Category Archives: Politics

2nd Amendment—What’s it really about?

What gun-rights does the 2nd amendment really protect?  When I studied the amendment itself, I was shocked to discover that much of what I thought it meant was bullshit.  In fact, its an amendment only a Democrat could love.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

This is, undoubtedly, a strangely worded sentence.  I am not sure if the second comma means “and” or “which is.”  Regardless, for the last few decades (Zakaria), the understanding of this amendment has come to mean that it protects an individuals right to bear arms. However, it seems more likely that this amendment is meant preserve the power of the states and other communities in the face of federal overreach.  Washington DC, in other words, can take away the guns in your closets, but not the guns in your community armory; it can potentially take away your handguns, but not your well-regulated militias.

I want to explore some of these terms to better put us in the historic context.

Militia – In 1787, there was no standing federal army.  For years, any attempt to create one was considered suspect.  When Washington called one up to crush the 1791 Whiskey Rebellion, it was a highly contentious move.  Most of the colonists wanted to keep federal military might to a minimum (they would be appalled at the size of the federal armed forces today); if a war was necessary, the militias should be called up, not a federal army.  Of course, a federal army was eventually created, but the thought was that state and local militias would always serve as a deterrent to federal power.  The single individual, one should note, was never thought of as a militia.  Militias were always formed via a geographically bound cooperative—state, municipal, county, etc.  After all, what could one man do with one musket?  On their own, individuals had no ability to check federal power.

well-regulated –  Militias, and individuals, were always seen as potentially destructive groups that could quickly turn into roving bands, plundering lands far from their own homes while unsympathetic commanders looked the other way.  Indeed, the founding fathers loved democracy and feared the people at the same time.  This was the rationale, for instance, behind the creation of the electoral college.  It is also why we have a representative democracy, and not a true direct democracy like Ancient Athens, where we, as a people, would vote directly on policy (i.e., should we invade iraq?).  With this fear, colonial Americans of all stripes expected that militias themselves would always be accountable to some sort of local government.  In other words, there was no such conception as a “private militia.”  The individual or group was not supposed to take the law into their own hands.  They had to be connected to local government and subject to it.

being necessary for the security of a free State – The point of having militias, according to the second Amendment, is the security of a free State.  Free states, in other words, required well-regulated militias that were more loyal to them than to the federal government.  The whole Bill of Rights, after all, was an attempt to limit the power of the federal government; Washington must not be allowed to limit the states ability to arm themselves with responsibly-regulated militias.

the people – Is the right of the people to keep and bear arms an individual right or is it a group right?  If “the people” is Joe and Ted, then yes, the 2nd amendment might guarantee Joe’s right to keep and bear arms at his house.  But this is unlikely, considering the context of the first few clauses and how “the people” is used throughout the Constitution.

The phrase, “the people,” is used 9 times in the Constitution.  It is mainly used to describe one enormous will—some sort of collective being even.

  1. In the preamble, “We the people  of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”  It seems absurd to think that the people here refers to Joe and Ted.  Certainly some Joes and Teds were not a fan of the creation of the federal government.  Rather, the majority of the people were speaking through their representatives, and their representatives were in turn speaking together, with one voice.  That voice is the people, and the wishes of “the people” is not the same as the wishes of every single individual.
  2. Article 1, Section 2: “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the Several States.”  Obviously, “the People” here cannot refer to individuals, but the will of the majority—house members do not have to be unanimously approved by every individual.
  3. In the first Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  In this instance, “the people” has the right to act as a group which assembles and petitions government.  It is also noteworthy that in prohibiting free exercise of religion and condemning speech, or the press “the people” is not mentioned, which might mean that they are supposed to be individual rights.
  4. In the 2nd Ammendment, it is mentioned in the context of groups, i.e. militias, but of course I cannot use this instance of “the people” to prove my point.
  5. The fourth Amendment:  “”The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”  This appears to be an exception to my interpretation of “the people.”  Here, it likely means “all individuals.”
  6. The 9th amendment, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”  I am not sure about this one.  Could go either way, but there is not much to go on.
  7. The 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  This one implies that “the people” are smaller than states.  That might mean individuals, but it also might mean counties, townships, etc.
  8. The 17th Amendment: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people.”   Like the second instance, “the people” cannot mean to refer to “all individuals.”
  9. Again in the 17th Amendment: “…the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.”  Like the second and eighth instance, “the people” here cannot refer to “all individuals.”

