Friday, April 29, 2011

2012 - The Early Going

I have a remarkable number of friends who have solicited my support for Mitt Romney, here, a full nine months from Iowa. Another has asked me to help throw a Gingrich event. Things are heating up, but I have a policy that I never donate to more than one candidate for a given position. It makes no sense unless you're trying to hedge your bets and curry favor, a practice I find repugnant. (Perhaps overlooked in Atlas Shrugged is that Rand eviscerates the private sector favor-curriers as much as she does government socialists.)

I am at least six or seven months away from deciding on a candidate, and I am completely open right now. Normally, Republicans have this self-defeating habit of picking the "next-in-line," but this time feels different to me. I feel we need to let someone emerge from the crucible of the campaign, the way a relatively unknown Bill Clinton did in 1992. For instance, I plan to take a close look at Gary Johnson, the former Governor of New Mexico. He's a libertarian who favors legalizing pot, but he was also a complete ball-buster on spending while governor. I'm talkin' Dr. No.

I am not, strictly speaking, a libertarian. Historically, I have not favored withdrawing into ourselves, foreign policy wise. But unfortunately, being the world's policeman - pax americana - is no longer an option because we don't have the money. Legalizing pot? I don't favor that either, but there's far more that I like about libertarians than not. On economic matters, their agenda is highly compelling. And here's the thing: they are principled. I know where they stand. No flip-flopping or hidden agendas.

Can we say the same about Mitt Romney? Is he a principled candidate, or would he fall prey to the "sophisticated" and "nuanced" positions of Beltway panjandrums, become one more in a line of spineless purveyors of liberalism-lite like Ford, Dole, and McCain? We just don't know. His words say no, but don't they always during the primaries? His actions, historically, suggest otherwise. (I will say this about Romney: based on the calls I’ve been getting, he seems to have a substantial organizational lead at this point.)

I also plan to look long and hard at Michelle Bachmann and Newt Gingrich, and maybe Mitch Daniels. Bachmann has principles and balls, but can a congressman manage the executive branch? Maybe, but there just might be a reason it's never been done. Gingrich has principles as well, and I'd pay good money to see him mop the floor with Obama in a debate. But is he a manager? Many say no. We'll see how well he can manage a campaign. Mitch Daniels? He's got the management chops, but does he have the fire-in-the-belly? Seems bland. Too bad we can't splice him with Bachmann or Gingrich.

I'll say this, though: this is an election that must be won. A crazy amount at stake, including the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with the current nomination probabilities, as shown in prediction markets:

Romney            25%
Pawlenty          16%
Daniels             10%
Trump                9%
Huckabee           8%
Bachmann          6%
Huntsman          6%
Palin                  5%
Paul                   3%
Gingrich            2%
Johnson             1%

Forgot to mention Trump or Palin, but that's because I don't think either is a candidate. If either becomes one, my views are this: Trump is a joke with no ideological consistency. Palin is nothing if not consistent, but the media has effectively - and unfairly - branded her in such a way as to make her election impossible. She's a dead end.

In the general, the market says Obama has a 60% probability of winning re-election. I view this as far too high for the simple reason that he’s going to have enormous difficultly with Ohio and Florida, and he’s not winning without those. Also, I believe 20% of America voted for him in 2008 as a fashion statement more than anything – sophisticated person on board – and buyer's remorse runs rampant through that group (many of them here on Wall Street). They have checked the “enlightened” box and don’t need to check it again.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I Love My Ford

I have driven BMWs for years and always liked them. Every three years, I leased a new one. Most recently, I had an X5. I got the impression, though, that that quality gap was closing between American and German cars, particularly with Ford.

So, I did something I haven't done in 25 years: I bought an American car, a Ford Edge:

So far, remarkably, I like it far more than the BMW, and it's $320 less a month. Similar size, but the drive is less truck-like. And the technology is terrific. You can talk to the car like on Star Trek. (No, you can't say, "Tea, Earl Gray," but you can give it all sorts of commands.) The GPS guides you around current traffic conditions, which is nifty, and my iPod is permanently plugged in, hidden away. I can change the ambient interior lighting colors which come on at night (my kids, who constantly play with the touch screen, love this feature and my daughter currently has left it pink).

No, the tech isn't perfect. It's balky sometimes, and often it's easier using a button than talking. But it will improve and the cool factor is there. And I've never had so many people ask me about a car I've owned in my life. I was in a meeting the other day with about 25 people when a straggler walked in and asked, "Whose Ford is that outside? That's a great looking car!"

Ford's ears must be burning. When was the last time people said things like that about their cars? They had great earnings this week, and deserved it. Oh, and they didn't take a dime of bailout money.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Smartphones Speeding Up the Tech Cycle

Flip video recorders were all the rage, what, a few months ago? Now, they are toast. The New York Times on it here:

The story is quite remarkable. Flip was founded by two guys in San Francisco in 2007. In 2009, they sold to Cisco for $590 million. Now, in 2011, Cisco has shut the product down.

The reason? Smartphones. They are replacing one gadget after another. As I ponder my own iPhone, for me it has replaced:

  • cameras
  • video recorders
  • GPS devices
  • clock radios
  • white noise machines
  • kitchen weather stations
  • dictionaries (ok, not a gadget)

And it does a whole lot of things that no gadget ever did, like show me in an instant whether my flight's on time or show me discounts near my current location.

Not everybody carries a smartphone yet, but they will. Smartphone usage is supposed to hit 50% in the U.S. by the end of the year. Ten years from now - maybe five - teenagers will marvel that their parents ever lived in a time when they left home without a computer.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

More Nuttiness From San Francisco

A friend just put a house on the market in San Francisco and writes this:

In San Francisco, you must disclose to a potential buyer if a person has died in your house during the past three years. However, another law states that if someone has died of AIDS in your house you are forbidden to disclose this fact. Therefore, if indeed someone has died of AIDS in your house, you have to choose which law to break. Either way, a buyer can sue you!