Paul Ryan is a Slightly Younger, Male Version of Michele Bachman

Paul Ryan is about as conservative as Michele Bachman. And they’re both from the same region of the country. Why do we perceive Ryan differently, then? I’m thinking it’s gotta be Bachman’s crazy-eyes.

Various statistical measures of Mr. Ryan peg him as being quite conservative. Based on his Congressional voting record, for instance, the statistical system DW-Nominate evaluates him as being roughly as conservative as Representative Michele Bachmann, the controversial congresswoman of Minnesota.

via A Risky Rationale Behind Romney’s Choice of Ryan – NYTimes.com.

Somebody Get Those Protesters Some Ferry Boats

If they’re going to do stories like this, it would be neat if the NY Times would hire a reporter to cover the Bay Area who actually knows the Bay Area — specifically, the difference between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge:

No central action was planned. A coalition of labor unions had asked Occupy Oakland, with its proven ability to turn out large numbers of militant activists, to blockade the Golden Gate Bridge, but then withdrew the request at the last minute.

via Oakland, the Last Refuge of Radical America – NYTimes.com.

When is it Time for a Conservative to Start Clamoring for Big Government?

When the place where you live catches fire, apparently. From last year, Texas’ Chief “Oops” Officer Rick Perry whined about not getting enough federal dollars Texas got after their epic wildfires of last year.

And now this week, conservative attack poodle Michelle Malkin (who lives in Colorado Springs and was forced to evacuate by godless socialist big-government fire authorities) has found someone to blame for the hundreds of homes that have burned in the eastern Colorado foothills. No surprise, it’s President Obama. That’s right, the skinny kid from Chicago is personally responsible for the outcome of the Colorado Springs fire.

I suppose this couldn’t possibly be the fault of homeowners who built or purchased their homes in the urban-wilderness interface. America is all about the freedom to buy a home wherever you want, right? Although this does sort of seem like another example of the conservative impulse to socialize risk and privatize gains. When the value of your hillside home goes up, are you allowed to complain when your property tax (which pays for fire protection) goes up? Answer carefully!

We lived in Colorado Springs for a few years when I was in elementary school, so I know the area a little bit; our old neighborhood is about four miles from the fire boundary. On the other side of our street was a wilderness preserve. Well, I guess it’s a former wilderness preserve; according to Google Maps satellite view — half of it is housing tracts now. I’m sure those folks are OK since they’re on the other side of the highway from the fire, but as anyone who’s lived in a foothill wilderness knows, sometimes those things catch on fire. The question before us is: who is to blame when your house burns down?

I’m sure it can’t be the fault of conservatives in state legislatures who are forcing austerity budgets, reducing the sizes of public safety agencies (as well as schools and other infrastructure projects).

But you gotta ask: Where is your free market now, Ms. Tough-Gal Conservative? Why didn’t you come prepared for this moment and secure additional fire protection through private industry?

I realize that after George Bush’s sterling performance following Hurricane Katrina, conservatives are desperate to turn the tables on Obama, hoping to indict both him personally and the federal government’s disaster-relief role in general. But they can’t have it both ways: you can either support the notion of a robust federal role in disaster preparedness and relief, or you don’t get to criticize the government when your back yard burns down.

Why Romney Has Been Reluctant To Release Details of His Healthcare Plan

President Obama enacted a law that will help everyone with pre-existing conditions, cover the uninsured, and tackle rising health care costs. Romney would repeal these reforms, leaving health care costs on an unsustainable trajectory, and replace it with a law that has been on the books for more than 15 years.

AttackWatch, “Why Romney’s “repeal and replace” plan for Obamacare would fail millions of Americans

Thoughts on “R.I.P. Good Times, Part 2”

I don’t pretend to know much of anything about tech venture investing but there are several aspects to Paul Graham’s warning to his portfolio companies that are not passing the “smell test” for me. To whit:

  • A venture investor warning startups to “expect lower valuations” is like a truck driver warning a gas station to “expect lower gas prices”. Of course they want entrepreneurs to “expect lower valuations”; this is never not the case.
  • It’s an article of faith that Facebook’s declining stock price will depress startup investing, but I’m not clear on why. The Facebook IPO will actually unlock a large amount of free cash for Facebook employees which they will need to park somewhere. I’d read that more than 1,000 Facebook employees and ex-employees became millionaires on IPO day, and it’s safe to say that most of those folks will still be millionaires even if FB trades at 23. If only 10% of them start doing angel investing (which seems conservative), that means there will be 100 more angel investors in the valley than there were six months ago. You really think this is going to depress startup valuations?
  • The market bats last. No single investor or group of investors gets to determine what the correct market value for something should be. Investors barely get a vote, much less a veto. Anything else is guesswork.
  • The genesis for the original “R.I.P. Good Times” talk was a near-collapse of the U.S. banking system which led to the biggest recession in a century. But the sky didn’t actually fall back then; in the years following there has actually been a significant uptick in angel and venture investing and an increase in IPO activity. The genesis for PG’s warning, on the other hand, was a conversation between a couple of wealthy investors following a two-week decline in a widely-followed (and, arguably, overhyped and overpriced) IPO.
  • The VC model is horribly broken. Still. Investments in Silicon Valley today are mostly done through personal connections, political/business alliances, and one-hour pitch meetings that mostly favor entrepreneurial stereotypes (in essence, males in their 20s) over experience or business viability. If any other kind of Silicon Valley company did business on these principles, they’d be laughed off the playground.
  • The November election has a chance to have a significant affect on the economy; if the Democrats take back Congress and keep the White House (which I think is likely), it’s possible we’ll see the current Republican economic austerity strategy eased somewhat (or entirely abandoned) which could have positive macroeconomic effects that could kick in by Q2 2013. The end of the recession will have a strong positive effect on technology companies, both new and established, and it will cause new investors to emerge.
  • There is a decent chance that the playing board for seed round startups will be rearranged in January 2013, when the SEC rules pertaining to crowdfunding are in place and companies can start soliciting from non-qualified investors. I can’t help but wondering if this isn’t responsible at least a bit of the investor angst we’re seeing today.

At the end of the day, investors don’t express their displeasure with excessive corporate valuations by posting them on the internet. They do this by curtailing their investments.  So until you hear that Graham’s incubator is no longer accepting new companies, I’d say there’s not a lot to see here.

Competition is Killing Higher Education

While overestimating the value of competition can lead to less, not more, innovation, underestimating the value of cooperation tends to discourage the exploration of possibilities for creative interaction. With escalating costs, limited resources and growing political concern about student debt, institutions should be developing innovative ways to cooperate that will prove to be mutually beneficial, in the same way that companies merge and become more efficient.

Mark Taylor, “How Competition is Killing Higher Education

This is one of the (mostly-overlooked) points I made a few weeks ago in my post “More Universities Should Shut Down Their Computer Science Programs“. It’s by the same author I cited in my post, Mark Taylor of Columbia University.

In a world in which information-sharing is easier than ever, it should not be necessary for students to tolerate a mediocre academic department. Instead it should be possible for students to take advantage of the best instructors and curricula no matter where they happen to be located.