, the cartridge, the cannon… but they were still nascent.  It was only when battle tactics of the mid 1800’s met the trench, barbed wire, and the machine gun that things got really catastrophic.

But Will It Involve Explosions?

July 29, 2014

It’s been a while since I’ve read any Phillip K. Dick.  I do remember The Man in the High Castle from my late teens, but I’m somewhat fuzzy on the story, other than the main plot and a couple details that seemed odd to me as a teen reader.  But from a general perspective, his books are easy to make into movies because of the vividness of the stories.

Now with that said, if they decide to make a story about Nazis running the US after they conquered it during the war, would it just look like a fantasy about what happens with a heavily right-leaning government in place?  And how much would that miss the point of the actual story?

Let’s put aside that Fascism as an ideology leans left, since it abandons corporations for government control.  Go read Jonah Goldberg for that.  But beyond that, how many people actually study history enough to understand the effect that Fascism had on the societies in which it thrived?  This would turn more into a story about how shadowy characters rule the world in a rigid police state.  While that’s true to the book, the subtleties of the resistance and the spies in it would probably become more of an anti-hero plot, if it didn’t get changed at all.

My point is not that you can’t make the movie.  It’s more that making the movie in today’s society would probably just miss the point of the book from what I remember of it.  That’s not a bad thing (says the English Minor), since stories take a life of their own based on the perspective of the times they’re made.  If you want a great example of that, go read John Carpenter’s Who Goes There? and then watch both versions of The Thing.  So I’d be interested in what the movie would look like.

It just wouldn’t look much like the story, I’d bet.

Politics? Not really.

July 28, 2014

So I see that Sarah Palin is launching her own TV channel.

Controversial conservative Sarah Palin has launched her own subscription-based online network in order to ‘stay in contact’ with her supporters.

And it only costs them $99.95 a year.

The Sarah Palin Channel, which went live on Sunday, bills itself as a ‘direct connection’ for the former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential candidate with her supporters, bypassing ‘media filters’.

Color me not shocked.  Ms. Palin has proved to be very savvy about her prospects in media since her initial rise to fame, and this is probably a near-term winner.  Even for a hundred bucks, there will be plenty of people on both sides of the spectrum who will log on to either try to trap her or to enthusiastically nod with her.  What’s going to be really funny is watching the left rail all about what she said on the channel, meaning someone is funding her ability to produce the content that they hate.

Allahpundit at Hot Air comments:

…Palin’s channel and TheBlaze are high-motivation purchases: They’re pitched not at the general public but at core fans of two political personalities with “an intense following.” Why wouldn’t people like that pay more than the average Joe pays for Netflix? Some Palin and Beck fans would hand over quite a bit more than 10 bucks a month, I’m sure.

For plenty of people, this is entertainment that sticks.  They get to hear something that either enthuses or infuriates them, and it’s all the price of a couple of lattes a month.  Me?  I have no interest, but then again I’m cheap.  And I can get rhetoric from either side for free.  But I’m not the target, obviously.

There are plenty of people who have looked at the Rush Limbaugh media enterprise and tried to find ways to update that and monetize the result.  I would expect that you’ll see more of this over time, mostly because people value themselves pretty highly once they realize how much disposable income is really out there in the world.  This is a reflection of the Internet boom from the turn of the century where everyone was trying to monetize the weirdest stuff… this one just has better target demographics.

And I’m all for it.  Anyone who hangs here enough knows that I’m an unabashed capitalist.  As much as people sneer at this type of thing, it’s getting a ton of press, and there will be people who will join just to see.  It’s up to Ms. Palin and team to have the creativity to keep them interested, and that’s business.  Go for it, ma’am.  I wish you luck.

What would be more interesting is to see what happens when the Left side of the world tries to do this.  Liberal talk radio has not had the momentum that the Right side does, and I’ll be interested to see if they can generate new media for profit, or if it has to be given away via things like Vox.  Stay tuned, it’s a brave new world.

