The State of The Union

I wonder if the annual speech would be any better--more inspirational, or whatever--if it was titled The State of America. Do you grasp the distinction? Anyway, I don't know if I can bear to listen to it. Of course, my only reason for doing so would be to yell at the TV a few times. I don't know if I can even count on 5 or 10 minutes of decent inspirational stuff (in so many words: kill many terrorists). Of course, the rest of the speech will be the standard drivel about how you are now going to be able to live at even more of the expense of your neighbors, and everyone else. You are also likely to hear reference to this particular bit of presidential lunacy, as described by Jeff Jacoby: Some of that delusion was on display at the White House on Thursday, when President George Bush painted the Palestinian election as a "healthy" and "interesting" exercise in civic reform: "Obviously, people were not happy with the status quo," Bush explained. "The people are demanding honest government. The people want services. They want to be able to raise their children in an environment in which they can...


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Pop Quiz

Well, if this doesn't bolster my bald and unequivocal assertion that the "majority" in virtually any vote can usually be counted on to be a bunch of damned morons, well, then, I don't know what would. So, go ahead here and vote. (Tip: Hit & Run)


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Break Out the Sliderules

Time to get out the sliderules, conversion charts, scientific calculators, financial calculators, efficiency benchmark data tables, Excel spreadsheets, and all other whotnot. Members of the Quartet -- the European Union, the United Nations, the United States and Russia -- are expected to release a statement after their meeting in London to discuss whether isolating Hamas politically and financially is the best policy. I can pretty much guarantee that the "statement" will not answer the most fundamental question, which is: "best policy" for whom and for what?


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The Obliteration of Reason

Do you recall my favorite quote from the film The Conspiracy? "It made me distrust the language." That was in reference to the study of the law. It came on the heals of a discussion concerning the "evacuation" of Jews, such being an euphemism for gassing and incinerating them at the efficient rate of 2,500 per hour (60,000 per day). The Wannsee Conference was primarily an affair designed to secure allegiance and accord for the extermination of Jews from key figures in the German government. The method by which this was accomplished was appeal after appeal to legal principles. With that in mind, stuff like this doesn't sound too-far-fetched at all. "It's hard for a parent to compete with so many ads making junk food fun and cool," Sherri Carlson, a mother of three who would be a plaintiff in a lawsuit, told reporters. "Although I have a strict policy against junk cereals in my house ... this doesn't stop my children from asking me for them, especially after seeing enticing ads." Yep. You can now sue because your kids ask you to buy them something, and get the pimps and whores in the media to swoon over you like...


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Adulthood

I believe that the most profound aspect of my continuing pursuit to be an increasingly competent human being is that over the last 15 years I have come to the point where I can no longer fathom--and barely tolerate, anymore--how it is that people can be so submissive to various self-proclaimed authorities. Don't get me wrong. Authority can be perfectly valid. Parents have authority over their children. Adults, to some extent, possess valid authority over all children in certain contexts. And then there are various forms of authority provided by mutual consent (employee/employer; teacher/student; etc.). But I look around today, and I swear to God that I see almost no adults anymore. It seems to me that virtually everyone in the world is seeking some authority somewhere to tell them what to do about just about everything. Jesus Christ already; Grow Up, people. Now here's a couple of examples of what I'm talking about. I have two links, both of which go into some detail about what sorts of sexual practices are allowed or not allowed on the part of religious practitioners. There's also a juxtaposition. Apparently, anal sex between a married couple is "undesirable" but ultimately OK, according to...


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Democracy

Well I was just on the way back from breakfast a few minutes ago with dad and my two brothers and I was roughly outlining a post about the wonders of democracy. See, I'd just seen a headline in the newspaper dispenser on the way out of the restaurant about how the world is "stunned" (shocked & stunned, I tell you) over the election results over there in that combination sewage treatment plant/landfill they call a "nation"...over there. I'm quite certain that those shocked & stunned would find it a surprise to learn that Hitler and his government was democratically elected with a percentage-point greater margin than was Bill Clinton in 1992. Anyway, I've got better things to do than blog about a bunch of primitive animals, right now; and besides, Billy Beck already beat me to it; quite adequately.


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The Hate File

I'm adding a new category: The Hate File. It shall henceforth be dedicated to those I particularly hate, of which there are many; and, of course, I love hating them all. Yes. Yes, of course I'm serious. Dead serious. So, let me dish up some more seething hatred for you. Fairfax County's police chief said yesterday that one of his officers accidentally shot and killed an optometrist outside the unarmed man's townhouse Tuesday night as an undercover detective was about to arrest him on suspicion of gambling on sports. Even if I dismiss my abject, loathing hatred of anyone, at any and all levels, who presumes to interfere or advocates interference in the affairs of others, such as would be required to "prohibit gambling" (i.e., mind your own fucking business, dickwads), my hatred of an institution--and every single one of its officers--that would send an armed contingent of G.I. Joe Wannabes ("SWAT") to serve a gambling warrant is virtually uncontainable. I just wish we lived in a rational society where such loathsome monsters would be shunned by all productive people until such time as they shrivel up from malnourishment and dehydration and blow away in a nice stiff breeze. Perhaps...


