One word: Demographics

An acquaintance runs a strategic advisory and investment group – ‘The Atlantic Advisory Group‘ – here in L.A., and has a newsletter that he sends me. In light of the discussion below, the underlined parts in this portion of their recent issue seemed relevent.

Three Rules of the Modern Market

Demographics, demographics and demographics. This is one of our favorites because large-scale shifts in age cohorts drive many markets. For this reason also it gets a little complicated, but here are a few important, and long-term, trends to consider:

The leading edge of the Baby Boomlets…children of Baby Boomers…are now graduating from college. They are thoroughly versed in technology, especially the Internet. They have money. They will soon start to look for careers. They are starting to get married. They will soon start to spend a lot more money on eating out, drinking, buying cars, buying furniture. They like big movies (Lord of The Rings). They like eco-tourism and extreme sports. They have never worn suits.

The Baby Boom folks are being financially squeezed by their postponement of child-bearing, which means that money to fund retirement is being used to college bills for their kids. This is happening at a time when many of the Boomers are unemployed (and do not show up in the labor statistics because they are out of the labor force or underemployed). They are also getting sick, whether bad knees or the consequences of bad living.

The Boomers’ Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad are getting sick but they will live a long, long time and they will not have enough health insurance to cover the costs of extended or merely chronic illnesses. Their inevitable demise will mean a very large transfer of wealth, assuming that things like the Medicare spend-down requirements do not wipe it out.

The Middle Classes of the Developing World. At the same time, a middle (and upper middle) class has now emerged in developing countries…people with incomes, lifestyles and aspirations roughly equivalent to the American upper middle class. For example, there are now more people in India who can afford Mercedes Benz higher-end models than there are in the United States.

The Entrepreneurs Live Elsewhere. Whatever you can do to increase your business, entrepreneurs in India, China and elsewhere can do just as well and at a lower cost. With access to capital (look at China), they are even more potent. They are export-oriented or, rather, they happily understand that their markets will be elsewhere, such as the US and Europe.

The Wired World is Going Overseas. Depending upon who is counting, somewhere between 40 and 60% of Internet users are now outside of North America and most of them are non-English speaking.

Talk amongst yourselves…

Confessore Confused

Nick Confessore, over at TAPPED, launches on the McCain speech that TG and I liked so much. His arguments are – to put it mildly – self contradictory and ahistorical. He may not be happy that McCain spoke, but his attempted deflation of McCain’s argument grounding the war in Iraq in domestic security issues is far from connvincing, and doesn’t hold up to ten minutes worth of Googling.

I wonder if John McCain feels mildly ashamed for the obfuscating and dishonest speech he delivered last night. I only heard it on the radio, so perhaps I was imagining the whiff of resignation and unenthusiasm in his tone. But McCain has certainly hitched his wagon back to George W. Bush’s train (albeit probably for self-interested and tactical reasons). No doubt he will continue to have enormous appeal among independents. I wonder, though, how many Democrats will continue to have stars in their eyes. He makes spin sound very good — but it’s still spin.

I’ll leave aside McCain’s elevation of the fight against terrorism with World War II, an oratorical and intellectual error he shares with many people, including many Democrats.

Well, let’s start. Obviously this war is one that’s different than World War II. Nothing, except World War II will be the same as World War II. But to compare the current war – in seriousness – that one is not, to me, farfetched. If Confessore doesn’t think this is that serious how serious does he think it is? Is it more serious than, say, organized crime? Bad Olympic judging?

The worst of his offenses against the truth came, predictably, with regards to Iraq:

[snip McCain speech]

The only reason Michael Moore makes an appearance in McCain’s speech is to provide the senator with the requisite straw man — someone who believes Iraq is an “oasis of peace” to go along with the unnamed people, presumably Democratic peaceniks, who supposedly supported freeing Saddam Hussein from the box of sanctions and the threat of military force.

Well, let’s examine that. Did the 70 Members of Congress who signed a letter that said:

In February, seventy members of the House of Representatives signed a letter to President Clinton asking that the Administration “delink” economic sanctions from the military sanctions against Iraq.

“More than nine years of the most comprehensive economic embargo imposed in modern history has failed to remove Saddam Hussein from power or even ensured his compliance with international obligations, while the economy and people of Iraq continue to suffer,” the letter states. “Morally, it is wrong to hold the Iraqi people responsible for the actions of a brutal and reckless government.”

count? It’s not hard, if you have any kind of a memory at all – it’s only four or five years ago, remember, and I’m the one who went to Santa Cruz in the 70’s – to recall that there was a large body of opinion that held that the sanctions were immoral, were killing 500,000 Iraqi children a year, and that they should be narrowed or better still, eliminated.

