Archive for December, 2008

#TCOT Round 2: Convince Me I Am Wrong on Auto Loans and I Will Publicly Recant

December 13, 2008

One of the first things that drew me to new media applications like Twitter and FriendFeed is the way in which they exponentially expanded our ability to share our thoughts and engage in debates over ideas. The downside to all of this is that once we choose to put our ideas and opinions out there there is no taking them back.If your assertions are proved wrong you can either retain your credibility and acknowledge the error of your ways and recant or dig in and make it clear that you are no friend of truth.

I don’t ever want to believe in or continue defending something that has been proven wrong so when I directed this post at the #TCOT (Top Conservatives on Twitter) community that I have recently become a part of I did so in the hopes that it would bring me a greater depth of argumentation than the rampant hyperbole I had been exposed to up until that point.

If the central goal and driving force of the #TCOT community is going to be something other than the advancement of realistic, practical and achievable solutions that are founded on conservative principles and that provide the best possible outcome for our nation then I want nothing to do with it. Here is the community’s chance to prove their intentions.

As one who believes that, generally speaking, limited government and freer markets provide the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people I would GREATLY prefer that our government not loan money to our beleaguered auto makers. However, I also mentioned that I believe the world we live in does not usually allow us to choose between exactly what we want and what we do not want. Our choices are almost always between options that each carry with them their own harms an demands that we decide which option is best.

In my previous post I laid out some of the general assumptions that have lead to my support of providing the auto makers with loans. I have never and will never claim to be the final authority on in-depth economic theory and analysis. Like most of you the best I can do is listen to the arguments, research and educate myself on the issue and decide which policies I will support based on my own common-sense understanding of which option will provide the best outcome.

Even so it is undeniable that the dynamics of the current state of our economy and the intricacies of the auto manufacturing industry provide an enormously complex web of considerations that must be taken into account when deciding whether or not to support the extension of loans to the auto industry.

As a result I wanted to provide a research document that clearly lays out a detailed anaylsis of the potential costs associated with providing the loans as well as a conservative effort of the possible outcomes of the further collapse of part or all of the auto manufacturing industry.

Here is a report that the Anderson Economic Group recently released clearly laying out what they believe are the likely costs of providing or denying the auto makers access to these loans.

Even though it is not the full report it very clearly lays out the assumptions and supporting evidence. Take a look at it and share your thoughts on where the report or I am wrong in our thinking.

If you can provide me with enough logical arguments I will happily change my opinion and publicly recant my support for the loans.

I am curious though – if you find enough evidence to convince you that it will do more harm not to provide the loans – will you do the same?

In the interest of full disclosure my current employer as well as the company that owns our parent company do work for Ford Motor Company. However, these are my own personal opinions and should in no way be taken to reflect or represent the thoughts of my employer or our parent companies.

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#TCOT Why This Conservative Currently Supports the Auto Loans

December 13, 2008

I’ve experienced a decent amount of condescension from my fellow TCOTers for questioning the wisdom of denying the extension of loans to our auto manufacturers. I wouldn’t mind it so much if the condescension was attached to arguments that addressed anything resembling the world we actually live in.

As my friends on the other side of the aisle can tell you I will argue all day long that, generally speaking, limited government and freer markets provide the best outcomes for all. Unfortunately, we live in a world that often demands that we make difficult decisions between two less-than-ideal choices.

Telling me that the White House and Congress are not a bank is not a valid argument. Of course they aren’t but, and I’m just spit-ballin’ here so correct me if I am wrong, I am fairly certain that the legislation would direct the Treasury Department to loan the money.

I don’t want the Federal government to have to loan the auto manufacturers this money. I would prefer that our auto makers be able to pull themselves out of this hole themselves but that’s not the only consideration in this process.

My belief in limited government and the power of free markets is, at some point, theoretical in nature. WAIT. STOP. Before you freak out let me explain. I say somewhat theoretical because “limited government” is a fairly vague phrase – if you were to be successful in making your case over time then the logical end to the statement “government should always be smaller” would eventually be no government. That’s obviously a silly thing to advocate so while we may believe that smaller government is better, we also acknowledge there is a need for government involvement of some kind.