So of the 9 instances where “the people” is used in the Constitution, 4 must be referring to collectiveness, 2 are likely referring to collectiveness, 1 is entirely unclear, and 1 is likely referring to individual rights, and 1 is definitely referring to individual rights.  I conclude that the Constitution uses “the people” differently.  Though usually it refers to groups speaking with one voice, context is king.  Because the 2nd Amendments emphasis on militias, I think it highly likely that “the people” here does not refer to all individuals.  Therefore, I cannot say that the right of “the people” to keep and bear arms is an individual right to own arms.

Arms – Today, you and I cannot imagine the advancements in technology that will be in place 226 years from now.  Even 26 years ago, this was a phone:

This phone was built and in use in 1987.

This model was built and in use in 1987.

Today’s “phone” has a bit more uses:

iPhone with rotary phone app.

iPhone with rotary phone app.

Do you remember when phones only made calls?  I remember the old rotary phones.  Of course, they, like iPhones, were called “phones.”  But it would be absurd to think that all thinking about rotary phones 26 years ago applies to the iPhone of today.  Imagine where “phones” will be in 226 years?

In other words, technologically-based concepts like “phones” are plastic; they stretch and change enormously across times.  So too, is the term “arms.”  226 years ago, when the 2nd Amendment was written, this was an ‘arm’:

Revolutionary war-era musket

Revolutionary war-era musket

These muskets were accurate about 30-40 yards out and trained individuals could fire 3 rounds per minute.  Pistols, likewise, had to be loaded the same way.  After the civil war we slowly got automatic and semi-automatic weapons.  And, of course, with the modern sniper rifle, scopes, etc., an “arm” has enormously more destructive power.

The AR-15 is a weapon protected as an “arm” under the 2nd Amendment.  The Colorado shooter legally purchased one before shooting 70 people in the summer of 2012

The AR-15 is a weapon protected as an “arm” under the 2nd Amendment. The shooter legally purchased one before shooting 70 people in a Colorado movie theater in the summer of 2012

The AR-15, for example, shoots 800 rounds per minute and has an effective range of 400-600 meters.  226 years ago, the founding fathers would have been entirely unable to imagine that this was possible,  they did not know about handguns (revolvers did not come for another 50 years), tanks, bomber aircraft (or any aircraft), and of course the atomic bomb.  They were as clueless then as we are when we try to imagine what arms will be like in 226 years for today, in 2239 A.D.

If not now, at some point, shouldn’t we rethink what an “arm” is and what sensible rules around “arms” might be?  Fortunately, the right to amend our constitution is a constitutional right too.  In fact, Jefferson though that we should have a new constitutional convention every four years, and re-write the thing completely if necessary.  He thought it was tyrannical to subject future generations to laws or systems that might no longer make sense, and that they themselves were not a part of creating.  Prescient, but I would not go as far as re-writing the constitution.  It has been and will be an extraordinary document for centuries to come.  In fact, we do not need to change the 2nd amendment at all.  We simply need to recognize what the Amendment protects and what it does not.

Based on my research, this what I have concluded about the 2nd Amendment:

  • The 2nd Amendment stops the federal government from disbanding well-regulated militias.  States and local governments can form, equip, and train, and must strictly control, groups of individuals who are subject to the authority of local government and act on its behalf.  The local government can arm that group with all the arms necessary for the security of the state.
  • However, if that group is not well-regulated, or is not a group at all, and is not subject to local government, the 2nd Amendment does not offer protection.  Specifically, the 2nd Amendment does not protect the individual right to handguns, automatic or semi-automatic weapons of any type, conceal and carry, grenades, and especially not a basement arsenal.  All “arms” must be used in the context of a well-regulated militia, or, in a word, community.
  • The is my conclusion on what the 2nd Amendment means, but not on what it should mean.  That is another debate entirely, a policy debate, in this blog I have  been attempting interpretation only.

Wars, in 1791, were fought by muskets and cannon, and that is all they knew.  By allowing militias to use muskets and cannon, the founding fathers wished to ensure small communities would be free.  Of course, this is no longer a viable defense when the weapons of war are so expensive (one F-22A fighter costs $150 million).  We have to rely on larger and larger communities to be able to create serious security forces.  But we forget that even muskets were very expensive for American farmers in the 1790s.  Many did not own one.  For this reason, the local township often kept an arsenal which they would use to supply its citizens in the case of, for example, native american raids. Armories, therefore, served an important function of providing a militia with weapons of war yet also controlling their use.  Those who bear arms had to be supervised, trained, and made subject to the authority of the community.

