Monday, February 19, 2007

our new look...

It had to happen sometime. Once the brackets {...} disappeared from the old template, it was only a matter of time...

I've tried to retain the "spirit" of the old layout, as much as that could be done, by selecting appropriate text colors.

While the old layout was unique, this one is probably a lot more readable.

I hope you think so.

Monday, February 05, 2007

the pursuit of happiness

Well, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes were given their chances, but the honor of being the first to publish a letter to the editor, from me, fell to Catholic New York, January 18, 2007. I have made the big time at last.

Since letters aren't available in the online edition, I'll humbly post it here. I think the context should be clear from the letter. They did edit it (thank God), although there is one sentence which is pretty tangled up. I think that's their doing, though it certainly could be mine. The title is theirs.
Another Quest
To The Editor:

In the January 4 issue of CNY, Mary DeTurris writes: "In some ways, even our Declaration of Independence prods us to keep up the quest [to want more]. The 'pursuit of happiness' is our birthright for goodness' sake. It's almost like it's required, and what is the pursuit of happiness if not the quest for more - of everything."

Perhaps Mrs. DeTurris' personal definition of "the pursuit of happiness" is "the quest for more - of everything." However, I think if Ms. DeTurris were to attempt to understand the minds of the men who wrote those lines, and what motivated them to do [so] "for goodness' sake," she might realize that not only is the "pursuit of happiness" the normal condition for any living thing, but that freedom from tyranny and oppression - which was very much on the minds of the courageous authors of the Declaration of Independence - is the very mission of Jesus Christ and the Church.

It appears that Ms. DeTurris' issue is with the attempt to purchase happiness, which is quite a different matter. In case Ms. DeTurris counters that all she would advocate is the "pursuit of contentment," as is implied in her piece, I submit that there is no meaningful distinction between the two.



Well, then. If you think I was a little hard on Ms./Mrs. DeTurris, God bless her, you know why I'm thankful that they edited the letter. When a friend left a voicemail for me saying, "I saw your letter in Catholic New York," I thought about crawling under my desk for fear of who else might see it...because, as I remember it, the day I wrote the rebuttal was a cold, drizzly and winterish one and I was not really being a good sport.

Ms./Mrs. DeTurris' original OpEd really rubbed me the wrong way, and, since she mentioned her children's insatiable desire for "more" in that piece, I mentioned it in my rebuttal, which was surely too personal (for me if not for her). I'll even take the grammatical oversights in exchange for the grace of being made to look more charitable than I was.

Thanks, CNY, and here's to the big time!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A NYSE for the New Millenium (about 10 years too late)

Bidding war for ARCA. Seats jump almost a million dollars each.

The price of a NYSE membership is now theoretically tied to the value of ARCA shares -- as long there's a deal in the works. Any "bidding war" for ARCA is also giving membership a nice, rising market into which to dispose of the odd seat, to put the luster back on one's balance sheet, to borrow against (for that hot-dog stand or car wash, perhaps), or to mercilessly squish any free-market types who may have caught sight of a little smoke (if not mirrors) and gone short. Marvel ye that the shares of ARCA are hard to borrow?

You must tip your hat to Mr. Thain for carrying the water for the members so well, and for attending as he did to such pedestrian details as limiting stock sellers to those on the wedding list. And while I know nothing of the fine print, I have heard that GS stands to gain a hundred mil or so in fees, as well, on the deal, should it happen. Mr.Thain was apparently carrying a cupful for them, too, but I don't know that anyone feels like tipping his hat about that.

A "business success story," indeed; in that old Wall Street tradition, perhaps. It reminds me of a huge, elaborate configuration of dominoes. It’s every twist and turn is conceived in advance. The dominoes whiz by and dazzle viewers with their tricks, creating an air of suspense. That suspense is tempered by the knowledge that the outcome, barring something no one has reason to expect, is always foreseen and rarely in question. Take note, you neo-quants: this is what the term "financial engineering" really means.

I hope, for sentimental reasons, that they keep the exchange located where it is and not turn that building into high-priced condos (or a holocaust museum). But does it really make sense to? If it’s all just ones and zeroes anymore, maybe it makes sense to off the plant at a thousand or so a square foot and set up a roomful of servers in India, where everything is cheaper. The business can be administered from the Hamptons, or Greenwich, or Palm Beach; and America will have become the boardroom of the world, far removed from the productive assets it oversees. Deep in my visceral parts this thought makes me uncomfortable.

