It’s sort of like going to the casino…

I know enough about the stock market to realize I need miles and miles of education before I’d consider managing my own account beyond throwing a few dollars here and there at penny stocks and hoping one of them turns out to be a runaway winner. What I’ve learned from occasionally gambling for small dollars is that letting me pick for myself is no better or worse than taking those same dollars to the casino. If I walk away eventually breaking even, it’s a good day. Usually, those penny stocks leave me with far fewer pennies than I started with, though. Overall, I’m happy letting a professional load any money I might actually want to have in the future into market-following funds and taking a very small commission for his trouble… comfortable knowing that in any 30-year period you’d like to name, the market has always been higher at the end of that period than it was at the beginning. 

Three or four years ago, when Bitcoin was making a big name for itself, I threw $100 in the pot. Like penny stocks, it was pure casino gambling. I still don’t know a damned thing about Bitcoin or how the crypto-currency market really works. As far as I can tell, you input things into the computer, witchcraft happens, and bitcoins fall out. That original $100 bet is now banging around between $350-$400. If I had any sense, I’d take my winnings off the table and walk away happy. That’s exactly what I tell myself I should do after I’ve had a good run on a slot machine, too. 

What I’m probably going to do is take those winnings and spread them around the crypto world in $25 or $50 increments in hopes one of those becomes the next big thing – another chance to double my money. If buying Bitcoin was a slot machine, this feels more like covering as many bets as possible at the roulette table and hoping the ball drops on just the right place.

It’s no better or worse than whatever “strategy” guides me during a day at the local horse track… and the only money that’s really at risk is my original $100 bet that I considered lost years ago when I plugged it in to a crypto exchange. If it goes bust, no great loss… but if it happens to go to the moon, I’d hate for it to be the lottery ticket that I didn’t buy.

I guess all of this is a long way of saying I’m starting to miss my periodic trips to the local casino and I’ll be replicating the experience, less the bells, flashing lights, and geriatrics as far as the eye can see, as much as possible from right here in my own living room. I can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t be a better use of my bitcoin winnings to buy my own slot machine and cut out the middle man (and the accompanying downside risk).

Choice, vice, and the Protestant ethic for the 21st century…

Note: The following is loosely based on a recent conversation and nicely sums up what’s probably at the core of my life philosophy. It has been sanitized for your protection, or ribbed for your pleasure, or whatever…

Look, if you want to kill yourself, have at it. You want to whore yourself out? Go forth and do great things. Want to chase that high six times a day? You do you, kiddo. Want to escape from the world and go live in the woods or under a bridge somewhere? Help yourself. I don’t have any business telling you how to live – or rather it isn’t my business right up until how you want to live starts having an out-sized impact on those around you who are just trying to live their lives too.

You see, the thing is, I don’t really care about what are commonly called “vice” crimes. Drugs, gambling, prostitution – the old classics. As long as everyone involved is a consenting adult, why the hell do I care what they choose to do with or to themselves? Experience tells me that trying to save someone from themselves is almost the textbook definition of a losing proposition. I’m fully prepared to let people go on drinking and drugging and whoring and gambling to their heart’s content if that’s what they want to do.

Here’s the catch. When their decisions start interfering with other people who are just out in the world trying to do their own thing, I’m perfectly willing to see society crash down on them like the clenched fist of any angry god. When they start killing and thieving and generally making civilized life impossible for others, my level of sympathy with their “plight” drops to damned near zero.

When the drunk climbs behind the wheel or the addict breaks into a home or the gambler starts embezzling from their employer, I cheerfully advocate a policy of zero tolerance and swift, harsh retribution. In life you make your choices and the consequences should naturally follow. It’s not my job to shelter you from those consequences. It’s not society’s job to pick up the tab and bail people out because they’ve made shit decisions.

Some people call me misanthropic. They’re not wrong. Based on a lifetime of observation, I like to think my general misanthropy comes from a place of reason. Couple that with a firm belief in self-determination across all circumstances, and well, there’s a pretty high risk of sounding like an asshole. Of course just because you sound like an asshole doesn’t mean you’re wrong.
I feel like I’m on to something here. Do the work. Be responsible for yourself. Basic guidelines for life not spent as a complete and utter drain on society. Maybe I’ve stumbled upon the Modified Protestant Ethic for the 21st Century.

Do as I do…

I got my sample ballot in the mail last night and between the fevered runs to the liquor and grocery stores to prepare for the onrushing storm of the millennium, I thought I’d so something a little different this year and admit right our in public exactly how I intend to vote when I step up to the “electronic device”. And yes, I always fill out the sample ballot in advance and take it with me, so I can make sure it jives with the actual ballot and so I don’t have to spend alot of time holding up the line on the big day. I’m a conscientious voter like that.

On the right hand side of the sample ballot, you’ll see a pretty straight party line Republican vote. No surprises there and I think I’ve spent enough time here talking about why my on-again-off-again relationship with the Republican Party is back on this election year. The only gap in my ballot reflect a current lack of knowledge about the Maryland Court of Special Appeals continuance and for the local board of education candidates here in Ceciltucky. I’ll need to get my research on before coming down on those three candidates.

So now it’s down to what everyone is curious about… How Jeff breaks on the seven potential amendments to the state constitution. Not only will I tell you which way I’m going, but I’ll also give you a bit of explanation on my thinking for each one.

Question 1 & 2: No. If a justice of the United States Supreme Court doesn’t have to be a barred lawyer, what on earth makes anyone think that the PG and Baltimore County Orphan’s Court Judges must absolutely be practicing lawyers. There are plenty of smart people in the state who aren’t lawyers and would do fine in those positions and it does not rise to level of requiring an amendment to the state’s foundational document.

Question 3: Yes. If you’re elected to a position in government and are convicted of criminal action, I want you removed from office as quickly and expeditiously as humanly possible (consistant with your due process rights).

Question 4: No. I support in-state tuition rates for legal residents of Maryland. Those in the United States illegally should not be entitled to special discounts at citizen expense.

Question 5: No. The Congressional districts drawn by the state legislature would be a joke if their impact wasn’t so serious. Gerrymandering is wrong regardless of the party that’s doing it. District lines should be as simple as possible and not represent an effort to “carve out” a seat for one part or another.

Question 6: Yes. Straight, gay, animal, vegetable, or mineral, it’s none of my damned business who you want to marry. The government should issue a civil marriage license to any couple who otherwise meet the statutory requirements. Marriage licenses, like any other kind of state permit, are a revenue stream and I’m all for increasing the number being handed out (and the fees being paid).

Question 7: Yes. I can play blackjack in Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New Jersey all within a 90 minute drive of where I’m sitting to write this. Maryland has already opened the pandora’s box of gambling, so we might as well go all in… and try to draw some gamblers from Northern Virginia with a fancy new casino at National Harbor.

So there you have it. That’s how the 2012 election is going to look from my place in the cheap seats. And now that I’ve probably offered up something to piss off every friend, colleague, and member of the family, I think I’ll go turn my cell phone off to avoid the commentary that’s pretty much inevitable.