This seems brilliant to me. Crazy people, like the Aurora shooter, would never have gotten guns if he had to participate in a community in order to gain access to them.  So, I suppose you might say I am a supporter of 2nd Amendment rights, but my interpretation might be a little different.

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I Love Fox News

This picture, connecting Hillary to Benghazi, ran above the headline.

This picture, connecting Hillary to Benghazi, ran above the headline on Fox’s front page.

I love Fox News.  Reading it helps me stay in touch with my conservative roots, and observing their bias allows me to relish in enjoyable levels of contempt and self-righteousness.  Today, I found gold.  I would like to bond with all of you by collectively pointing at Fox News, shaking our collective heads, and smirking.

As you might have heard, Hillary Clinton fainted and suffered a concussion today.  Fox News ran this headline on their main page,

BENGHAZI HEARINGS: Clinton will not testify before Congress on Libya, purported concussion cited

Nothing is false, but you should read the article for laughs.  After stating what was reported about Clinton’s fainting, the article states eerily, “However, the agency did not say when the fall occurred.”  The rest of the article is about how she really needs to testify and that John Kerry is letting her off the hook.

There is absolutely no evidence that Clinton’s fall is merely purported, or had anything to do with Benghazi, yet “Benghazi Hearings” appears on the front page of Fox News, bold and in all caps, which has the well-understood framing affect of implying that the rest of the headline has to do with the Benghazi hearings.  This is a strategy that people use to, for instance, sell you stuff you do not need—a classic trick.  In this case, the title states and implies that the Benghazi hearings caused Hillary to pretend to faint and have a concussion.  It is true that the concussion is “purported.”  The media did not see it. However, by saying it is “purported,” they imply that it is not true.

CNN’s headline was “Hillary Clinton Faints, Has Concussion.”   ABC News said “Hillary Clinton recovering after fainting, suffering a concussion.”  Politico stated what the fallout of the concussion would be by saying, “Hillary Clinton won’t testify on Benghazi after fainting, concussion.”  However, Politico did not imply the hearings caused fake concussing, or caused the fainting at all, or implied in the article that Clinton should get her shoulder pads on and push through the pain.  Also, Politico reports how news affects politics; it’s their job to discuss the political fallout of school shootings, wars, terrorist attacks, etc.  Finally, all of these articles talked about how Clinton’s concussion would affect her work, including Benghazi hearings.  Fox news was the only one to imply without any evidence that Clinton’s ideology may have caused the news—and to do so in the title and story image.

Does anyone know if studies have been done trying to objectively measure the bias at Fox News?  It seems that it would be fairly easy to demonstrate, but it would take some money to run the study.  Why don’t liberal think tanks or super pacs do that?

I have not seen the video of my very very short interview on Dr Drew’s Show yet.  My connection was cut off for a second and I did not get many words in.  But they are sending me a video, which I will post soon with my extended comments.  There are also a ton of other topics and cool ideas that I want to discuss on my blog.  Thanks for all of your wonderful comments on Why Wars Start and Positive Theology Will Change the World.  These are two of my favorite ideas/projects lately and I am pleased how much excitement they have generated.  Thanks for reading!  I love your comments and try to respond to all of them.  


The Rich Get Richer

Duckworth developed the “Grit Scale” and has found that a person’s grit score is highly predictive of achievement under challenging circumstances.

In this post I will employ a statistics-based argument  that money begets money.  Don’t worry, I’ll get back to blathering unquantifiable bullshit soon, but this is worth it!

Angela Duckworth is a world-class research psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who is famous for her work on grit (perseverance and determination).  When she is not traveling around the world giving hilarious lectures, she is my statistics professor, which is pretty awesome for me.

In our last class, she was describing what you can learn about data just by looking at its shape on a graph.  For instance, why is the “normal distribution” important?  What causes the curved shape that you see below to come about?    She showed us this 6 second video in which thousands of little beads are poured over a bunch of nails.  When a bead hits each nail, 50% of the beads will go right, and 50% will go left.  There are many more paths to get to the center of the distribution, and those on the wings have to be really un/lucky and get bounced the same way each time.  And, because there are so many beads and so many factors involved, they tend to balance themselves out and by the end you get a perfectly normal distribution—the bell curve.  In other words, the normal distribution is a result of a bunch of unbiased factors that sort out any given population.

