Friday, October 5, 2012

From the Mouth of Matuszak: Deconstruction Of A Meme

Obama said one thing during the October 3, 2012 debate that many liberal pundits have seemed to latch onto between their fits of excuses and finger pointing over Obama's debate loss. Obama stated that Romney doesn't have a plan, just an idea because he has not published anything in detail.

What it actually demonstrates is that Romney is willing to do a few things that Obama cannot even seem to comprehend the concepts they involve.

1. Lead

A leader presents guidance. A leader is sensitive to the common goal of his followers, then provides a clear vision of that goal, that objective, that end state. A leader also identifies the interim objectives necessary to reaching the eventual objective.  A leader accepts a mission, then issues smaller mission statements that fall in line with those interim objectives. In the case of an elected leader, that leader receives his mission from those he represents. In our republic, that means his superiors are the same as the led.

A good leader provides guidance that contains a task, purpose, and end state. Romney has done just that.

2. Surround himself with actual experts and listen to them.

Romney, unlike Obama, does not think himself omniscient. Obama selected so called experts such as Valerie Jarrett to fill positions they were grossly unqualified to fill. VJ may be an expert at something, but it is not the subjects her job title implies. Romney has a history of surrounding himself with competent people who are willing to tell him the hard truth and advise him accordingly. He would not have had his successes in the business world or in saving the SLC Olympics if he didn't.

A leader doesn't produce a final, detailed plan in a vacuum. They "staff" those plans. Staffs provide a group of experts and advisers from both academia and the practical world. They don't necessarily have all of the answers, but are adept at finding those answers and testing them before offering them as advice.

3. Listen to dissenting opinions and evidence before committing to a course of action

A good leader is one who will come up with a concept, then actually ask people to challenge it. Dissenting opinions provide a form of "wargaming" that helps rid any good plan of faults. Those who offer dissenting opinions to Obama are dismissed by him. However, Romney has already, while Governor, demonstrated the ability to listen to those dissenting opinions and formulate a plan, or compromise when necessary.

Romney issued a warning order that included his "commander's guidance". He did not hand an full OPORD to his staff and say "don't advise, don't plan, just execute". If you look at the five point plan he suggested in the debate, it is obvious he has a sound concept. He has established his interim objectives:

1. Put the USA on a path to energy independence.
2. Open trade on a global scale in order to increase the USA's market share and market value.
3. Increase opportunities for Americans to acquire skills and knowledge that will make our workers more competitive on the global scale, thereby increasing the value of our nation's human capital.
4. Balance the budget so our government isn't spending more than it is accruing in revenue. That is just smart. Any household that is spending more than it makes is, well, stupid. Same with any company. The same holds true for any country.
5. Champion small and mid-sized businesses to grow. If they have less restricted competition, then they have incentives to prosper and produce. In doing so, they will expand and hire more employees. More people receiving a paycheck means more taxable income. It also means more people having the earned income to spend on necessities and luxuries. That means more sales tax as well. Everybody wins.

The overall end state is economic prosperity in our country. It is a much increased GDP. It is a higher standard of living. It is people at work and a larger workforce participation rate. It is a better and happier America.

The details of his plan may not be one hundred percent set. They shouldn't be. Only a complete fool would do so.  A good leader sets what are called "decision points" that build flexibility for contingencies. Romney knows that he will not have all the necessary data to complete those plans until he gets in office. He is not a fool who is going to remain rigid to a plan even if it is doomed to failure, as Obama's evidently was.

I watched Romney in the primary. One of my criticisms of him, at that time, was that he didn't seem to have a set platform. Now, that is one of his greatest strengths. His platform is an amalgamation of those he competed against for the nomination. He adopted aspects of their better ideas and accepted some of them as advisers as well. He remained open to good suggestions. That's what a leader does.

So, it is not true that Romney lacks a detailed plan. What is true is that Romney has vision. He has a clear objective and desired end state. He has many options to accomplish those objectives. Like a true leader, he is still open to suggestions, advice, criticism, and improvement.

This article originally published at P-G Matuszak's Mental Aikido.

Are September Employment Numbers Good News?

Photo Copyright 2012 by P-G Matuszak. All rights reserved.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest Employment and Unemployment Economic Indicators Report for September 2012.

At initial glance it appears to be good news. The U3 Unemployment Rate normally used by the left dropped to 7.8%. The fact it took almost four years instead of eight months should send warning sirens, though, since an unhampered normal market adjustment would have resulted in an approximate drop to 7.5% by September 2008 had unnecessary government intrusions not kept it inflated.

Another sign of not so bad news is that workforce participation did not fall significantly and remains at an abysmal 63.6%.