Violence is Less Violent…

July 21, 2014

Steve Chapman at Real Clear Politics has a post today about the violence in Chicago.  It’s been getting a lot of play these days, since there have been several publicized shootings in the last couple months.  But does the reality actually prove the rhetoric?

Right now, the city is getting national as well as local attention for outbreaks of bloodshed, which reinforce its reputation as the murder capital of America. In terms of total homicides, it may be. But that figure fails to account for population.

In the overall rate of violent crime, Chicago ranks 19th — slightly worse than Minneapolis and better than Kansas City, Indianapolis and Nashville. It has half as much violent crime, per capita, as Detroit or Oakland, Calif.

Even when it comes to homicide, Chicago is enjoying, relatively speaking, a golden age. In 1992, it had 943 murders — 2.6 per day. Last year, it had 415 — 1.1 per day. Two decades ago, such progress was the stuff of dreams.

In general, overall violence rates have been falling in the US in the last decade.  Even the worst neighborhoods are getting less dangerous.  So why is there so much news on violence, especially violence  related to guns?  Well, maybe the answer is that the media sees gun violence of any kinds as news that attracts attention, so it’s being reported more.  Frankly, I’ve always been surprised at how little inner-city violence gets reported, and maybe paying more attention to it will make people more aware of it so it can be lessened even more.

What seems to be more  prevalent, though, is how this violence correlates with other things that are going on, and that’s where I wander off the talking points.  Those on the right would probably point out that Chicago is still highly violent, and that’s only because of its strict gun policies.  But the data show that violence is decreasing.  Ah, so that must be because overall gun ownership is going up in the nation… Um, probably not.  Meanwhile, those on the left would say that increased violence in Chicago means we need to further restrict guns… except violence is actually going down…

And herein lies the difference between correlation and causation.  As we look at all the data around gun ownership, violence, and the like, we often take data and tie it together to prove a point, not realizing that it doesn’t come close to proving a point.  Just because two or three vectors are going in a direction one likes does not mean that one causes the other two, or that they’re even totally related.  This is the problem with data science.  You can state facts and then try to find the links, but not all facts are inextricably linked.  I’m sure that there’s some type of link between gun ownership, violence per capita, and the like, but stating one doesn’t mean you’ve stated the right one.

So I’m still leery of a bunch of facts followed by a, “so there!” statement.  Hopefully we continue to see a decrease in violence and (at least for me) an increase in gun ownership, but don’t assume one causes the other.

When’s Congress Going to Pay a Fine?

July 14, 2014

I see that Citigroup just settled with the DOJ on its role in the sub-prime mortgage debacle from the middle of the last decade.

In the deal announced Monday, Citigroup will make a $4 billion civil monetary payment to the Justice Department, and another $500 million in compensatory payments to state attorney’s general and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The bank will provide $2.5 billion in consumer relief, which will include financing for construction and preservation of affordable housing, as well as principal reduction and forbearance for residential loans.

‘The comprehensive settlement announced today with the U.S. Department of Justice, state attorneys general, and the FDIC resolves all pending civil investigations related to our legacy RMBS and CDO underwriting, structuring and issuance activities,’ said CEO Michael Corbat. ‘We also have now resolved substantially all of our legacy RMBS and CDO litigation.’

JP Morgan has previously settled for $13B, and Bank of America is still under pressure.  All of this stems from the companies being pushed to provide more loans for homeowners.  So they began to offer the sub-prime mortgages to those who couldn’t qualify for a regular mortgage.  The resulting dip in home prices caused a collapse in the market that is still ringing through the markets.

Wait, they were pushed?  Yep.  Most people forget that pressure was put on the banks by Congress, who passed legislation to make home buying easier.  The administration then pushed the banks again via Fannie and Freddie (which essentially totally collapsed in the down-swing).  So, when is Congress going to pay a fine?  When does the administration admit culpability for sucking down billions of our tax dollars in this mess?

Oh, right, they won’t.  I hope we feel better as taxpayers knowing that.


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