Friday, March 7, 2008

Economics, Politics, Anticipation

WSJ email alert from the Recession-Now front lines:
from The Wall Street Journal
March 7, 2008

U.S. recession fears mounted as employment fell in February at its fastest rate in five years, suggesting that the housing and credit crunch is gripping the broader economy. U.S. nonfarm payrolls fell by 63,000 in February, after declining 22,000 in January. If not for a rise in government jobs last month, payrolls would have fallen by more than 100,000. However, the unemployment rate dropped to 4.8% from 4.9%.

Ahead of the jobs report the Federal Reserve raised the amounts outstanding in its Term Auction Facility available to banks to $100 billion. The Fed's move lowered the odds of a change in the federal funds rate before the next meeting, but raised the chances of a three-quarter point reduction on March 18.

For more information,

For more analysis of the economy, see:

A reason to vote for McCain

Another indication of the affects of politics on business-I am seeing and hearing Investment Bankers and business owners starting to change deal structure and pricing in anticipation of a Democrat take over.

The general line is to lock in M&A terms now before Obama comes with his 28% Capital Gains rate, before the Bush tax cuts expire, before the death tax goes back to 55% over $1M valuation, etc. Lots of talk about shifting assets to trusts and getting creative in ways to avoid the hits.

Business owners are starting to look at ways to deal with increased regulation. Nobody has anything specific yet, but the general tone is that the increased regulation will be more in line with union rules and union organizing attempts. Things that stress business and create a favorful union organizing environment are expected.

Estimates that a full-tilt union America will drive up the cost of everything by 20%... That seems scary, but it was what I heard yesterday... Add to that the tax increases and credit crunch, plus whatever mischief Congress creates to replace the Alternative Minimum Tax... There are gonna be a lot of folks with six figure household income scrambling for tax shelters and new income opportunities...

The markets run ahead of events. Right now there is a bit of panic and a lot of fear. But the tide was already shifting in consideration of higher gasoline prices ($5-$6/gal-?), tighter credit, fewer home starts and less consumer spending...

The Democratic Congress and the Democratic Candidates have succeeded in scaring the marketplace-and the world... It's gonna take some strong medicine to prove them wrong... Cassandra is respected a lot longer than Pollyanna ever was...

Are we talking ourselves into a recession-?

George Anders column in Wednesday's WSJ reflects a lot of the thinking I am hearing and seeing...

Hurry, hurry, hurry to carry out corporate acquisitions before the November elections, some attorneys and investment bankers are telling their clients. That is because they think a Democratic presidential victory could create more roadblocks for takeovers.

Guessing what political-office seekers might do if elected is never a sure thing. Some stances taken on the campaign trail have a way of fading from sight once the election is over. Other positions prove impossible to implement.

Higher capital-gains taxes could also jolt the takeover market, though getting congressional approval for such changes won't be easy. In Senate votes in the past few years, both Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton have voted for ending the current 15% capital-gains rate and returning to higher levels.

Mr. Obama told the TechCrunch Web site in November that he favored capital-gains tax rates close to 28%, where they were under the Reagan administration, though not quite that high. Mrs. Clinton hasn't been as specific.

For individual shareholders, a higher capital-gains rate would mean keeping less of the proceeds from selling a company. That could be a particular sore point for owners of closely held companies, who may have personally built up the value of such companies over decades. As a result, some private-equity firms are urging potential sellers of companies to act fast, while the 15% capital-gains rate still applies.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Our Enemies- Why This War Is Different

Alan Dershowitz has an op-ed article in today's WSJ... I bring this forward because not many read the WSJ. Not many read this blog. However, we must consider the future we all face. ( I have excerpted bits of his work. Please read the whole article)

Zahra Maladan is an educated woman who edits a women's magazine in Lebanon. She is also a mother, who undoubtedly loves her son. She has ambitions for him, but they are different from those of most mothers in the West. She wants her son to become a suicide bomber.

Zahra Maladan represents a dramatic shift in the way we must fight to protect our citizens against enemies who are sworn to kill them by killing themselves. The traditional paradigm was that mothers who love their children want them to live in peace, marry and produce grandchildren. Women in general, and mothers in particular, were seen as a counterweight to male belligerence. The picture of the mother weeping as her son is led off to battle -- even a just battle -- has been a constant and powerful image.

