Sunday, December 16, 2018

GE AAA

Read a long article in the Journal this weekend about GE and its collapse from being one of the biggest companies in America to its ignominious position today. The long and short of it is very similar to the story at AIG: a rapid climb under a legendary CEO, leveraging a AAA credit rating to expand into too many lines of business, the inability of a successor to find a way forward. As a personal story, admittedly, in many ways Jeff Immelt is more like Steve Balmer of Microsoft -- an underachiever who diddled his way to mediocrity, than Martin Sullivan was at AIG -- a catastrophe. Presumably that's because Jack Welch was less of a control freak than Hank Greenberg was at AIG, and developed stronger lieutenants.

But the use of the AAA credit rating as a way to finance whatever rhymes convincingly with AIG's experience. Admittedly, GE went much crazier than did AIG in terms of getting into everything but the kitchen sink (though they probably did make those).

More than anything, it makes me wonder -- along with the entire investing world -- about succession at Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett has discussed it for years somewhat openly, and we know that the culture of the "organization", if one can even speak of such a unitary thing in Berkshire's case, is as distributed as it can be. But is it held together by nothing other than pixie dust, Cherry Coke and the credit rating? Time will tell.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Guest blogging

Today, I am coming to you from the couch downstairs, next to the Christmas tree. This is very rare, very rare indeed. I find it more or less necessary to be alone when I blog, and I am very rarely alone down here, but today Mary is with Graham in Durham at a Quiz Bowl tournament, where I must spell her after lunch.

Interestingly, it is at the NC School of Science and Math, which back through the 60s was Watts Hospital, where I was born. I'm honestly not sure I've been back since then. Certainly when I had my bout of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in '73 or '74, I went to Duke. And there was no way I was trying to go to Science and Match back in the day, because I was a humanist by inclination, and we had a soccer championship to win at CHHS, and how could I be certain of the quality of the ladies in a place like Science and Math, when I was certain there was much honeys at the high school, including some lovely new ones from Culbreth.

So it will be interesting today, and great to see Graham up there competing. I know he is ready to go, based on the degree of competitiveness he showed over dinner last Sunday with one Chad Ludington, Professor of History at NC State. Graham was flat out drilling him on details of 16th Century British succession -- admittedly not Chad's deepest area of focus.  On the one hand, Chad was digging the jousting element. On the other, we had to talk to Graham a little about the extent to which he was dominating the dinner table conversation and not letting others talk freely amongst themselves -- mostly because Chad and Graham were at opposite ends of the table.

Anyhoo, today is open competition, and it is all about answering them questions fast, and Graham is ready to go.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Obituaries

I am formulating a policy, firming up what has heretofore been an inclination, to read any and all tributes people post about loved ones passing on Facebook. People show their true stripes when telling tales of their beloveds and, in the end, honoring the dead is in its way as important as nurturing the young.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Up date

I have come a long ways from the early days of this blog, when I exercised great vigilance to be sure to post something every day, so as to maintain a discipline of de minimis writing. Nowadays, I end up obsessing about whether I have something to say, whether it is worthy of the blog, or I just get caught up in the doings of the day and plum forget. Which is silly.

The onset of this snowstorm (did they name it Diego or something?) accelerated the turn of the seasons. On Saturday I worked hard to rake up the bulk of the leaves on the "grassy" (I caveat because a good portion of the lawn has been ceded to the ravages of Japanese stiltgrass) parts of the front lawn, and also the deck and driveway. I hauled like seven or eight big tarps (don't ask) to the bottom of our back yard, where it is poised to wash down and one day enrich Jordan Lake. At the end of that I climbed into the leaf pile and chilled, looking up at the sky. Off to the left of me, I could hear seagulls screeching. Yes, seagulls, who are visiting our lake in great number due to a lake management anomaly, but that is a story for another day. But I couldn't really hear much of them, on account of the leaf-blowers around the neighborhood, and small airplanes flying lowish above, despite the closure of Horace Williams Airport a few miles away.

It struck me how we formulate freedom in the sense of freedom to (freedom to hunt, shoot, drive fast, use small motors for whatever the fuck we want to) and not much in terms of freedom from (freedom from the encroachments of others). I could riff on this all day.