This is not to say that McCain’s argument is entirely poppycock. Many smart analysts on both the right and the left believed that the costs of keeping Saddam boxed in were so high relative to the costs to Saddam of being boxed that, over time, the status quo would erode and war might someday be necessary to prevent his resurgence.

But no credible voice in the Democratic foreign policy establishment was calling for an end to sanctions or backing down from our deployments in the Persian Gulf, nor considered Saddam an angel.

So here be moves the goalpost, and suggests that far from ‘presum[ed] Democratic peacenicks’ we need to be concerned with ‘credible voices.’

The bottom line is that the choice McCain posited last night was a false one. It was not a choice between knocking Saddam off on the one hand, and letting him acquire nukes on the other. On the central justification for the Iraq War — preventing a dictator from developing a WMD capability — the inspections regime worked, showing before the invasion what is now undeniable: Saddam didn’t pose a threat to us at the time.

And here, I’ll pose the simple problem that while the sanctions regime may well have worked, it was obvious – and I think it was obvious, but will try and document my case a bit more when I get a moment – that sanctions were beginning to fail.

Anyone else remember the North Koreans $10 Million ripoff?

For two years before the American invasion of Iraq, Saddam’s sons, generals and front companies were engaged in lengthy negotiations with North Korea.

So, given the amount of cash Saddam was siphoning off under the gaze of those who controlled the sanctions, how long, exactly, were they supposed to hold up? And what would have happened next?

There’s probably an argument to make somewhere that sanctions could have collapsed and all would have been OK. I think it would have been a wrong and stupid one, but it would have been an argument.

Confessore’s whole post was just a dodge of McCain’s central point, which was that the choice wasn’t a binary one between war and peace, and that those who argued for peace need to understand that the status quo ante wasn’t sustainable.

When the Democrats come up with an argument, as opposed to a dodge, on this issue we’ll have a much more interesting election.

Why Not Bush?

In case anyone wonders why I keep dancing around a decision and just don’t come out for Bush (or so a few correspondents suggest), given my discomfort with Kerry’s security non-policies, here’s a brief explanation from Forbes:

U.S. companies that outsourced the most jobs in 2003 also offered well-above average pay increases to their chief executives, according to a new study released this morning. Companies that made outsized political contributions to either the Democratic or the Republican parties also paid their CEOs unusually well, the study finds.

The average CEO compensation at the 50 firms outsourcing the most service jobs increased by 46% in 2003. That increase compares to an average hike of 9% for CEOs at 365 of the largest U.S. companies, according to a report by the Institute for Policy Studies, a non-profit that focuses on progressive research, and United for a Fair Economy, best known for its opposition to the repeal of the federal estate tax.

I’ll comment that the source isn’t exactly unbiased, and I’ll go and read the study and see how solid I believe it to be before I give this total credence.

And I’m not an opponent of the internationalization of business (I’m not an opponent of gravity, either). But when you see that the issue isn’t one of lowering costs to customers, or one of increasing shareholder value – but of nakedly lining the pockets of the managers who make the decisions – it’s hard not to frame this as one in which the managers see the decision to internationalize as one where they can pocket a substantial amount of the salary dollars they save.

But ultra-luxury housing is doing better in Los Angeles than upper-middle priced housing, like mine. See the LA Times article “$10 Million is the new $1 Million“:

Even in the mid-1990s, even among rich folks, $10 million was freakishly big money; only a handful of homes each year sold in that range. Not Madonna, not Cher, not Arnold Schwarzenegger lived in $10-million houses, at least in those days.

Now, however, even with the market momentarily cooling, real estate agents say $10 million is your basic starter mansion. “In the high bracket,” said Beverly Hills real estate broker Cecelia Waeschle, “$10 million is now almost the norm.”

John Edwards’ ‘Two Americas’ may be the tagline to a good joke by Giuliani for the next few months.

But it’s an issue that won’t go away soon.

How We Got To The Moon

In April 1961, John Glenn famously said:

“They just beat the pants off us, that’s all, and there’s no use kidding ourselves about that. But now that the space age has begun, there’s going to be plenty of work for everybody.”

TG and I listened to the main speeches at the Republican convention on NPR tonight.McCain had a brilliant speech, delivered somewhat flatly until the end, when the punch line “…We fight for love of freedom and justice–a love that is invincible. Keep that faith! Keep your courage! Stick together! Stay strong! Do not yield! Do not flinch! Stand up! Stand up with our President and fight! We’re Americans! We’re Americans and we’ll never surrender! They will!” was delivered with what sounded like real passion.

Then Giuliani came on. I’ve never heard him speak; just a few sound bites from press conferences seen in airport lounges and hotels. He’s the street version of Mario Cuomo; they both have the knack for being both oratorical and personal. Giuliani gave a major speech as though he was having a conversation with a friend.