The same goes for free markets – having studied economics and been blessed with the basic level of common sense that comes with being a human I believe that, generally speaking, markets that are more free to operate provide a more efficient means of producing wealth. But an absolutely free market has NEVER existed on a, economy-wide scale. On a continuum that has a purely unregulated free market on one end and a 100% government owned, regulated and controlled economy on the other, the US economy is certainly much closer to the purely unregulated free market than say, France’s. BUT we still allow for some government regulation because we have seen that human nature is such that the harms caused by no government regulation eclipse the harms caused by some government regulation.

My point? No matter how firmly we may believe in the core tenets of our ideologies we obviously recognize that the world we live in does not allow us to implement solutions in a vacuum.

It is for that reason that, after surveying the potential harms of the only two options we have been given (provide the loans to the auto industry or do not), I have determined that the potential damage that could be caused by not providing the loans GREATLY outweighs the potential damage that could be caused if we do provide the loans.

Let me end by briefly laying out some assumptions that I have made as I have made my decision.

* I believe our economy is already in a precarious state and that exacerbation of the adjustments the auto industry had already begun to experience years ago would have devastating effects on our economy

* I believe that that the inter connectivity of our auto industry’s part suppliers and auto dealers as well as the national security implications of losing US-based ownership over our entire auto manufacturing industry confers an importance on the auto industry that, like our agricultural industry, is unique and there fore worthy of aid that I would not support for other industries

* I believe that these are loans, that the last time we loaned money to an auto maker in trouble our government was repaid and made several hundred million dollars on top of that

* I believe that the severity of the threat the collapse of our auto manufacturing industry is great enough to make the provision of a relatively (compared to what has already been outlaid for banks) small amount of loans a reasonable solution, even if there is a risk that some or all of the loans will not be repaid

and to reiterate – most importantly:

* I believe that the potential negative impact of not providing the loans is outweighed by the potential benefits of providing the loans

I have tried to lay out some of my reasons for supporting the loans and make it clear that my goal is to support the solution that I believe provides the best outcome.

If you can provide compelling and logical reasons why I should value something other than the best outcome or why the assumptions I have used to make this decision are wrong I would love to hear them.

Xbox Live/Netflix Watch Instantly Recommendations

December 8, 2008

My wife and I have been loving the new Xbox Live interface, especially because of the Netflix instant streaming capability that it brought with it.

While I look forward to the day that there will be a much wider selection available for instant viewing, I wanted to share some of the interesting titles I have found thus far.

Aside from The Office, I have spent most of my time scouring for cool documentaries – you will quickly see that I am fascinated by music, politics and subcultures/non-conformist views of thought.

Here are some of the things I have enjoyed thus far:

The Office – Seasons 1 – 4: ‘Nuff said

Downtown 81: A gritty, punk-rock fantasia starring legendary graffiti artist, poet and musician Jean Michel Basquiat, Downtown 81 was, for years, considered a “lost” film. It chronicles the hipper-than-hip downtown New York art and music scene of 1980-81 while capturing one of the most interesting and lively artists of the late 20th century as he stands poised for fame. Features appearances by Deborah Harry, Fab Five Freddy and Kid Creole and the Coconuts.

Put the Needle on the Record: Filmmaker Jason Rem traveled to Miami to shoot footage at the annual Winter Music Conference and came up with an award-winning chronicle of the evolution of electronic music and the role of the DJ in pop culture. The result is a thought-provoking collection of interviews with top artists such as The Crystal Method, Paul Oakenfold and DJ Colette, footage from events around the globe and a brilliant soundtrack to go along with it all.

Better Living hrough Circuitry: Director Jon Reiss’s documentary about the history of the U.S. rave scene captures the people and music that shaped the nation’s underground subculture around electronic music. The film combines an emphasis on the music and light shows that accompany raves with interviews with turntable maestros the Crystal Method, DJ Spooky, Roni Size, Moby, Psychic TV, Carl Cox, BT, Meatbeat Manifesto, Frankie Bones, Scanner, Loop Guru and Simply Jeff.