Then -- back to the changing of the seasons -- Sunday and yesterday, the snows came, paralyzing the area in wintry whiteness, and my sore body, having exerted itself moving leaves, found itself shoveling snow. All good, and part of any disciplined seasonal cross-training regime.

Then there were Xmas parties, and intimations of mortality (Robb Ladd injury, David Brower Sr. passing, someone else has terminal cancer). And last night we video-called with Natalie, who is making her way through her first semester's papers while trying to go to bed earlier, and has purchased a new scarf.

And then there is work, to which I am off.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Changing complexion

Really since Graham Allison's book Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap came out, the complexion of thinking about China has changed, and Trump has really ramped it up. Now everyone is very much focused on China more as an adversary than as a partner.

A few thoughts

  1. We need to be very careful about Russia. We know they don't really regard us as their friend, at least the current leadership, which generally enjoys support. I spend some time within the last year watching Russian tv (in Russian, not RT), and one thing that's clear is that they are courting China. So when Pompeo starts sabre-rattling (as he did this week) about pulling out of nuclear arms treaties with Russia, that's a big fucking deal.
  2. We need to be very clear what we believe in, and who we support. Throughout the Cold War we has a clear stated goal of supporting human rights in the Soviet Union. Our attitude was "we don't oppose the Soviet people, we oppose the Soviet regime." We need to keep this idea front and center now. The Chinese -- via the Belt and Road initiative and whatever other means necessary -- are exporting an ideology of China first, human rights be damned. We need to oppose that on principles. We need to watch with great care the panopticon police state the Chinese are establishing in Xinjiang as a test bed for elsewhere. Right now the Chinese have a "fuck it, who cares about those Muslim Uighurs" attitude. But it's bad, and they are honing the tools that they could use elsewhere, and you'd better believe that Google, Facebook, Palantir, and Amazon are watching the Chinese experience there, how the rest of the world reacts to it, and what it means for them.
  3. We need to be very open to and solicitous of the Chinese in America. Make no mistake, they are for the most part not spies. They were pissed off when Trump accepted Stephen Miller's suggestion that they mostly are. They have come here because of what America has historically stood for and what we strive to be: a good place to live, have a career, raise a family -- with as many kids as you want and without breathing shitty air. They form the backbone of our scientific class now, and they are important.
  4. But we need to anticipate more Chinese PhDs moving back to China -- as they have been -- because of a better atmosphere there for entrepreneurialism, as well as tensions here. That means we need to be serious about figuring out how to develop a scientific cadre here -- and not just from blue zip codes. Reading the biographies of Norman Borlaug and John Hope Franklin in the last year reminded me of how the path from rural places into the highest ranks of academia used to be much more plausible and open. Partially it's because the barriers to entry in terms of early academic achievement are a little higher, and the average quality of public schools in red counties lower. I think. But it also may be because the academy has become so stultifyingly blue and not an attractive place for someone who grew up in a red county.
OK, I am rambling and speculating. So shoot me.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Different thanks

It seems that, in the South at least, the idiom for expressing thanks has split in recent years across racial lines. In white society, people are frequently wont to say "Thanks so much!", with a pretty healthy mmph and a note of enhanced earnestness plugged into the "so much!" part of it. I find myself saying it sometimes, but I don't really like it.

Many black people, on the other hand, have taken to saying "I appreciate you" in place of good old "Thank you." The phrasing is typically pretty low key, because the words, rather than the larynx, are carrying the weight of emphasis. I like it. I think I am going in this direction going forward.

Monday, December 03, 2018

The Headmaster

Just pawed my way through McPhee's The Headmaster in two days, not much of a stretch, as it was a thin tome, as McPhee's typically are. The great thing about McPhee is that, as with Caro, we can sense the extent to which he has fallen in love with his subject at times, and cannot help but to join in.

Also, I should note that, when Graham and I got home from martial arts on Saturday, we saw a cat walking along the rock wall in our back yard. It seems that the cat was out on its accustomed walk with its owner, who told us that the cat always accompanies her when she walks around the lake and the neighborhood.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Fresh air

For the time being, I have put aside Knausgaard, with about 400 of 1200 pages of Volume 6 in the rearview. It is still on my bedside table.  It was fucking killing me. He just needed to get on with it.