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“The King’s Friends”

One thing that may have become clear during those conflicts was that, if criminal prosecution was controlled by the crown, the King's friends could get away with murder That's David Friedman, quoting something he once wrote in a book.


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2631 Atlas

Today I took a drive up to Sacramento to check in on a new little project. 2631 Atlas. Well, this is California, so the beat-up house you see was actually acquired for the price of about $200,000. Yes, the stories you hear are true. It's insane. But guess what's more insane? You can still buy a high-priced fixer-upper and sell it for an even higher price. Which means, rather than being scared off by the insane California prices, you can embrace them and make more money than those comfortably paying $50,000 for a beater-upper and making a whopping $5,000 in the fix-&-flip. It's all numbers. If you're doing your math correctly, you walk away from any potential deal that doesn't offer a comfortable 10% return on your investment, i.e., the purchase price. If you're leveraged, i.e., take a loan on the property, then your cash-on-cash return will be significantly higher. It could be upwards of 100%, provided you can qualify for the loan. The numbers here are that it was a probate property put under contract by a friend of mine, not for the asking price of $235,000, but for $190,000. I then paid him $9,000 for the contract. Comparable...


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Loving to Hate

The most frequent criticism I endure about this blog is my tendency to focus on negative things. I suppose I can understand that. After all, one is not to be faulted for focusing on making his life good and pleasant, and for many, that requires steering clear of a lot of the downer news and comment. In fact, I'm a bit like that. Seriously. I've never read the newspaper regularly in my life. I have only at times regularly watched TV news, and my checking of news sources on the Internet is sporadic. The one place I listen to news with some regularity is the radio, but even there, I can go weeks with it turned to the classic rock station on the FM dial. I've always focused far more on the positive, like now: running a company and starting a second one, buying and managing rental houses, buying and fixing up fixer-upper houses, trading options in the market; and, writing. Writing is a very positive experience for me. I've found that the more passionate I can get about it, the better; the more satisfying and uplifting. Moreover, there is no passion quite like hate. I love hate. My wife...


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You Don’t Have To Be Right

So perhaps it's just a bit ironic that I would post something about doing well in the market last Thursday, just before Friday's fairly significant selloff. More ironic still is that the stock I chose to use for illustrative purposes, Google (GOOG), took a significant dump to close down over 39 points on Friday. Wow. Well, I didn't lose a penny. In fact, on Friday, four of my option positions on the SPX expired worthless, just like I wanted. Why do I want that? Because when I opened those positions (spreads), I did so at credit, i.e., my sold position was worth more than the position I bought as a hedge. Today, I opened several more positions, all at a credit (meaning, I get money instead of pay money when I trade), and all-in-all, since just before the beginning of trading Friday, my account equity has increased right around 9%. I'm bragging, right? OK, listen, I will guarantee you that there are thousands of people out there buying individual stocks and options who just gave the market a bunch of money, and in many cases, money they could not afford to lose. Hell, even very experienced and successful full-time traders....


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Getting the Feds Out of My Shower

Well, I suppose it's no great act of civil disobedience, or anything, but the silliness of the whole thing is at least far outdone by the utter absurdity of the federal government so entwining itself in my affairs that I can't even take a decent shower without the fuckers messing in my business. A little history. Back when I lived in France, 'round 1990, I hadn't been in my apartment a month when I had a leaking stem on the supply valve for the toilet. Rather than bother the landlord, I just went down to the hardware store and secured a new valve and installed it. While there, I noticed one of those cool shower heads, something like the photo on the right. It was simpler, though. Basically, it's a round disk of chromed metal with about 60 or so 1/32" holes drilled in it, all surrounded with a housing. This one didn't even have a ball socket for adjusting its trajectory. Didn't need it. It knocked out so much water over such a wide swath that it didn't need pointing towards any particular place. It was pure luxury, and for under $5, it became a prized possession that went...


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Do You Get it, Yet?

That's the twist of the knife to these GOP scandals. Not only have Republicans grown sleazy and corrupted by power, they've done so in pursuit of legislation that's wholly inconsistent with everything the Republicans once claimed to stand for. Radley's as pissed off as I've probably ever seen him. But it really should be no surprise to understand that the only reason Republican politicians ever "claimed to stand for" [small and limited government] is because they wanted to get elected and wield political power. And, once elected, they "claimed to stand for" [small and limited government] in order to stay elected--all while rigging the process in order to give themselves a 98% chance at reelection--and all they really have to do is manage to get their miserable asses out of bed in the morning. Hey, don't get me wrong: I've been just as fucking stupid as all of you fucking stupids for the many times I've been a little lulled and seduced by the next Republican who's going to come along and change things. Well, hell, I haven't fallen for that fantasy for well more than a decade, but I did fall for the fantasy that the Republicans were going...


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got coffee?