So, I wondered, what is the pattern of income distribution in the United States?  If it was a normal distribution, that would mean the top of the bell curve would be  $51,914, the median income of the country (2011 US Census).  Within one standard deviation (the average distance from the median income), you would find 68.2% of the country, as we did in the graph above and in the probability machine video.  That majority would be flanked by 27% on the sides with about 4% in the extreme wings.   In general we would want the standard deviation to be small, as this would point to greater income equality; people’s incomes would be closer to each other.  As you can see in the graph below, more of the population is in the wings for the dark blue line, which would mean incomes would be further away from each other.  The light blue line would be preferred, where people have less disparate incomes.

But what we see in the United States today is not close.

The data is skewed left.  I scoured the internet for a graph that was 100% representational of our income distribution, but that proved to be as likely as finding a to-scale model of the solar system: it’s just too big.  Those big bars on the right need to be spread out like the rest of the graph all the way to casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson who made about something around 7.2 billion this year (Forbes).  Which means this graph is only representational of 0.0027% of the US household income distribution curve.  In other words, if this graph spans 6 inches across your screen, you would need a computer screen 18,000 feet wide to see the full distribution (0.5ft/0.000027).

Sheldon Adleson is the chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, the parent company of Venetian Macao Limited which operates The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino and the Sands Expo and Convention Center. He also owns the Israeli daily newspaper Israel HaYom.  He made $21.6 billion in the last three years.

What does this mean?

Let’s go back to the youtube video and the beads bouncing off the nails.  From the basic statistics that I understand, radically skewed distribution implies that the history of beads matter.  If the the bead had bounced lucky last time, it was more likely to bounce lucky again, and vice versa.  This makes sense to me.  It is much more difficult to go from an income of $30,000/year to $40,000/year, than it is to go from $1,000,000,000/year to $1,000,010,000/year.  In other words, the further down the road to wealth you are, the more likely you are going downhill.

So, I have advice for those looking to make more money; the first step to making money is having money.  The rich get richer.  Of course, there are plenty of exceptions.

I am sending this post to Professor Duckworth and my assistant professor, Peggy Kearn.  I want to hear what they think and see if there are any other conclusions we might draw from the shape of income distribution in America.  


Flat Tax is Progressive and Insufficient

Obviously, a flat tax based on a percentage of income is already a progressive tax.  Assuming a 10% flat tax, the Trumps making 30 million a year are paying 1,000 times the amount in taxes as the Browns making $30,000.  However, this is still insufficiently progressive and makes me think about a passage from the Bible.

38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses (emphasis added) and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:38-44, NIV)

What I take from this example is that the cent we might tax from the widow is worth more to her than $1,000 from the Browns, which is worth more to them than $10 million from the Trumps.   If we tax the widow, she starves.  If we tax the Browns making $30,000 a year very much at all, it makes it entirely likely that the daughter cannot take piano lessons, the son cannot go to college, they cannot afford to have a vacation that year, and perhaps the father cannot start a business.  For the Trumps at $30 million a year, even taxing them at a rate of %90 would not threaten their ability enjoy any of these opportunities, and they certainly would not starve.  They would still have $3 million a year; dad can start a business, son can attend the ivy league, and the daughter can take lessons from Vladimir Ashkenazy if they want.

I am also reminded of this dynamic as I live in Sri Lanka.  For example, a typical taxi fare in a Tuk Tuk is 50 rupees per kilometer, which is the same as $0.62 per mile.  A 15 minute trip can cost $1 and people can haggle for 10 minutes over 25 cents.  Clearly, not all 25 cents are equal.  It depends on where it comes from.

In the Great Leap Forward, Mao Tse Tung quite famously required his people to fill quotas for mining iron, with the result that many peasants simply had to bring in their pots, pans, and plows to be melted down.  Obviously, this is an extreme example, but the point remains: if our tax policy and economic system threatens the Browns’ opportunity for education, advancement, of building up savings, of pursuing dreams, we will certainly have more iron ore, but at great expense.

The deficit does not care who pays it—a dollar from the Browns is no better than from the Trumps.  Perhaps we should consider, among other important considerations, using the least costly money whenever possible.


Mr. Darcy & American Aristocracy

So apparently Romney pays around 13% a year in taxes on an income of over 20 million dollars.  Paul Ryan paid 20% on $323,000 in 2011.  And many of the most wealthy people in the United States, billionaires even, are paying less than 10% (CNN).