TG is a committed Democrat; she adores Edwards (as do I), sees gay marriage as the #1 issue and doesn’t share my misgivings about Kerry’s foreign policy. But she was rattled by the speeches tonight, and the clear line they seemed to draw between Kerry’s policies and Bush’s.

So I surf over to the left blogs – to TAPPED and TalkLeft and read – carping.

“GIULIANI’S SPEECH, 11:20 P.M.: This is unbelievably long.

–Sam Rosenfeld”

Sam, I hate to break it to you, but that’s not how it’s going to read in Pennsylvania.

If anyone is the personification of the opposite of freedom, it’s former federal prosecutor and Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Herr Giuliani is a more apt name for him. How could anyone just not want to retch listening to Giuliani tonight as he tried to sell himself and the Republicans as the party that would bring freedom to the world.

Giuliani cleaned up the streets in New York by arresting the poor, the homeless, the squeegee cleaners, the mentally ill and the addicted. Yes, New York became cleaner, but at what price? At the price of freedom….which he now fraudulently pretends to champion. Sickening.

Jeralyn, I don’t think that that’s what is going to help swing votes in Columbus.

Look, I assume that I’m not the only one who would like there to be an election contest here. And what needs to happen if that’s going to be the case is pretty simple isn’t handwaving and denial.

One can only hope that’s not what’s happening behind the doors in the Kerry campaign. We didn’t get to the moon first by denegrating the Soviet space program.

Public vs. Private Politics

Through Declan McCuollogh’s Politech, I’ve been following the matter of the Indymedia posting of the GOP delegate’s personal information. Note that I downloaded and looked at the file – and it does contain home phone numbers, addresses, and names for a bunch of people I assume are Republican delegates.

The ACLU has stepped in on behalf of Indymedia.Am I the only one bothered by this? It’s not new – here in Los Angeles, the director of the Department of Animal Services recently retired after protesters circled his home; the same group has protested at the home of Los Angeles Mayor Hahn.

Now Scott McNealy may believe that “privacy is dead, get over it,” and he may be right.

But it seems that by blending the public (would anyone be as squeamish about demonstrations in front of Jerry Greenwalt’s office?) and the private, these demonstrators are changing the game somewhat, and in a way that I’m not sure I’m comfortable with.

And, what’s more, they are doing it in a way that doesn’t exactly level the playing field.

Demonstrations against Greenwalt were led by ‘Animal Defense -LA‘; a whois shows a maildrop address (amusingly, Amy Alkon gets her mail at the same place), and the name of ‘Marcus Wolf’ – those who know a bit about Stasi history might wonder whether that’s a pseudonym…

So when will the Protest Warriors start showing up at the homes of Indymedia contributors? Or groups of grad students in biology at the homes of animal defense organizations?

Do we need more James Kopps??

Or am I just being too concerned about this?

Some Good News From Athens

I noticed this last week, and meant to post it Friday.

Then the L.A. Times covered it in detail today.

Ted Hayes is a leading advocate for the homeless in Los Angeles. While I do a fair amount of volunteer work around homeless issues (mostly in working on mediating ongoing disputes between a homeless services agency and it’s neighbors), I’ve never met him.

But he came to prominence as an advocate for the homeless who lived among them himself; he runs a charity from which he takes a $30,000 salary (as compared, say to the $400K salary the head of the NRDC takes). His views are – to put it mildly – iconoclastic, but he’s done a lot in Los Angeles to both create political support for programs to serve homeless people and help raise some of them out of homelessness and back into society and find ways for those homeless people who won’t live in society to live in a manner that respects them and reduced their impact on the community.

But that’s not the good news.

The good news is that his daughter, Joanna Hayes, set an Olympic record in winning the women’s 100-meter hurdles in Athens.The Times story doesn’t spare the consequences on Ted’s family of his decision to “…give up his family to live on the streets.”

But there’s a summation.

As Joanna grew older and politically aware, she came to respect the choice her father had made.

“Obviously, with my dad, there have been times when I’ve been angry with him,” she said. “But there are so many more times when I’ve been proud of him.”

“I will,” she said proudly, “always be the Dome Village girl.”

Ted Hayes was cheering in the stands in Athens this week along with Joanna’s mother and other family members.

I was cheering when I read about her victory as well.

An Interesting Read on Character As An Issue

Here’s a fascinating, and non-vitriolic look at the ‘character’ issue for both candidates. Note that just because I’m unhappy with the polarization of politics right now that I’m not dismissing politics or the importance of the election. And note that I’ll publicly commit to aggressively attack anyone who – after the election – immediately launches into a partisan effort to hamstring whichever candidate is elected.

That’s my pledge, and I’d love to see other polibloggers take it as well.