I hope also they treat the valuable the NYSE franchise with dignity and not squander the centuries of equity built into that name. It has to be the most valuable brand in the world, a little tarnish notwithstanding.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Don't Take Your Hand Away

A short video that puts the last days of Theresa Marie Schiavo's life and the events surrounding it in a different perspective. Great music.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

rebutting Kofi

This was written in response to Mr. Annan's OpEd piece featured in the WSJ recently. I was unable to submit it in a timely fashion, so I post it here.

Our Mission Is?

Kofi Annan calls the UN's mission "vital," ("Our Mission Remains Vital," Kofi Annan, WSJ Opinion page, February 22, 2005). With a religious fervor that is not an uncommon voice for Secretaries General to assume, he struggles to justify the existence of the UN and his place in it. That he might see that place as his personal messianic calling is not surprising. A lofty view of one's indispensability would be expected from someone at the helm of an organization that has styled itself as the world's savior. But lacking a claim to apostolic succession, Mr. Annan, like any mortal would-be messiah, is in need of a reality check.

By crying for recognition -- his and the UN's -- as a vital force in the world order, Mr. Annan seems bent on fighting the trend toward decentralized government. This inexorable march toward realization of certain inalienable rights that have been self-evident to some for centuries is necessarily a march away from the co-dependency that Mr. Annan's merry band of self-proclaimed do-gooders seem to thrive on. Here it might be instructive to ponder that old saw that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Does the world really "need" the United Nations, as Mr. Annan wails? A foundling nation in the wilderness that awed the watching world (before it started getting so jealous), a nation that the Statue of Liberty calls "home," overcame incalculable odds to break free of its possessive mother-land. By what power did this prodigy rise? The power of the United Nations? Why, that august body wasn't even a twinkle in her eye back then. Rather, the power of people set free to make it so, made it so. A bit fresher in the public memory is the first democratic election ever held in Iraq, a nation suffering under the heel of a brutal dictator just a few months before. Were the people of Iraqi set free by Mr. Annan's UN, or in spite of it?

Mr. Annan is perhaps a bit too close to the action to see that the United Nations exists because the United States gives it sustenance and credibility. President Bush nurtured the image of the UN when it had egg all over its face prior to the war in Iraq. More recently, the President has allowed both Mr. Annan and another disgraced leader, Bill Clinton, to redeem their images by delegating to them, under the wise and watchful eye of Bush the Elder, some high profile administrative functions in the tsunami cleanup project. That either man, individually or in concert with the other, could have organized any effective assistance whatsoever is a matter of speculation. Evidence indicates that resources put at the disposal of either man are resources misused, if offices of influence and power are resources. President Bush, a man who understands repentance and seems to be willing to take others at their words, has magnanimously offered Mr. Annan a chance to reestablish himself as useful before a world that isn't quite as credulous as some might wish it to be. He saved face for Kofi Annan by offering him a seed of credibility after the man completely squandered his own.

It will be noted that the vast funds that have poured in to aid the tsunami victims were purely charitable: they came from people moved by compassion at the sight of the horrible plight of their fellow man. There was no organization required to raise this capital; it was the product of individual volition: self government, in other words. Self government is an ideal that has not found expression in the founding documents of any nation anywhere save the United States. Liberty, having been incubated and raised here (not at the UN), is our unique gift to the world. But as this charitable outpouring testifies, self government calls in the hearts of people everywhere. It is time for them to be set free to realize it.

Mr. Annan might be well advised to check the marketplace to see if it supports the presumption of usefulness that he relies upon to justify keeping the UN on life support. He may be too entranced by the visions of foregone Secretaries General to understand that if the organization is to be of any benefit at all to the nations, it will be as a tool in the hands of nations that are bullish on liberty. Such nations will spread liberty and promote the sovereignty of nations that stand for liberty. Such nations will be strong enough to support and defend themselves and liberty itself. They will earn prosperity by wise stewardship of their resources, developed and traded freely under the rule of just laws. Peace, if it will come at all, will come through strength, not through blind adherence to UN sponsored pacifism and forever suckling at its withered teat. In such a world, one wonders what purpose there would be at all for anything like the UN. And so the UN, if it is to be true to its alleged mission, must seek its own self destruction as evidence of its success. This notion is, I'll wager, repulsive to Mr. Annan.

Apart from the tremendous productive and human capital of free people, the UN can do nothing but shuffle paper and make a pretense of mattering. And being unproductive by nature, the United Nations, left to itself, is at best a self-aggrandizing impediment to the burgeoning revolution of liberty which is the great privilege and responsibility of our age to nurture. At worst, deriving its value only from a world woefully out of order, it is a menace to this movement; a tacit agent of the established order of oppression. Vying like a jealous, less-talented sibling for attention at the school play, Mr. Annan and his UN threaten to ruin the whole production.