And so, I am breathing the oxygen of other writers. First I knocked off Pistol, a biography of Pete Maravich by Mark Kriegel (I just had to Google the author's name, it wasn't really sticking to me). This is a good, if not great book by a pretty fascinating figure. Maravich would be more interesting as a figure if he had lived longer, and if he was more multi-dimensional as a character. Or maybe he was, and Kriegel's just not a great writer. His other book is about Joe Namath, so that tells us something about him.

At the conference in Asheville somebody mentioned the autobiography of John Hope Franklin, Mirror to America. I found that it was available on Audible, so I quickly downloaded it and started listening to it on the drive back (I had been listening to a book by Eric Posner and somebody else on using auction mechanisms broadly throughout society to reconfigure everything, which was kind of interesting, but also kind of rather stultifying).

Franklin's book is great. I will say this, if only it were truly a mirror to America, we would all be living in a much better place. For, although Franklin catalogues a number of indignities to which he was subject throughout his life, he transcended every one of them through a herculean work ethic, an unshakeable sense of right and wrong, and astounding grace. And his language! If he had a British accent, it is true, I might want to shoot him. But he doesn't. He writes with a formality and erudition which seems to have long since vanished from these shores.

Franklin is someone I will be reading more of, most likely his biography of George Washington Williams, whoever the hell that is. Franklin considered it his crowning achievement, so I will get it.

Right now I am quickly going through John McPhee's The Headmaster, a slim tome (as all of his are) about Frank Boyden, who had run Deerfield Academy for 60 years when McPhee wrote it. It is also lovely, and was already nostalgic 50 years ago.

Soon, I suppose, it will be time to snap out of the past and get back to reality

Graham and I are watching The Wire, which is pretty real. Perhaps more naturalist than realist, but more on that later.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

IEI conference in Asheville

Went down to Asheville for a day for the ReConnectNC conference from the Institute for Emerging Issues. The premise of the conference was to reconnect communities that weren't communicating well. At that it pretty much failed. It was desperately overprogrammed. The breaks were too short and too few, because there were too many speakers. The speakers were generally overfocused on promoting what they were doing in their own communities, and of those there was dramatic overrepresentation of liberals: people of color, women, people in the arts, blah blah blah. Of course, I generally agree with those people about most things, with the exception of the transformative power of arts and culture in the public sphere. All too often when arts and culture are undertaken with state support, you get cant, bullshit, and half-baked pieties, at best.

Then at lunch, which was late because there were too many speakers, they tried to have each table have a focused discussion on a theme put forth by one of the speakers. I'm so sure. When were we supposed to "connect?"

I go to bed with a liberal every night, I brush my teeth looking at one in the mirror. I don't have a problem finding more of them to talk to. The problem is that I don't talk to enough conservatives, and people who could bring themselves to vote for Trump. I still don't get how conservatives can have done that, and still look at themselves in the mirror.

David Brooks of the NY Times was good, and the story of how Tru Pettigrew and the Cary Police initiated and fostered dialogue between the African-American community in Cary and the police there was pretty amazing.

In short, the model was excessively dirigiste. IEI is nestled with NC State and has pretty significant headcount. I don't know what its funding model is, but I am surprised that it has not come under attach by the legislature while the Republicans had a veto-proof supermajority.


Monday, November 26, 2018

Such sweet sorrow

Mary and I took Natalie to the airport on Saturday after Thanksgiving, and she was sad again about leaving home, so we were too. I explained to her that everybody said it was normal for kids to feel this way their first year of college, according to my panel of experts, to wit, Leslie and Hilary. Natalie said she wasn't homesick at Yale, only when she was leaving home.

Then on Sunday she texted me and asked permission to apply for a trip to Peru over spring break to learn about environmental and oceanographic and other stuff. I of course said that would be cool. She used a number of exclamation points in her text, as is the style.

So I think that she is essentially in a pretty good place. She is basically happy where she is, be it home or college, and excited about going other places. I wish the same could have been said for me at that age.