Private sector (civilian) job creation was reported at 418,000 new positions. However, that is strikingly lower than the number of people underemployed due to economic reasons which rose by approximately 600,000. What this indicates is that approximately 418,000 people gained temporary, part time jobs while 182,000 or so people who had "steady, full time" employment moved into part time positions or shifted from one temporary job to another. The U6 rate remains unchanged at 14.7%. Percentage of long-term unemployed rose to 40.1%.

If the workforce participation were the same as it was four years ago, then the combined unemployed and underemployed rate would be closer to 23%. The numbers indicate that people are still not working. The numbers also count people taking two or more part time jobs multiple times as though each job taken were by a separate person, thus skewing the numbers.

While the latest report should stir some level of optimism, it is, by and large, not strikingly great news. Again, people need to sit down and do some basic math. If you recall your basic statistics classes in college (as well as Econ 101 and 102), you know that you need to take all the statistics in conjunction as well as look at the data set (or sample population). With over 1/3 of working age Americans not participating in the workforce, these numbers really are not so great.

Photo Copyright 2012 by P-G Matuszak. All rights reserved.
We still have over 18,775,000 people seeking jobs who cannot find one. We have 8.6 Million people that want and need full time jobs who are stuck in part-time employment. We have 2.5 Million listed as "marginally attached". These are people who want jobs, have looked in the past year, but are not listed as part of the workforce and, therefore, not "unemployed". These people include military retirees looking for work. Since they receive a pension check, they are not eligible to file for unemployment "benefits", and are not counted in the workforce or the unemployment percentage. Adding that demographic back into the number of unemployed, the figure is closer to 21,275,000 unemployed. Increase that by the underemployed of 8.6 million (up by 600,000 in September), the total number of people unemployed and underemployed is a total of 29,875,000. That is nearly 30 Million people not able to work at their full potential due to the current economic conditions.

Article originally published at P-G Matuszak's Mental Aikido. Copyright 2012 by P-G Matuszak, used with permission.

Classic Must See: The Naked City (1948)

For all the dark and gritty semi documentary police procedurals we’re used to in film and TV, for graphic scenes of the crime followed by routine investigations, with a big city as main character, you can go way back and thank a man with one name and a good eye for detail. Usher Fellig, an Austrian immigrant to New York, had a darkroom in the trunk of his car and went from being a photo technician and photographer’s assistant to entrepreneur, to covering the crime beat for a press service. Because he seemed to have the uncanny ability to beat emergency vehicles to crime scenes and get choice shots, he got (or gave himself) the nickname Weegee, a play on the Ouija board.

In 1945, Weegee put out a book of his ultra realist stark urban night scape tabloid style crime photos, called it Naked City. The best seller attracted the attention of New York columnist and Broadway playwright/short story writer turned Hollywood producer Mark Hellinger (The Killers and Brute Force) who secured the film rights to the book's concept and title Naked City for his new movie, a police procedural, and ended up not only buying into the cachet of a newly coined and very catchy term, but also hooking into loads of imagery and associations to New York City crime.

The Naked City movie focused on a Brooklyn police department, its hard working detectives and forensic experts, and was an amalgam of several real NYPD investigations. There's an opening murder, a veteran Homicide detective, the older, wiser, crotchety and clever, paired with and mentoring young war vet and new detective, good looking, sharp and eager to learn.

The script emphasizes the investigative routine, profiling, and all the forensic rules modern viewers have had drilled into our brain, don’t touch or move anything, collect every scrap of what might turn out to be evidence, and follow every clue. The method leads to the discovery of a jewelry theft ring, and finally to a fearsome, sweaty, acrobatic, harmonica playing exwrestler, and one of the greatest chase sequences ever filmed, winding through back alleys and streets of the East side, to the Williamsburg Bridge, and from there high up into the sky.

Director Jules Dassin used every opportunity to frame a scene in order to showcase over one hundred NYC locations, countless beautiful shots of the city's endless motion. The city is a figure blamed by the model's parents for luring their daughter, then consuming her and making her insignificant. "This time yesterday she was just another pretty girl; today she's just yesterday's news."

The lack of big name stars helped the documentary style, the effect of a Weegee photo ripped from his book and come to life. Regular New Yorkers were captured in their "natural habitat", thanks to the innovative technique of shooting secretly from inside a truck fitted with a two-way mirror. The Naked City movie was a financial and critical hit, with Oscars awarded for editing and for black & white cinematography, and a nomination for screenwriting.

Sadly, the stress of shooting in the grueling heat of NYC’s hottest summer on record, dealing with a big budget and even bigger crowds contributed to Mark Hellinger's death of a heart attack at the age of forty-four, just before the film's release. With The Naked City, the filmmakers knew they were creating a new genre, and ended up setting the standard for the thousands of hours of derivative film and TV that it inspired. The procedural and forensic format has since sent various branches of the law searching and frantically chasing through many a big city, and The Naked City was where it all began.
The Naked City is available on DVD and also on HULU

Find me at the Speakeasy for much more classic entertainment.