Well, in a world gone insane with wanting to be everyone's nanny, it's nice to get a steer once in a while to some news that things we enjoy consuming are actually good for us. Who would have imagined? Yea, I know. It's heresy. That hard-wired Judeo-Christian ethics has us so conditioned to think that everything we enjoy is bad for us and everything we hate is good for us. Never mind that we live longer and longer than ever. Unfortunately, something like this is but a drop of rain in the ocean. It certainly doesn't signal any end to the general stupidity, nor to the nanny-state. (link: Balko)


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Selling Time

I've posted a few things in the past about my trading activities in the financial markets. These activities and my education continue, now more than ever. How about a 35% gain in my portfolio since November, and it has nothing at all to do with the "Santa Clause Rally;" and now, the New Year rally that will probably set a new benchmark and render 9/11's effect on the financial markets part of the settled past (for now)? Since I began trading last spring and summer, I grew increasingly frustrated with the two steps forward, three steps back routine, time and again. There was no clear direction in the market. Gains one day are wiped out by losses the next, and vice versa, over and over. Frankly, unless one is prepared to trade full time, one is better off in such markets just buying good mutual funds or trading ETFs and checking them over once a month. And that's really the rub. Hey, I know people with good trading educations they paid lots of money for who do better than 10% per month, consistently. But it's a full-time job. Not interested. There is almost nothing that bores me more than researching...


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Difficult Choosing

Help me out here. I'm trying to pick a doc and have been looking at some websites around. Oh, here's one. Among other things, his website says: His personal interests include Buddhism, Hinduism, foreign languages, philosophy (especially Existentialism and Eastern Thought), jazz, and orchids. And, here's another guy: In preventive medicine or while addressing acute or chronic problems, I always try to practice evidence based medicine, where there is compelling research to show a benefit to any treatment or test I recommend. Hmm. let's see..."Eastern 'Thought'" vs. "evidence based medicine." Such difficult choices.


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Goings On

Bea & I spent the weekend up in the cabin, by ourselves (other than the dogs, that is). It was a welcome change, seeing as two weeks prior, we had 19 people for New Year's Eve, with 16 sleepovers (yea, bags all over). This weekend was spent mostly watching DVDs. I had just done an Amazon run. First up was Downfall, the story of Hitler's final days in his Berlin bunker in 1945. Bruno Ganz's performance is amazing. For a film covering the sort of subject matter, it's as good as such a film can possibly be. For those as meticulously interested in all things WWII as I, it's a must see. Some moths back, it caught my eye that George Lucas' first film, THX 1138 was being released in DVD. Along about that time, Billy Beck had some interesting comments about the film, along with a link to a--what I was later to discover--spot-on article. See, I was 10 years old when I saw the film upon its release in 1971. Why did I see it? Because of the cool-looking car chase in the trailers showing on TV, of course. Needless to say, the film was a huge disappointment...


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Just Facts

At age ten, American students take an international test and score well above the international average. But by age fifteen, when students from forty countries are tested, the Americans place twenty-fifth. The longer kids stay in American schools, the worse they do in international competition. They do worse than kids from countries that spend much less money on education. That's John Stossel, who's putting on a 20/20 special tonight called Stupid in America. There's a couple of things that aggravate me when I discuss schools with other individualists, who, like me, think the government has no business in them at all. One thing is that factoid, above. There is a distinction to make between grade school and all of the rest. A lot of very real and very good schooling goes on at the public grade school level, and that is a fact that should not be evaded. Fully integrated education? No, but that's obtainable almost nowhere, even in the private sector. The second thing is that to condemn all teachers collectively, regardless of the values they produce, is wrong. It's just as wrong as condemning an American soldier actively angaged in producing the value of freedom because he collects...


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The Gulag Americana

The "bright side" is that it's all nice and legal. Affirmed and Upheld, even. You know. It's like a lot of your are always telling me, "it's the law." Yep, reflexively abiding by the law, without any particular deliberation or conscience is what's important. So human. Not robotic. Very good.


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Justice

I'm not laughing, because people getting killed of their own willful neglect and stupidity isn't really funny. Yea, we have the Darwin Awards, but that's not like 345 people getting crushed in a human stampede. MINA, Saudi Arabia - Thousands of Muslim pilgrims rushing to complete a symbolic stoning ritual during the hajj tripped over luggage Thursday, causing a crush in which at least 345 people were killed, the Interior Ministry said. The stampede occurred as tens of thousands of pilgrims headed toward al-Jamarat, a series of three pillars representing the devil that the faithful pelt with stones to purge themselves of sin. So, here we have issue number one: primitive and moronic superstition. So great is the irrational fervor that human beings behave as cattle, and the do so with regularlity: The site is a notorious bottleneck for the massive crowds that attend the annual hajj pilgrimage and has seen deadly stampedes in the past, including one in 1990 that killed 1,426 people and another in February 2004 that killed 244. Seven of the past 17 yearly pilgrimages have seen deadly incidents at al-Jamarat. The latest crush came despite Saudi attempts to ease the flow of traffic around al-Jamarat....


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