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Friday, March 16, 2012

Leprechauns and Businessmen


Saint Patrick’s Day once more is upon us. It is time for the annual Wearin O The Green and beating of the Liver. It is a day when normal people try to drink like me with all the usual unfortunate social consequences. There is no better people watching experience than a bar stool on the 17th of March. The metamorphosis that causal drinkers experience during the day is fascinating to watch. They go from normal fun loving folks to wretched drunken zombies staggering around the bar losing friends and acquiring instant partners at a sometimes stunning pace. As bad versions of Irish classics are pounded out by a less than sober bar band your average St Pats pub goer shall swing from dancing on tables to crying over the permanent loss of 15 minute old friendships. The green beer shall pour freely and eventually be puked in an even freerer fashion. Tis a Grand Old Time Indeed. Naturally I shall be out And about again this year to take in the festivities. The Plan calls for heading to the Stil in Timonium. See you there and if you are not a big drinker bring your own puke bag and attorney. Odds favor needing one or both by nights end.

Unfortunately we are still progressing deeper into election season. The level of partisan politics that I am seeing on both sides of the aisle is a source of dismay. People of both persuasions just seem willing to accept what they are told by their party leaders in the form of TV commercials and sound bites. I really do not think that anyone reads what their chosen candidates or elected officials actually believe or do. If they did we would not have Barak Obama as a President and Rick Santorum would not be a viable candidate for any elected office anywhere, much less President. Politics have gotten dumber since campaigns started being televised and we the people appear to have stopped thinking for ourselves.  I see people on both sides blindly parroting the party line and it scares the hell out of me that they never for one second stopped to think of just how truly stupid the bulk of these ideas actually are in the harsh light of reality.

You can blame lots of people for this sad state of affairs. You can blame the politicians and their handlers for creating all the slick ads. You can blame the media for their sound bites and their bias for one side or another. Why don’t we just blame the ones really at fault? Look in the damn mirror. It is us and our apathy that is to blame to the current political situation and chaos. We voted for these idiots based on 30 second commercials and one minute sound bites. We cast our precious votes without ever investigating these peoples history, voting records or reading their speeches or position papers to garner so much as a fucking clue what they really believe . We are more worried about the sex lives and peccadillos of our candidates that their ideas on the economy, the tax code, foreign affairs not involving Brazilian supermodels, education or energy. Our government is pathetic because our people (that’s us folks) are overly apathetic.

One of my favorite memes these days is that it all the big bad business peoples fault. It is true that the big Wall Street Banks behaved badly leading up to the credit crisis but do you seriously think they did that in a vacuum? It was the government, boys and girls led by that champion of liberal theology Barney Frank, who pushed to extend homeownership to all regardless of circumstance. He and those who voted with him are largely responsible for the wild expansion of what used to be a tiny subset of the mortgage market called subprime. If pension funds and other large investors were not such yield whores in an a attempt to make up for overly optimistic assumptions no one would have ever bought those pieces of shit paper Wall Street pushed out the door. Anyone who ever read a prospectus or took the time to learn the structure of these deals would have never put their own or anyone else’s money into them. I can remember reading  Frank Fabozzis excellent book on fixed income and mortgage backed securities back in the 1990s and concluding that anyone who ever bought a derivative of mortgage backed securities should have their head examined. This was well before they even invented the more toxic offspring’s of mortgage backed securities that almost blew up the world. A little thought along the lines of this person cannot afford to buy a home now, or I do not understand this bond so I am not buying it and the credit crisis would have died before it could be born.

All of that activity was the big banks and financial institutions but the brush of blame and same has extended to all business people and that’s just foolish. I just love it when someone wearing Nike’s and J. Crew attire tightly clutching their IPad and IPhone that is hooked up to Verizon or ATT wireless lectures me on the evils of business. The truth of the matter is that for the most part businesses make your life better and their desire to make a profit actually benefits you. Apple did not become the largest company by market cap because they are soft fuzzy people who want to buy the world a coke. They are creative, ruthless business people who want to make products you will buy and allow them to dominate the marketplace. Oil companies are not the evil empire they just want to find oil and natural gas and process the stuff into products they can sell you to run your car and warm your home.  The bank on the corner just wants to take in deposits and make loans at a profit. They are quite content to let Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Citigroup have the franchise on fucking up the world.

Harvard Business School just did a survey of 10,000 graduates on the outlook for America and our competitive state in the world. The survey is available at and you should take the time to read it as it is very enlightening. What I want to focus on is the business leader’s suggestion to improve our condition. You would expect these greedy evil bastards to say just throw out all regulation and do away with taxes and it will all be fine. They didn’t. Most of them didn’t even say lower taxes. They said simplify the tax code. They want a more sensible immigration policy to do away with the underground economy and expand the pool of legal consumers and workers. They want to see the erosion of the quality of the US Education system stopped and reversed. One might suggest that less spending on bureaucracy and a focus on the classroom might help here. The want to see government fill its proper role and improve the logistical (highways, airports and such) and communication (broadband, fiber and wire) infrastructure. They want to see the regulatory environment reviewed so they make sense for the country from a cost/benefit standpoint. Big, bad evil business just wants a level playing field that makes sense so they can make the products you use every day of your life and provide jobs. Those evil fucking bastards!

Those of you who think business is pure evil and lack compassion should take a few minute to read. Specifically read the donor list of all the major hospitals and universities in this country. Study who sponsors the symphony halls and opera companies across our nation.  Who is paying for most of those programs on NPR and public television? Whose name is on those little league shirts  and soccer jerseys as the team sponsor paying for the equipment and uniforms? Businesses.

I have some more news for those of you who think so policy wonk in Washington has the answer to our countries problems. You are dead wrong. The answer lies in four kids in a garage messing around with computer chips. The answer lies in a lab where someone is working on a way to burn our abundant coal supply in a cleaner more efficient manner, to lower energy costs. It is in an engineering office where some geeks are working to convert autos and trucks to natural gas on a widespread basis that makes economic sense. The answer is a farmer who is sitting at his kitchen table figuring out how to grow more food cheaper thereby increasing his profits and lowering your food costs. The answer to our economic problems comes from the business community not from government buildings, union halls or think tanks.

The real solution to all our problems comes from we, the voter. We, the voters, need to tell the people who run for office that we do not care so much who sleep with who or who wants to get married. We, the voters, need to tell government to do what they are supposed to do and no more. We, the voters, need to insist on a simplified tax code. We, the voters, need to insist that out government quit deploying troops to solve the world’s problems and not commit so much as one solider, sailor or marine without a declaration of war. We, the voters, need to quit asking our politicians for the solution to our individual problems and desires and ask only that they offer us the conditions to succeed (or fail) on our own merits. We, the voter, need to understand that if we elect idiots we get idiotic government.

We, the people, need to stop accepting sound bite politics. We the people need to take care of the disadvantaged in our community and quit asking the government to do the job. We the people need to stop being so damn narrow minded and judgmental. We, the people. need to stop insisting everyone else look, think and act like us. We, the people, need to embrace the outdated ancient concept of personal responsibility. We, the people, need to once again act like American and not chickenshits who can’t wipe their own ass without government assistance and instructions.

Now Saint Patrick’s Day is upon us. Like a good American consumer I am off to the bar owned by a business man who shall sell me intoxicating beverages at a fair price in an effort to earn a fair profit.


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