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In Remembrance of 9-11 Never Forget

When I first began working on Wall Street, I sat in the area of the firm where new guys and misfits sat. It was there that a couple of Russians befriended me as they were new and struggling as well. One day they asked if I wanted to hang out, but first, one of them had to pick up a new suit. No problem, I tagged along to Dollar Bills on 42nd street and perused the store. I was encouraged by my friends to take a look around the store as there were lots of hidden gems among the racks. In the meantime, I saw them collecting a bunch of suits to purchase.

One of the guys paid off a suit that was on layaway and then went to get his buddy, and we headed out of the store. As we walked up the block, they began to laugh, deep-throated bales of laughter because they had pulled a fast one. The suits they were accumulating as possible purchases were simply hidden in the garment bag of the single suit paid for - they hit the jackpot. They mentioned I was helpful because they knew security would be focused on me looking around the store and through the racks.

That was the last time I spoke to them, and it's not a wonder they didn't last much longer at the firm either.

I'm reminded of this story with the news in the last few days. The idea that Vladimir Putin would or could be some kind of Middle East peacemaker and bring the Syrian chemical weapons fiasco to a conclusion, acceptable by all, just seems too good to be true. Sure, there are motivating factors like the fact that Russia has its own radical Islam issues and would hate to see those weapons end up in the wrong hands. Moreover, Russia must protect its military naval port in Syria, and making the US pledge not to intervene helps greatly.

It's the olive branch aspect of this scenario that takes me back to that day outside of Grand Central Station where a couple foreigners used the spectrum of America to make everyone look silly. I assumed these were nice guys because we are mostly taught to give the benefit of the doubt first. They assumed security would look at the black guy and not worry about the white shoppers and shoplifters. They must have thought pulling off the stunt would endear me to them - they took down the man even if I was the foil.

What parts of America's current political state is Putin taking advantage of?

> President in way over his head ... mouth wrote a check he can't afford to cash.
> The nation is such a rudderless ship that principles matter less than politics
> Chance to push American social conscience further from role of global policeman

I can't help but feel any deal involving Russia will have the entire nation red-faced and feeling stupid the moment the ink is dry... just like I did that summer day in front of Dollar Bills.

Totalitarianism or Liberty?

"Liberty in the negative sense involves an answer to the question: 'What is the area within which the subject - a person or group of persons - is or should be left to do or be what he is able to do or be, without interference by other persons'. -Isaiah Berlin

Isaiah Berlin put forth the concept of negative liberty and positive liberty, the latter based in part on Aristotle's definition of citizenship. We are all free to follow our destiny, that's what liberty is all about, but there is a faulty assumption that those destinies are nice places that benefit the person and mankind. A lot of destinies aren't nice places but instead villages of despair and mayhem. Typically, this kind of destiny arises from an idea evolving into power then bulldozing those in its way when it fully blooms into tyranny.

The Syria Conundrum is the interlocking of several single-minded destinies, each fueled by an abuse of natural liberty.

Putin wants Russian dominance and American humiliation and sees Obama as a weak counterpart.
President Obama has begun flipping the script and makes it clear the second term is all about his feelings even if they constitute flip-flopping positions and actions that underscore the fallacy of leading from behind.

Assad can taste victory and doesn't need chemical weapons to polish off his rivals, many of whom aren't friends to the West, or East for that matter. An offer to give up chemical weapons gives him a lift in global public opinion and could make him sympathetic in the event the United States bombs anyway.

"Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into."

Oliver Hardy

This whole thing is a mess, and while investors should pay attention, I think those that believe in liberty should pay even more. A go-it-alone president is always dangerous but more so in this kind of economic climate. Everything is a nice mess from the health care law to Dodd Frank to the economy. It's bumping along at a snail's pace intimidated by shadows from the White House. Toss in Syria and it's a wonder we all aren't frozen in fear. But, that's the beauty of it all.

While indifference to the evolution of tyranny makes the tyrant more powerful we all try to go about the business of the day in this giant economy. We assume no matter how difficult things get our role as citizens means we can make changes that reel in outsized power while improving the economy. The last big crack at this escaped the grasp of the public when they had a chance to make a meaningful change. Now, we are watching negative liberty take root in the White House.

Philosophers from Aristotle to Berlin to Oliver Hardy have warned us of this place for hundreds of years. Now, we're here... another nice mess.

Spanking Wrong-Doers

"The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home." - James Madison

While shaping the narrative the so-called red line belong to the United States Congress and world community President Obama interjected his own personal aversion to chemical weapons used in Syria. The images were "sickening" to be sure although the deaths of thousands of children by bullets and bombs and lingering injuries couldn't be much more humane. He spoke of the days leading up to the attack the preparation and I wonder why, with such intelligence, America didn't act then to avoid those sickening images.

The notion action or non-action will influence al-Qaeda or other terrorists is folly as it the promise a targeted retribution attack to teach a lesson will make North Korea close its nuclear program and Iran to forego such ambitions.

This is where the thread of Obama thinking has always been faulty and why the American economy is underperforming. All his major motivations are centered on getting even. When actions of the past are sickening it's not enough to pinprick culprits they must be taught lessons that theoretically will deter similar offenses in the future. This is why the Justice Department continues to hound Wall Street years after massive economic penalties and public ridicule. This is why bad actors like the fossil fuel industry continue to face higher regulations and corporate America the highest tax burden in the world.

Getting even is human but getting the economy moving and truly empowering a nation is what being president is all about.

Instead for now all the rhetoric revolves around even more taxes, more redistribution that does nothing to empower people with the will or skills to succeed. On the contrary more and more people are being lured to the sidelines of life okay with the idea they're entitled to a certain life regardless of their own individual efforts. While dropping out is encouraged excelling is frowned upon and punished as part of retribution for those successive people that didn't share the wealth in the past.

We can rewrite history but can't legislate things that have not already happened nor allow personal feelings about such historic events overshadow current circumstance or deny honest justice and in the case of our economy a chance to embrace the foundations of our greatness. President Obama made it clear he could go it alone based on his judgment as Commander in Chief which is how he's governed other facets of the nation. Ironically all these actions can be traced to blaming Bush.

At this point there is no simple answer in Syria although the nation has made it clear they want no part of that civil war. On the other hand I think there are simple answers to the quagmire of the US economy that begins with a less tyrannical approach and one that actually sees some positives in the past and engenders belief in the future build on individual efforts and achievement not only greater than the whole but in the process making the whole larger.

Call off the war on business in America it's been a lot more than a pinprick and its caused more causalities among the innocents than the guilty.