Meanwhile, yesterday evening Graham suggested that, instead of starting Boardwalk Empire, that we should watch Twelve Angry Men, the 1957 film starring Henry Fonda, with a young Jack Klugman in a supporting role. We meant to watch just the first half of it, but watched the whole thing instead. We hope this may signal a turn towards more sophisticated content on his part. Lord knows he has the noggin for it.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Maintenance day

It is glum and rainy, so I have been doing things like

  • Upgrading malware protection on my computer (why is the fan running all the time? suspicious)
  • Deleting apps from my phone, including Facebook
  • Checking some financial records, including bases in Roth IRAs (just cuz I saw them there in a folder on my computer) and report from Social Security administration
  • Reading periodicals that are clogging up flat spaces in the house, including article on Long-Term Care and the survey on competition in the most recent issue of The Economist 
  • I really need to 
    • connect my new phone to my car using Bluetooth, although the weather makes me not want to go out in the driveway
    • go to the gym
    • challenge Graham to a game of chess
    • figure out the next thing Graham and I will watch on Netflix or Amazon
    • replace some burned out light bulbs
In a little while we will have lunch with Leslie and her family, and then I will take Natalie to the airport. Then there's the question of eating the Thanksgiving leftovers, which I presume will be a Sunday night thang with mom

After which it will be back to reality.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Relative humility

After five years or so of having the book, I finally made my way to the end of the complete Berkshire Hathaway shareholders letters, 1965-2012. There was much learning to be had about a variety of subjects.

Towards the end, the most interesting comparison probably is with the biography of Jimmy Clayton, founder of mobile home manufacturer (and finance company) Clayton Homes. Buffett praised the book in a letter from 2003 describing his acquisition of Clayton at the time -- a transaction that was part of the collapse of the manufactured home market due to crappy lending, an harbinger of the later housing crisis.

So I went out and bought Clayton's book and eventually read it. It was good for a while, though marred at the beginning by the obligatory chapters about growing up dirt poor in Tennessee and about how he and his parents weren't at all prejudiced against black people. Then it got much better, as he told stories of building his various businesses, together with his brother, of trials they went through together, clever things they did, how hard they worked, how they had good and bad partners, etc. All told, the middle of the book is quite good and full of learnings.

After a while, however, Clayton started believing his own press and talking about how he spent his money. He talked at reasonable length about "giving back", including a fairly detailed discussion about some Knoxville hospital he gave money too and how he wrangled with them about the naming rights. Like I could give a fuck.

Compare Buffett's giving. Yes, he has been very public about it, but he explicitly decided to give to the Gates Foundation as opposed to building a big competitor organization because he figured Bill and Melinda were doing a good job -- as they seem to be. But he has also been public so as to recruit more rich people to the Giving Pledge, which has to date secured pledges totaling $365 billion, which is non-trivial money.

It is clear that Buffett is not without ego, and that his public persona is pretty carefully shaped and crafted. But fundamentally he seems pretty much to be what he appears to be. I think he works hard to take care of other peoples' money and do good things, and that he husbands his time carefully and reads a lot. Which I respect.

Now I need to read Buffett's letters from 2013-2018 from the pdfs posted on Berkshire's web site. Then I'll be all caught up.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Rainy day, teen chatter

Grey morning, not really excited about getting out of bed. I was upstairs getting ready for the day when it occurred to me that I should really take Graham to the bus stop at the top of the hill and sit in the car with him till the bus got there. Because I can, really, that's all.

But I was behind the curve. Graham ran out into the street and then headed -- down the hill. WTF? Made no sense. In any case, I put my coffee in a travel cup and hustled out to the Prius, and then went down the hill to see what was up. He was down at Tyler's house, coming out of his front door with an umbrella. Seems he and Tyler -- who normally rides his bike to school -- had texted, and Graham was to accompany him up the hill to the bus, which Tyler had never taken.

So they hopped in the back and we drove up the hill, and I got to listen to them natter about goings on, homework assignments, clubs, what have you. It was lovely, again, a great luxury to be able to do it. When the bus finally arrived, the sisters who go to the bus stop about whom Graham had told us --citing them as the rationale for walking all the way to the top of the hill as opposed to waiting for the bus at the most natural spot on Markham -- got out of their mom's Odyssey, and Graham greeted them heartily: "Hello!"

We often worry about kids on the spectrum -- and even kids not on the spectrum -- these days. They seem to isolate in their rooms with their devices a little too much. So it's good to see them in their element, knitting together.