This is because wealthy individuals gain most of their income through return on investments, quite often in the form of capital gains which is taxed at a lower rate.  This is because not all real income is real income.  Some of it cannot be spent on whatever the new owner of fake income wants to buy.  And much of it cannot be deposited in a savings account because it can spontaneously combust.

Lately I have had a strong sense that I live in an immoral society—tt assails me like a stiff wind—not because everything about America is awful, indeed I love my country, but because we are thoroughly corrupt in at least this respect: as a society we have decided to favor, and to create, an upper-class.

Until quite recently, the English aristocracy was alive and well, and dominated English society.  I love Victorian movies and books (I’m still a hardass though!) and recently my curiosity was piqued by the constant discussion of income, “Mr. Darcy has 20,000 pounds a year!”  Do they mean wages, capital gains, or what?

I looked into it, and it turns out that to be an English aristocrat you usually had to make over $3 mil. a year (adjusted for inflation).  They did not acquire this income through business ventures, mercantilism, wages, or through any great talent on their part really.  It came from speculation, investments (most often chosen by others), and rents from large estates and tracts of land — it came from pre-owned wealth.   The Duke of Marlborough, one of the richest aristocrats of the time, pulled in $52.5 mil annually.  To put that in perspective, Warren Buffet pulled in $62 mil. last year, also from pre-owned wealth (admittedly cleverly invested wealth, likely more cleverly I imagine than the Duke of Marlborough).

But Victorians considered the Duke’s income as real income while we pretend it is not, at least not as real as income made from wages.  Indeed, wages, the money received based on time, skill, expertise, and effort, should be taxed heavily.  That stuff simply should not be incentivized.  Don’t these people know they should already have wealth to invest?  Rather, aristocrats sitting on pots of gold and passing it down to their children…that is the stuff civilizational dreams are made of.

So if you love this American economy
Than vote for Mitt Romney
And I won’t forget the men who died
So I could make money,
And I’ll gladly stand up
For freedom
To speculate at low tax rates
Cause their ain’t no doubt I love this land
God bless the USA

(Based on the chorus of Proud to be An American)


Courageous Ryan Pick Mystifies Me

Does the Ryan pick make Romney a political Jedi Master?

I have combed through dozens of articles, by conservatives and liberals, but I cannot get away from this fact: Ryan was known only for his ‘Ryan Budget.’  Without it he is just 1 of 435 House members.  And I do not know why Romney wants to make the Ryan Plan central to his campaign.  Regardless of whether you like it or not, the Ryan Plan is objectively quite unpopular.

I feel like only a couple of years ago, most everybody, Republican and Democrat, appreciated and respected Ryan, but saw him as politically toxic because of his entitlement reform plans.  In fact, he was never seen as having a chance at President or Vice President, or any greater ambition really.  His was an important voice that deserved applause but not an embrace.  While the Republican party might have changed recently, I do not see his views as any less offensive to moderates and independents.   Romney’s embrace of Ryan also reinforces the narrative that “rich Romney loves tax breaks for the rich” (the Ryan Plan calls for tax cuts for the wealthy paid for by spending cuts in entitlements that come into effect a decade or so later).

This choice also undercuts Romney’s talk about how governorship and business experience (executive experience) is what America needs right now.  As I argue in Boardwalk, Park Place, & Veepstakes, he should have put all his chips into one argument:  America, hire the uber-competent team of Mr. Fix-Its.   There was a degree of magic in a Pawlenty pick.  Though a bit boring, that would have been in fact a strength: it would have made the campaign about Obama’s record instead of an extremely unpopular budget proposal.  (And it looks like the Obama high command was very afraid of a Pawlenty pick too.  But Ryan is great to run against.)  In contrast, Paul Ryan has DC legislative experience only and has “never run anything”–not a business, city, or state–much like criticism someone else received  in 2008 (his name rhymes with Osama).

Maybe Romney picked Ryan to show that he is capable of making tough choices?  This choice certainly makes Romney appear substantive.  Ryan is bold, smart, and offers specific policies, but I’m not sure the substance is something they can win on.  However, this is the one of the best arguments I have read.  Romney needs to look like less of a sleazy hair-do.

Maybe Romney picked Ryan to get Wisconsin?  But Ryan has not campaigned statewide; most Wisconsonians have never heard of him.  And even if picking Ryan does get him Wisconsin, that is only 10 electoral votes.  Florida, with 29 electoral votes, is almost certainly lost because Ryan’s entitlement reforms don’t play well with older populations, and the Ryan pick will drag down the vote in older populations everywhere else in the country.  In contrast, picking Rubio would have helped Romney win Florida (Rubio was a Senator), and help with latino turnout in ever single state with latino populations, including important swing states like Nevada and New Mexico.