Now there is a new image of mothers urging their children to die, and then celebrating the martyrdom of their suicidal sons and daughters by distributing sweets and singing wedding songs. More and more young women -- some married with infant children -- are strapping bombs to their (sometimes pregnant) bellies, because they have been taught to love death rather than life.

The two basic premises of conventional warfare have long been that soldiers and civilians prefer living to dying and can thus be deterred from killing by the fear of being killed; and that combatants (soldiers) can easily be distinguished from noncombatants (women, children, the elderly, the infirm and other ordinary citizens). These premises are being challenged by women like Zahra Maladan. Neither she nor her son -- if he listens to his mother -- can be deterred from killing by the fear of being killed. They must be prevented from succeeding in their ghoulish quest for martyrdom. Prevention, however, carries a high risk of error. The woman walking toward the group of soldiers or civilians might well be an innocent civilian. A moment's hesitation may cost innocent lives. But a failure to hesitate may also have a price.

The traditional sharp distinction between soldiers in uniform and civilians in nonmilitary garb has given way to a continuum. At the more civilian end are babies and true noncombatants; at the more military end are the religious leaders who incite mass murder; in the middle are ordinary citizens who facilitate, finance or encourage terrorism. There are no hard and fast lines of demarcation, and mistakes are inevitable -- as the terrorists well understand.

We need new rules, strategies and tactics to deal effectively and fairly with these dangerous new realities. We cannot simply wait until the son of Zahra Maladan -- and the sons and daughters of hundreds of others like her -- decide to follow his mother's demand. We must stop them before they export their sick and dangerous culture of death to our shores.

What he leaves out is the cost of victory to these deluded fanatics. Yes, we will face the high cost of killing innocents along with those we traditionally will sacrifice to save... But what type of country, what culture will follow should they achieve victory-?

This will be a long and ugly war

We Are Changing

Today's WSJ has a front page story about our changing gasoline consumption practices. It's worth a read.

As crude-oil prices climb to historic highs, steep gasoline prices and the weak economy are beginning to curb Americans' gas-guzzling ways.

In the past six weeks, the nation's gasoline consumption has fallen by an average 1.1% from year-earlier levels, according to weekly government data.

That's the most sustained drop in demand in at least 16 years, except for the declines that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which temporarily knocked out a big chunk of the U.S. gasoline supply system.

As supplies have outstripped demand, gasoline inventories have been on the rise for the past four months, reaching their highest levels since February 1994. Yet, in a sign of the growing disconnect between demand and the market, prices at the pump are being driven higher by a powerful rally in crude oil.

Investors piling money into commodities as a refuge from inflation have helped push oil prices close to their inflation-adjusted record of $103.76 a barrel, set in 1980. On Thursday, oil closed at $102.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a new high in nominal terms, but slipped back 75 cents on Friday to settle at $101.84 a barrel. (Gold closed at $985.70/oz, Silver at $21.35/oz, Platinum at $2,230.00/oz, Palladium at $576.00/oz. Grain and other ores are similarly at all time highs-AJ)

Car dealers are selling fewer minivans and large sport-utility vehicles. In fact, only small cars and smaller, more fuel-efficient SUVs, are showing a rise in sales. Small-car sales in January were up 6.5% from a year earlier, while sales of crossover vehicle grew 15.1%, Autodata Corp. says.( I look for changes in engine technology to make the gas guzzlers bargains for the creative and inventive. Such as the man in Sacramento area who has converted a Hummer to diesel and claims to get 20/mpg. Of course, his warranty was voided by the action.-AJ)

At $6.00/gallon we will be a different nation. This will have knock-on affects on restaurants, job choices, wages, housing decisions, entertainment. The pressure on taxi regulations will create political turmoil as restrictions on the number of taxis meets a suddenly rising demand for service. All of this will have political mischief, demagoguing and pandering opportunities.

Sawdust Shortage

Something else we might not have considered with the slump in the housing markets and restrictions on tree harvesting, also from today's WSJ:

The price of sawdust has soared since 2006, up from about $25 a ton to more than $100 in some markets. Blame the housing slump: Fewer new homes mean fewer trees cut for use in construction, which leads to less sawdust and other wood waste, driving up the price.

It's surprising how many industries use wood waste. Wineries use oak sawdust as a flavoring agent for some wines. Perdue Farms, which raises broiler chickens, goes through seven million cubic feet of wood shavings a year. Oil-rig operators in Wyoming and Colorado pour sawdust into the caverns they find deep inside rock formations as they hunt for pools of petroleum. Sawdust gives drill bits something to grind through.

