Thursday, November 27, 2003

United in America

There is more, much more, that unites us as Americans than there is that divides us. Political hostilities pale in comparison to the magnificence of our land, our legacy, our destiny.

We have much, indeed to be thankful for, much to fight for, much to work for, much to look forward to.

Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island raised their right hands and swore to defend their new homeland against all enemies, internal and external.

Is this why (legal) immigrants often make the most robust and thankful Americans? Because they are willing to take that oath, they are made of the right stuff.

Would it be such a bad idea for all citizens to affirm that oath every so often?

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Chief Justice Roy Moore

It's hard to give an exhaustive opinion of the Moore case, since none of us knows all the facts and there are some bona fide rules of conduct that apply to judges. Nonetheless, there is the noble tradition of Civil Disobedience to be considered. Sometimes the Powers that Be just Be Wrong.

Moore's remarks have been that his sworn duty, as a judge, is to acknowledge God -- this was his oath of office -- and that refusing to do so is a dereliction of duty. Therefore he was put in a no-win situation.

In the big picture, it is truly abominable that he would be administratively penalized for displaying a symbol of the Ten Commandments upon which Western jurisprudence is ultimately based. No, the average American TV addict probably doesn't know this. There are similar symbols in court rooms across the country, including in DC -- at the United States Supreme Court, for example.

There is a transcript of the hearing in which Judge Moore is asked if he will "continue to acknowledge God," and of course he answers "Yes," and goes on to say that he has no regrets about doing so. It is then that the board admonishes him for being 'unrepentant' or something like that and orders him removed. Pretty chilling stuff.

By these remarks, it seems that the case has nothing do with ethics or qualifications, but about acknowledging or failing to acknowledge God publicly and/or in the line of duty.

Ironically, there is the concurrent case of the display of the Koran, the Holy Book of Islam, in a pedestaled glass case in the NYPD headquarters. I think this is the same city where Muslim fundamentalists attacked and killed 3000-plus people just two years ago.

Is it me, or is there a disconnect, a hypocrisy evident here? Wherever you stand on this issue, whether you're an atheist or a Muslim or a Born Again Christian, if your brain is in 'run' mode then you must see the double standard.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that you're in Wierdsville when they won't let you display the Ten Commandments in the very same room where they hand you a Bible upon which to place your right hand and swear to tell the whole truth.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

"market timing" and other non-issues

This is just a hunch, but I see the recent flood of righteous indignation against mutual fund managers who engage in 'market timing' as yet another manifestation of 'open season on deep pockets.'

As I understand it, the argument against 'market timing' is that it runs up fund expenses that all fund shareholders pay, for an activity that is engaged in by relatively few. We are reminded that the activity is 'illegal,' but I am not too certain it is immoral. Not yet, anyway.

Professionals in the securities industry often trade in a fashion that is completely unsuitable for non professionals, and they often do so at a fraction of the expense that non professionals would pay. To imply, in this case, that professionals are somehow breaching their fiduciary responsibility to the public at large strikes me as a typical misconstruction of the role of a fiduciary.

If a used car dealer engages in wholesale automobile trading at the auction, should it be illegal for him just because the public at large doesn't have convenient access to the same mechanisms of trade? I think not. If his activity can be shown to somehow cause real damage to the automobile buyer at large, then a case might be made. On the other hand, his participation in the wholesale market helps to support it which, in turn, supports a vibrant retail market.

There is some anecdotal evidence that this 'issue' will be blustered up and forgotten: Eliot Spitzer has, along with a selected academic or so, weighed it for potential political fodder. That's a pretty sure indicator that it's much to-do about nothing.