Maybe Romney did it to keep the focus on the economy and domestic policy, compared to foreign policy where Obama has a comparative advantage?  But that did not need to be done; the conversation was already going to be about the economy and domestic policy.

Maybe Romney did it because he wanted to leave the party with a legacy of thoughtful articulate conservatism?  He did not want to elevate a Sarah Palin.  Laudable, but I feel that Romney wants to win now.

But Romney is smart and savvy, s0 here I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Until then, this VP pick looks like courageous political suicide.  I am kind of impressed actually.

Romney, we hardly knew you. 


Boardwalk, Park Place, & Veepstakes

According to Politco’s swing state map, if the general election was held today, Obama would win a whopping 332 to 206 in the electoral college.  If somehow Obama loses all the states where he is currently winning by 4.5 or less points (Colorado, Iowa, Virginia, Florida, and New Hampshire) he would still win 271 to 267.  So I do not understand all the hubbub about Obama being super weak.

Of course, while everything can change, some changes are less likely than they might usually be.  For example, it is unlikely that some damaging piece of Obama’s bio comes out.  And though we cannot rule out a major disaster, those unite the country behind its president as often as not.  Also, a series of major gaffes by a typically disciplined Obama is not likely either.

So the economy, already a major factor no matter what, is likely the whole ball game, and we simply do not know what it will do.  Also, as I argued earlier in Political Jedi Master, the economy is the only leverage point with which anyone can beat Obama, and Romney, despite obvious flaws, is best suited to maximize that leverage.

So, with his back up against the electoral wall, what running mate should Romney pick?

I grew up playing monopoly and probably kept playing past the age when normal people stop.  One of the strategies adult-Jer learned seems relevant:

When it is down to the final two players, when you have hardly have any money left and your opponent has the majority of properties with plenty of houses and hotels, it is tempting to slowly sell houses evenly and keep enough money so that you can withstand a hit or two.  Of course, when it is neck and neck, this strategy makes sense: avoid unnecessary risks.  But, when your back is up against the wall, playing it safe will lead slowly, but inevitably, to defeat.  Instead, sell and mortgage everything, even if you do not immediately need to, except for Boardwalk and Park Place and put all your money into building hotels.  Even if you get lucky on your own rolls, if your opponent does not land on Boardwalk or Park Place, you will lose; if your opponent lands on them, but they are not super expensive, you will also lose.  The only way you win is if you get some luck and you were ready to capitalize on it by making Boardwalk and Park Place a mortal hit.

(I won using this strategy several times.  My brother would complain that it was dumb luck.  I would say it was luck…and clever cleverness.)

Romney’s Boardwalk and Park place is the economy; in order for him to win he has to get lucky (the economy has to decline) and he has capitalize on it when it does.  Rounding himself out by picking Condeleeza Rice for foreign policy, African Americans, and women, or Marco Rubio for the Latino vote, Florida, and a compelling biography, is like hedging his bets by keeping houses or hotels on other properties.  Instead, he needs to commit to the only winning strategy that exists for him: the economy is in decline and though he might not have an incredible personal story, snazzy oratorical skills, or middle-class roots, he is supremely competent.  He is Mr. Fix-it #1 and captain of the the Varsity Mr. Fix-it team.

For that reason, I think Romney should pick a former governor (executive experience) with a job creation record, a business record, and a Washington outsider, and they must have a persona of no frills, getting things done; they must exude competence like crazy.  I am thinking Tim Pawlenty or someone similar (Jon Huntsman cannot because “I’m a Mormon from Utah too!”).  I am sure there are other good names out there.  Maybe perusing through their bios and picking one will be another post.

Also, unlike Mccains pick of Palin, Romney needs to make a pick that reflects his main argument against Obama, “Obama is not uber-competent on the economy like me.”  (Mccain picked Palin under the banner, “Country First.”  No matter what you think of Palin, you have to admit that there were other candidates much more qualified to be President, and Mccain did not reinforce his case with his VP pick.)

So I am excited to see who Romney picks as VP.  Maybe it will make my list of brilliant political plays and Romney will prove himself  the ultimate political Jedi Master…or maybe he will not pass go and not collect 200.

Either way, I can’t wait!  This is history happening in front of our faces!

Incredible discussion going on regarding gun control.  I will post more on that soon.  Thanks for your comments!