Probably we should consider switching off the wireless router for at least a portion of Sundays, as one family we know does, and as is the fashion in Silicon Valley.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Compost pile

Our compost pile has some good features, and some bad ones. On the good side, it's very easy to dump stuff into it, I just walk out onto my deck and throw stuff down. On the negative, it's hard to flip the matter that's in there, so it takes forever to break down, and gets really dense, and never makes it to the magical fluffiness that we achieved in Princeton in our composting wheel. Nor do I get the magnificent steaming of the pile when I flipped it with a pitchfork.

I could replicate what I had in Princeton, but it would have go out into the back of the yard, which would make taking stuff out there much more of an ideal.

But would that be so bad? There was something magical about taking the compost into the yard in Princeton. Probably it was bound up with the improbability of our yard, of having that much land (about a third of an acre) right there in town, particularly when the stand of trees was still there, before our legal tussles with the Barskys over their planned development, which eventually ended in the felling of all the trees and their building four McMansions across the fence from us.* Our yard felt like a mythical space, particularly if I had just come home from Manhattan or had flown back from Nebraska or something. Kind of like the great woods behind Glen Heights, but on a much smaller scale. And, in the back of my mind, I knew that both Sir Thomas Kuhn and Aaron Burr had -- at different times, obviously -- lived just on the other side of the woods, lending them a certain allure.

Don't get me wrong, my current backyard is also pretty cool. But the experience of it differs, probably by the fact our home is much more open to the natural environment here, so the inside/outside distinction is lessened. In general, we got more of it here in NC. New Jersey is really the Garden State only in its mind.



*This struggle is probably at some level narrated back in the 2004-2005 entries in the Grouse, but it is not easily keyword findable, and I don't have time to go spelunking for it.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Not atypical

I spent a good portion of yesterday -- beautiful fall weather notwithstanding -- working on Natalie's FAFSA and CSS/Profile (financial aid forms, for those of you blessed with ignorance of these acronyms). Partially because I need to lead a workshop on financial planning for college tomorrow evening and I figured it would help me get back down into those insect-rich weeds.

A week or so back Natalie had nudged me "shouldn't we be working on my financial aid application?", and I of course knew that the forms had become available for the upcoming academic year on October 1. But I had not looked at Yale's web site to see when they were due. I felt kind of certain that I was ahead of the game in getting them done in November.

But only kind of certain, not certain. And -- as I turned off the light to go to bed, I had this nagging suspicion that I should have looked to see when they were due. In earlier years this might have stopped me from sleeping, but I was tired from the day, which also involved getting up on the roof to push down leaves, running, watching crappy television with Graham, and a few pages of Knausgaard, quickly becoming the bane of my existence.

When I woke up and began my morning routine, the thought returned to me. What if I'm running late on the application? I went to Yale's financial aid site and saw that -- the timeline for financial aid forms for the upcoming school year will be posted at some time in the future. I was good.

So this is how I live my life.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

One other detail of the zoo trip -- for the archives

So when I chaperoned Graham's class trip to the zoo a couple of weeks ago, I was in line behind Graham at lunch. I was waiting for my order to get ready, and I turned and saw that Graham had reached into his bag and gotten out his wallet so he could pay for his lunch.

No doubt the instructions for the trip had said that kids should either bring their lunch or money to pay for lunch and Graham -- ever the good rule follower -- had done just that. Never mind that his dad was standing behind him in line.

I squared it up with him and explained that there was really no need for him to have done that. Such a silly boy.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Shifting gears

With the elections in the rearview, it seems the holidays are pretty much upon us, but I am happy to largely take this weekend off to do battle with leaves, etc. And it seems the gods are smiling upon me. A soccer game scheduled for 9am that had been moved up to 8 was, blissfully, cancelled. I had already decided to sit it out due to some gimpiness around my left knee, and to go to my Saturday morning meeting. Turned out I had made the right decision.

For sure, there are tasks piling up around me: college financial aid applications, Obamacare enrollment, work, trip planning blah blah blah blah blah.

Today I will do my best to ignore that stuff. I need to do some reading, some napping, some leaf raking, maybe, just maybe, read something for Mary. I may convince Mary and Graham (both sticks deep in  mud) to go to a movie in the evening.

Off to my left, our cat Rascal is setting a good example for me. She has curled up in the sun in the reading chair next to my desk. I am headed there too.

But first, must schedule a tennis court for Monday morning...