The column is by Craig Crawford, of Congressional Quarterly (via Taegan Goddard), and I’ll be reading a lot more of his stuff.He says:

Someone like me, who never served in the military, has no business passing judgment on a combat veteran’s record – and I am not doing that here. Anyone such as Kerry, who carries shrapnel in his body as a result of service to his country, deserves to boast if he wants to. But politics is not always fair, and Kerry’s eagerness to harness his military background for political purposes is haunting him. It fits a lifelong pattern of grooming himself for high office. Voters like ambition, but they’d rather not see you sweat.


We learned that, unlike Kerry, he [Bush] was most willing to use his privileged status to avoid harm’s way in Southeast Asia.

But in light of Bush’s hawkish presidency, claims that he dodged a fight do not fit the pattern of how voters see his character.

Instead, Bush’s military record fits a character pattern that many voters like about him. His war years demonstrate that this is not a man who spent his entire adult life plotting to run for president.

For starters, how lame it was for Bush to lose his Texas Air National Guard flight status simply because he missed a physical examination. But it does fit his image as a regular guy who cannot stand paperwork.

Even if Democrats could prove their unsubstantiated claim that Bush was AWOL in the summer of 1972, it is not clear that enough voters are going to care to make a difference.

A great analysis, and one that points to where the Democrats must not go if they’re going to have a chance (certainly, a chance with me – and I assume that I’m pretty typical).

The People, United…

…can never be defeated.

I finally managed to join 2004 and start using a RSS-based blog reader (Bloglines, in my case), which has meant that instead of randomly popping out to read blogs when I’m on boring phone calls (or procrastinating to avoid making boring phone calls), I now tend to just, robot-like, click down an alphabetical list of 62 blogs and newsfeeds (I’ll append the list).

And it’s kind of depressing.

Most of the blogs I read are fully engaged in electoral politics, which is on one hand good because it’s an important election and it’s neat to see citizen’s media play an important role in it, and on the other hand bad because the level of partisan venom is just stupefying.

Here’s a quick shoutout to my fellow bloggers.
It’s going to be a damn important election, there’s no question. But guess what. As much as there are at least two dozen people I’d rather have as president than either George Bush or John Kerry, one of those two will be our president on January 20, 2005. He’ll have to lead the country through what will be one of the most challenging periods in our history as we try and fight a low-intensity war and keep it from becoming a high-intensity one.

The biggest threat they will face isn’t Islamist terrorism, European intransigence, Chinese economic power, or Iranian nukes. It will be a polity paralyzed by internal rage, distrust, and contempt. If we – as a nation and as citizens – can manage to engage each other in constructive ways, I am certain that we will beat whatever events throw at us.

Go read Josh Marshall or Wizbang. Or look at how Kevin Drum’s rhetoric has changed over the year. These aren’t semi-humorous blogs like Scrappleface or IMAO. They are serious commentators on the events of the day, people who I take seriously, and their rhetoric displays exactly what it is that I’m afraid of. I used to comment (as snark) that Matt Yglesias’ overheated partisan rhetoric meant he was trying out for the DNC. That’s less funny in light of Atrios’ and Oliver Willis’ employment, but I wonder why it is that the amateurs are working so hard to outdo the professionals at thuggery.

It would be nice if we could all – acknowledging that we have sides – work to make the professionals a little bit ashamed instead.

It’s interesting how Dean Esmay’s challenge has fallen off the radar.

For what it’s worth, here are the blogs in my reader:

American Digest
Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Dish
Asymmetrical Information
Belmont Club
Brad DeLong’s Semi-Daily Journal: A Weblog
California Insider
Crooked Timber
Daniel W. Drezner
Dynamist Blog
Guardian Unlimited
Harry’s Place
Healing Iraq
Hit & Run
Howard Lovy’s NanoBot
L.A. Observed
Lessig Blog
Little Green Footballs
Los Angeles Times
Mark A. R. Kleiman
One Hand Clapping
Outside The Beltway
Patterico’s Pontifications
Political Animal
Power Line
Priorities & Frivolities
Roger L. Simon
Slate Magazine
Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall
TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime
The Idea Shop
The Indepundit
The New Republic Weblogs
The New York Times > Home Page
The New York Times > Opinion
The Southern California Law Blog
The Volokh Conspiracy
The Washington Monthly
Tim Blair
War and Piece
Wired News

Do I get Brownies and Fritos At Work?

The Marijuana Policy Project is looking for technology staff:

Application deadline: September 20, 2004. The Information Technology Coordinator position is based in MPP’s main office in Washington, D.C. The position requires the ability to perform exceptionally in a fast-paced campaign environment. First and foremost, the Information Technology Coordinator must be meticulous and have an exacting attention to detail. Applicants for this position should not have even small degrees of sloppiness or forgetfulness.

(emphasis added)

Sorry, the jokes are just too damn obvious. I can’t bring myself to make them. But you should feel free…