The shortage is leading to some unusual solutions. Mr. Johnson now mines old houses that are being torn down for lumber that he can grind up and sell. He has also opened a free wood dump for any construction crew that wants to drop off any two-by-four trimmings from a local site. Mr. Stulce, who runs the Utah wood-waste supplier to oil rigs, says rig operators that use sawdust are now dumping some novel substitutes. "They're pumping in almond hulls, walnut shells, whatever they can get," he says.

Farmers have come up with perhaps the most unusual tactic: using processed cow manure as bedding instead of wood shavings. Many dairy farms have a process to convert cattle waste into methane gas that they sell to electric generators. The byproduct is basically the hay the cows ate. Lee Jensen's Five Star Dairy in Elk Mound, Wis., uses an aerobic digester to render manure into stall bedding, and has so much on hand after the process that he's selling the excess to neighbors. (I love American ingenuity. This is a great example of making a profit out of what others would consider waste-AJ)

Texas vs. Ohio

The WSJ Opinion Journal has a great comparison of these two states that are playing such an important role in shaping our current election battle.

There's no doubt times are tough in Ohio. The state has lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000, home foreclosures are soaring, and real family income is lower now than in 2000. Meanwhile, the Texas economy has boomed since 2004, with nearly twice the rate of new job creation as the rest of the nation.

Anti-Nafta rhetoric doesn't play well in El Paso, San Antonio and Houston, which have become gateway cities for commerce with Latin America and have flourished since the North American Free Trade Agreement passed Congress in 1993. Mr. Obama's claim of one million lost jobs due to trade deals is laughable in Texas, the state most affected by Nafta. Texas has gained 36,000 manufacturing jobs since 2004 and has ranked as the nation's top exporting state for six years in a row. Its $168 billion of exports in 2007 translate into tens of thousands of jobs.

Ohio, Indiana and Michigan are losing auto jobs, but many of these "runaway plants" are not fleeing to China, Mexico or India. They've moved to more business-friendly U.S. states, including Texas. GM recently announced plans for a new plant to build hybrid cars. Guess where? Near Dallas. In 2006 the Lone Star State exported $5.5 billion of cars and trucks to Mexico and $2.4 billion worth to Canada.

So tomorrow the eyes of America will be on these two states moving in different directions. Ohio has an economy burdened by high taxes and work rules that impose heavy costs on employers. Texas embraces free trade, keeps taxes low, doesn't impose unions on business and has tooled itself for 21st century global competition. Ohioans may not like to hear this, but for any company considering where to locate a new plant or move an existing one, the choice between Ohio and Texas isn't even a close call.

The challenge for our national economy in a world of competition is to become more like Texas and less like Ohio.

I really enjoy the Wall Street Journal. I find it to be the only newspaper in America that treats me like an educated adult. I don't always agree with their positions. I can't use all the information they bring every day. I would feel handicapped if I did not have access to their information in print and online. Rupert Murdock and News Corp have taken over the paper. I pay for both the print and online. They talk about making the online side free or no charge. I hope they don't get too clever with their marketing... If you don't subscribe, please consider joining. Like William F. Buckley's works -they will prod you from your comfortable set world of assumptions and opinions.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Future Quoted

Every month Forbes magazine has as it's last page a series of quotations. The page is titled "THOUGHTS On the Business of Life"

In January they looked at the future... I thought I'd add my $.02 worth of talkback...

"The future is no place to live your better days" - DAVE MATTHEWS

1) We cannot have it all now. 2) Tomorrow will be a better day 3) Trying to live all your better days in the future is as foolish as trying to live all your better days right now. Youth and life are for learning, experimenting and experiencing. Later days will may whatever comes your way richer and deeper because you delayed. Life is not a zero sum game. There will always be more, better and more pleasant days ahead... Shouldn't we be saying "Today was good, Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one"-?

"There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in" -GRAHAM GREENE

It doesn't always come rushing in all in a gush. There is no single moment when we swap being a child for being an adult or being old. We get peeks and glimpses. Sometimes we get a full dose that is more than we can handle. Sometimes we get so much that our childhood is shortened... The future is always waiting in just the next instant with a surprise...