Tom Dowd and the Language of Music: Rarely do we get a chance to see a feature-length documentary about a true unsung hero. Tom Dowd was an innovative music producer and recording engineer. Historical footage, photographs and classic music tracks underscore how Tom Dowd altered the course of contemporary music via his many technical achievements. Features appearances by Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Les Paul and Aretha Franklin.

Cocaine Cowboys: This penetrating and sometimes harrowing documentary from director Billy Corben pulls out all the stops to explore the many dimensions of Miami’s cocaine-trafficking boom of the 1980s, from how the drug was moved and the financial impact on the city to the havoc and violence that followed in its wake. Told by the smugglers, cops and average citizens who were there, this film is an unflinching study of Miami’s most notorious and lethal vice.

One Question To Rule Them All

December 5, 2008

Yea, I know, I should be beaten for such a horribly unpunny title (oops).

You figure out the “why” and the rest will follow.

I feel unbelievably fortunate that someone introduced me to that concept many years ago – as I have tried to make it a central part of my approach to life I have seen its power. I have also seen how easy it is to stop one-step shy of the uncovering the final (real) “why.”

I have been thinking alot about the Republican Party, what has brought us to the place we currently find ourselves and how we move forward. I believe that most if not all of the explanations and solutions fail to uncover the actual “why” and as a result are destined to yield less than optimal results at best.

As I become more and more enthralled with all of the developments within Digital/New/Social Media I see a similar pattern as many “experts” fail to grapple with why these tools work in lieu of the verbal equivalent of a dazzling light show.

There are a number of people out there who achieve a great deal of success without ever bothering to understand the “why.” These individuals are talented and masterful executors of  the things they have been taught and while they are rewarded with varying degrees of wealth and respect they will never max out their abilities and will always be reliant on others to teach them newer and better ways.

There is also a small group of individuals throughout the world who, for whatever reason, each find themselves drawn and dedicated to the discovery of the most basic “why” they can find. These are the ground breakers, the game changers and the history makers.

Just a quick reminder (probably more for me than anyone else) that, in order to achieve the optimal level of performance in any given endeavor, you have to start by figuring out the “why” first.

What about you?

Are you merely executing what you have been taught or are you mentally or physically breaking down whatever it is that you do until you reach that final “why?”

Digital Media and the Field of Dreams Myth

December 2, 2008

You don’t have to convince me of Digital Media’s power – I’m already a huge believer.

While I am happy to see more and more organizations grow in their awareness for their need to take advantage of its many benefits, I am frequently amused/frustrated by the Field of Dreams mentality that seems to be so prevalent in their current approaches.

Digital Media is not a magic baseball field. People are not going to come just because you build Social Media applications. Creating a Facebook group for your issue or organization is not going to create a torrent of enthusiasm where none previously existed.

Take the Obama campaign for example. To say that their use of Digital Media created all of the excitement we witnessed is beyond ridiculous. I’m not trying to take anything away from the Obama campaign’s amazing use of a vast array of tools that helped connect and engage supporters but at the end of the day all they did was amplify what was already there.

This isn’t a chicken or the egg situation – in fact John McCain provides the perfect example. In the 2000 election with an enormous amount of organic excitement for his candidacy, John McCain was able to break new ground in the area of online fundraising (oh how quickly we forget – he wasn’t always viewed as technologically challenged). Ironically, it was the enormous success of their online efforts in 2000 that created many of the early financial problems for McCain version 2008 as much of their lauded $100 million primary war chest was predicated on a robust online fundraising effort that never materialized.

What changed? The natural level of existing enthusiasm.

What I love most about Digital Media is that it is nothing more than the exponential enhancement of the communications dynamic that has existed throughout history. Strip away the funny sounding application names and the dizzying array of usage options and you are left with the same fundamental concepts of human nature that have always existed.

So do me a favor, if in your current capacity you advise or implement communications plans that include Digital Media please remember – in the real world people don’t just drive to baseball fields because somebody built them. They drive to baseball fields because they are excited about baseball.