Friday, November 09, 2018

Recovering

A few days out from the mid-terms, a few thoughts. Democrats are claiming victory where we can, and we made some progress, but it is tenuous and concentrated in that most slippery of places, the House. Yes we got some governorships, yes, Anita Earls to the NC Supreme Court, etc.

But it was not the wholesale taking back of our country that we thought it was, and Trump has clearly taken the shakiness of our progress as validating his position, and the next day fires Sessions and puts a half-assed lackie in his place. So last night some of us took to the streets and protested again.

I know what the Republicans are thinking right now: knock yourself out. That's sort of what we've done.

There's a Republican I am Facebook friends with, an older white guy (surprise surprise) who -- in the weeks leading up to the election -- was posting about the relaxing golf trip he took down to the beach, what a great time he was having. Wink wink nudge nudge. Meanwhile, we were canvassing, phone banking, text banking, virtue signaling, all in an effort to dredge up more votes from our core constituencies.

The Republicans just showed up at the polls. They didn't even have many yard signs out, relative to what we had.

Admittedly, we are working against a good deal of intentional, structural efforts to contract the franchise all over the country, Georgia first and foremost, but ND, NE, and here in NC (moving polling places and closing DMVs, etc). And gerrymandering. These are real impediments, they fly in the face of the spirit of democracy. They are just wrong.

We have marched, called, kibbutzed amongst ourselves, etc. What we have not done is figure out a way to have convincing conversations with those who disagree with us. And a large part of that is going to be accepting that they have valid concerns and that we do not have a monopoly on virtue or rectitude. For the most part, we haven't really tried. I tried a little just after the 2016 elections, but then I fell back into my silo of trying to make a living and be a good family member and community member, exercise, etc.

To go further, I think we need to do more.

Monday, November 05, 2018

On the hoof

Out canvassing on Saturday, I talked to one 65-year old man who was voting for the first time, an African-American guy. He was voting straight Democrat, but at the same time he said that the Democrats really didn't have a unified message except for "sticking up for the gays" or something like that.

The fact is, it is hard to argue with him. We do not have a clear, unified message like "Make America Great Again (ps. we are under attack from all sides by terrorists, gays, Jews, and people who want to take your guns and trucks away)." The problem is that complexity is a much tougher sell than simplicity, and we don't have a great message right now. Last time we did ("Yes we can") we had a beautiful leader, a beautiful moment, but Fox News organized around sniping and negativity and -- having a near-monopoly on the conservative eyeball, they wore us down.

It is also true that, two years after the election of Trump, we haven't done a good job crossing over and building bridges with the Trump base. He has done a good job ringfencing their attention, and we haven't done much to convince them that we are on their side. We have essentially doubled down on the "demography is destiny" and coalition of the disaffected thesis, while the Republicans work ever more aggressively to restrict the franchise. In NC, when the voter ID amendment passes, the Republicans will move aggressively to defund DMVs and make it harder to get voter IDs.

There's a lot of work left to do.

One other note from Saturday. I walked the same knock list I had walked on election day 2016, or at least 50 odd doors of it, and I was struck again by the amount of trash in the woods. Styrofoam cups from Popeye's etc. Going implausibly deep in the woods, 20-30 feet, further than can be plausibly thrown. It's as if somebody walked back in there to take a piss and then tossed it.

And this across the street from well-tended lawns. No ownership.

That's why I have to give credit to the Person County Democrats who led roadside pickup of trash days back in the summer. Nobody can fault people for picking up trash. It's just good citizenship.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Harvey Pitt, regulator redux

There's a story today in the NYTimes about how regulatory enforcement under Trump, especially the SEC, has seen a noticeable drop-off from the Obama era. It is a solid article, with appropriate and thoughtful caveating where appropriate, but its basic thrust seems well-documented and is not shocking.

What did surprise me is a quote from Harvey Pitt, who ran the SEC for a while under Bush before rolling out to start his own firm, which is now a consulting firm but back then was doing something around hedge funds. I saw him talk at a hedge fund conference in 2007, as I documented in this post. Back then, as I documented, Pitt didn't really envision the regulatory function of government as one that needed to be particularly proactive.

But today he is quoted in the Times as saying this: "The goal is really to instill in those who are regulated the illusion that the government is everywhere and looking over your shoulder. If you take away that threat, that could embolden some to keep breaking the law." I don't know what has occasioned this change of heart, but I for one ain't buying it.