"Prophecy is the most gratuitous form of error" - GEORGE ELLIOT
"Wall Street indexes predicted nine of the last five recessions" -PAUL SAMUELSON

Self evident...

"The future is called "perhaps" which is the only possible thing to call the future. And the important thing is not to allow that to scare you" -TENNESSEE WILLIAMS

We can change the future. We cannot change the past.We can change the way we view the past. Sometimes for the worse. Sometimes for the better. We cannot fear tomorrow. Even if we are certain that disaster awaits, there is always the possibility that changes will make it better or worse...

"The more unpredictable the world becomes, the more we rely on predictions" -STEVE RIVKIN

Some places they are called forecasts. Sometimes the Board of Directors will spend the forecasted profits. They can be very upset when the results are different. Nobody ever gets fired for bringing in better results than forecast. Many have lost their heads to disappointing results.

"I never think of the future. It comes soon enough" -ALBERT EINSTEIN

I do. I think often about the future consequences of events around me. I am aware that "demographics is destiny" and that as a "Boomer" we will be changing many things for the better as well as for the worse... Most of which we cannot predict. We have a life long history of unintended consequences from our best wishes and good intentions.

"We not only romanticize the future; we have also made it into a growth industry, a parlor game, and a disaster movie at the same time" - EUGENE KENNEDY

Our politicians are promising us great things personally, bad things for the EVIL RICH, and dire consequences for all of us -IF ONLY- They all seem to have a program that involves more of our money, freedoms, privacy and innocence. If only-we would trust them they would provide or prevent exactly what we are seeking.

"The future, according to some scientists will be exactly like the past, only far more expensive" -JOHN SLADEK

Many of our politicians want to lead us into that fantasy world only this time they will arrange funding. No Thanks. I'd rather have our own future, similar but enough different so that the past has been taken into consideration.

"My future starts when I wake up every morning. Every day I find something creative to do with my life" -MILES DAVIS

What a great way to live. I wish I could say that.

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it." ALAN KAY

Amen. Americans can create our own future. We usually drag the rest of the world along with us. Sometimes they don't want it. Mostly, they like the results. They could create their future, but they are afraid of the changes.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

New Year, New Outlook

Happy New Year.

Yes, I know it's March. March and April have long been associated with New Year- new beginnings, new flowers and new life after a long grey/gray winter (grey with an "e" seems more dreary than with an "a"). Spring seems a more appropriate place for a new year than the Gregorian Calendar that places January 1 as the start of all new things...

I have always had more luck when the business of the new year began along with the rise of grass and green. Warm winds blow more favorably than the cold cutting damp knives of January.

As you noticed from my last post. I became disenchanted and frustrated with the NFL, the New England Patriots, our political tussling, the impending holidays and arrival of family from far and near. I was becoming a grouchy curmudgeon. Who would want to read that drivel.- even if I was right... I have tried hold to the advice that Thumper's Father gave him in the movie "Bambi"; "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."... We can all grinch, complain and gripe... My Grandfather used to say "A kicking mule can't pull"... I have decided to stop kicking... well at least as much events allow.

My Grandfather followed a mule plowing for most of his life. My Father graduated from high school during WWII. He could have had a farming deferment. Being young, energetic and having a hangover he spent one morning walking behind the mule watching it's rear end and decided he would rather go fight Germans... He was 20 years old at the Battle of the Bulge... As he aged he remembered the funny times during the war and tried to forget the horrors. He was among a group that liberated a concentration camp. "It was just a little one " my Aunt said... (Her husband spend the war at Fort Dix wrestling paperwork. We didn't spend much time around her. Stupidity might be contagious. We took no chances.)

It affected my Father when he would remember the horrors of what supposedly civilized people had done to others. He had a hard time sleeping for many years. He went from a small town in a corner of Georgia where most farming was still done the way it had been done for 100 years to the world of mechanized genocide. There was one Jewish family in the country. There were no Catholics. Nobody in his world had ever expressed that kind of hatred and evil... There was some bigotry towards blacks, but the depression had hammered the whole countryside. Everybody was broke. It's hard to hate when you're all in the same boat.

My father died in 1959 in a car wreck. That was long ago, far away and ancient history.

Except it's not. George Santayana is attributed to the misquote "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". History does seem to run in cycles. It does not run in ruts. Things are never exactly the same as they were before. We can learn something of the future by studying the past and looking for the reasons that people made decisions which led to known results. We do that by studying history. It seems we concentrate too much on battles, elections and personal lives of dictators, kings and royalty. We don't spend enough time looking at the common people. We look at the weapons and great buildings and not at the homes and daily lives of those who make the machinery of civilization work. Yet, when the great leaders need a war, they turn to these people for justification, fodder, support, sacrifice, and sacrifice. When we study businesses we do the same things. We look at the large enterprises, the leaders of these monster corporations... We don't study either the people who make the wheels turn, the paperwork move and the details attended. We don't study successful individuals and look for clues to what habits and traits made them so.

We like to think that we are wise. We are the "thinking ape ". But we are often blind to the people and changes around us. We make plans. We present them for approval, revision, alteration, amendment and finally funding. We give credit to ourselves for our success. When it fails we blame "bad luck " . I have yet to see a successful person attribute their position to "luck " Yet, we study their failures to avoid "bad luck " corrupting our plans... This all seems a bit arrogant to me.

We won WWII. We have no real idea what we did right. We did not have the best trained army. We didn't have the most modern and effective weapons. We were able to build and supply ourselves and our allies. We didn't get into a war of attrition in the traditional sense. We did not repeat the meat-grinders of WWI. The more books are written and the more detailed history is revealed, the more I read it as a very close run. We could have lost.

I think the defining difference between WWI and WWI was American leadership and the spirit of the American people. We were at war. We had been attacked. We struck back and then began the the search for allies, understanding the enemy and preparation to win. We faced an enemy that had attacked its neighbors, had enslaved its citizens and slaughtered thousands because they didn't fit some grand design. We faced an enemy that had wealth, intelligence, cunning, a ruthless disregard for human life be it their own forces or their enemies or the innocents. They were killers willing to use the most modern weapons and means to make the world into a better place for their kind. We had no illusions about their barbarism. We were clear in our commitment that their kind could not prevail or only be knocked down to return again stronger and more deadly.

We were attacked again in 1993 and 2001. In 1993, we treated the attack as a police action. We investigated and found the bad guys. We arrested them and gave them civil rights of a citizen and protections that they would never have given us. Throughout the 1990's we were repeatedly attacked. We continued to treat it as a police issue. We'd fire off a few cruise missiles to blow up some tents, an aspirin factory and bluster about.... We weren't serious about responding militarily. We were afraid of actually facing a serious enemy. We long lived in a delusional world of peace-harmony and political answers to all questions. Our thought leaders were convinced that all evil of the world originated somewhere in America and we should be ashamed of our success. On September 11, 2001 we were attacked by an enemy using airplanes as missiles. Suddenly, we were at war. Our Thought Leaders could not wish away 3,000 dead and replace the vanished buildings.

We faced an enemy that possessed no national homeland, no national boundaries, no national infrastructure, no factories, no government agencies, no way that we could strike back by sending in bombers and cruise missiles. The nation state had dissolved. However, like our enemies from the past these monsters
had attacked in many countries , had enslaved its citizens and slaughtered thousands because they didn't fit some grand design. We faced an enemy that had wealth, intelligence, cunning, a ruthless disregard for human life be it their own forces or their enemies or the innocents. They were killers willing to use the most modern weapons and means to make the world into a better place for their kind. They didn't covet our land, our wealth, or citizens, our peace or our prosperity. They hated us because we would be most likely to oppose their planes for world domination. Of all the nations in the world they chose America aas the toughest one to cow with threats and intimidation. They tested us with their 9/11 attack. They tested our newly elected President. Unfortunately, for them, this time they had a President who was willing to fight.

We went after their asylums in Afghanistan, the Philippines and South East Asia. We have had some successes. We have had a hard time convincing many nations and people that we face a united and organized enemy. Our intelligence and forecasts showed that Iraq, which had killed thousands of Iranians and Iraqi Kurds with poison gas, posed athreat. We went to the UN for sanctions and the authorization to use force to enforce the sanctions. WE asked and waited long months for answers to the future of those weapons of mass destruction. When we had no further choice we invaded and removed Saddam Hussein from power. We then engaged in helping the Iraqi people recover from 35 years of totalitarian dictatorship and subjection. It has been a rough process. We have adjusted and things are improving. The terrorists and criminal sectors of Iraqi society saw an opportunity to seize power. New generals, new tactics and the willingness of the Iraqi people to fight for their new lives have dramatically changed things over the past year. Our newspapers and TV media have chosen to ignore our victories. Our Thought Leaders still see America as the font of all evil in the world...

. Our own military has dubbed this "
the long war". Like previous "long wars" this may take a long time. We Americans have become accustomed to wars of short duration. We have not fought a long war since our struggle fro independence. We had to convince many that our cause was just and our course correct then as well.

Our enemy hides among the citizens of the world. They are as much at home in the highrise towers and hallways of power and wealth of modern cities as they are in villages and mountain caves. They go by many names. They hide behind the words of religion. They find a cover in religious fervor but when they are at full rampage, they take drugs, rape, steal, murder and desecrate without any consideration of any religion or the laws of any god or nation. They are killers. We refer to them Islamofascists or terrorists . We really don't know what to call them because they are very clever at turning our own civil libertarian concerns against us.

We know that they wish to kill us. They wish to attack and slaughter as many of us as possible. This will weaken our resolve and frighten their enemies. They will be able to convert the weak and assume world supremacy and the fulfillment of some nebulous grand design. They seek and will use any weapon that can kill tens of thousands of us in multiple attacks.

We have grown weary of the war. Our citizens have grown tired of the struggle. Our news media wants a different story. (They bore easily). Democracies have never had the long term will to face a tyrant. The longer we go without another attack, the easier it is to want to withdraw. have we not been attacked because of some plan or simply because we have been lucky, thus far.

Our new President will be tested. The Democrats have chosen to hold a race to withdraw from the major battlefield of this war. Altho, most recently they have decided that rather than remove the troops several hundred miles away they want garrison them inside large fortifications. They propose to fight a counterinsurgency war using the trench warfare tactics that created a meat grinder in "the war to end all wars" 90 years ago.

We are at war. Yet, our economy continues to grow and blossom. 95% of all workers are working. 96% of all mortgages are being paid on time. the revenues collected by the US govt are at all time highs. We do not have a draft to call up more military. Oil is expensive, but it is because the markets are uncertain about its availability 90 days from now. The oil speculators are chary of events in the oil producing regions of the world. There is no shortage of oil.

What the high oil prices have done is make alternatives economically viable. In 1977, I heard Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani speak. The first OPEC cartel price increases had shaken the world. Yamani had gone to school in America and knew us well. Like Admiral Yamamoto before him he knew that when they provoked America they "awoke a sleeping tiger". He feared that raising the prices too high or too quickly would prompt American ingenuity to find alternatives to their oil.

We are close to that point now. The high prices at the gas pump are prompting the govt., investors, inventors and entrepreneurs to seek alternatives. Ethanol and soy deisel now provide great farm subsidies but they pose long term problems. Wind and solar power are dependent upon the wind blowing and the sun shining. Improvements in solar power generation chips make it seem that we face another "Moore's Law" style revolution. If all these measures prove as promised what does that mean for the Middle East-?

Without oil wealth at the present level, will the world still scramble for access, control, possession-? If we only need oil as a lubricant, will the terrorists still get their funding-? Will terrorist states still fund their proxy wars-? What will the Islamofascists do when there is no more oil wealth-?

We must remain true to our American principles. We face many problems in the future. However the future is not carved in stone. We can still change the fates that our politicians say are aligned against us.

We cannot surrender to the fear mongers who would make us hide from the future. We cannot solve the problems of the future by retreating into the failed answers of the past. We cannot withdraw from the world. We cannot build walls and barriers to protect ourselves from everything. We are Americans. We are optimistic. We are inventive. We are creative. We are imaginative. We do not "muddle through", except when we are preparing to change the game...

We are the lucky beneficiaries of a grand experiment in participatory democracy. We are the first nation founded not by a tribe, a geographic boundary, race, religion or act of some government. We are founded on the philosophy that "all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator of certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"

From that premise, we hold that all humans have a right to life, liberty and the freedom to pursue happiness... This makes us very much at odds with any nation or person that would deny or restrict life, liberty or freedom to anyone else. We have struggled with this history within our own boundaries. We have not won all the battles. We have too many who would take and even more who would surrender their freedoms for the politicians promise of the better life as a slave. Too many who would exchange the freedom to pursue happiness as we each define it for the promise of safety, security, jobs, health, housing, education and old age assistance... That way lies the trap of slave master, the tyrant, the return to serfdom

Thanks to Wikipedia for the history links...