NOTES As the House ultimately must enforce its own rules, it's certainly possible it will decide to follow the philosophy of Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, who memorably asked: "What's the Constitution among friends?" 17th-century French proverb: "The spittle of toads never reaches the light of the stars." And, as the great political novelist Ross Thomas once pointed out, when you've got all the fools in town on your side, you've practically won. To paraphrase Upton Sinclair: you do not build a bicycle to weigh butter; you build it to ride it. Indeed, as Will Rogers observed, return on capital may now mean less to investors than return of capital. Don't change barrels, warns an old political maxim favored by incumbents, going over Niagara. What made us think of it was the weirdly persistent one session up, the next down, action of the stock market. Manifestly worried that any day now they'll be going over Niagara, investors nonetheless exhibit not the slightest hesitation in switching from a bullish barrel to a bearish one, and back again. And what it discovered is either shocking, if you're shockable, or just plain startling, if you're not. For, according to Dalbar, in the stretch from 1984 through 2000, when the S&P racked up an average annual return of 16.3%, the average equity fund investor wound up with a yearly return of a mere 5.32%. Not good. As Steve points out, the poor soul would have been better off buying Treasury bills, which, over the same span, averaged a yearly return of 5.32%. Of course, he would have missed the chills and thrills of, among other things, the 1987 crash and the great leaps forward in the late 'Nineties. And he would have missed out completely on being able to exaggerate how well his stocks were doing to the neighbor (the same one who has been out of work for six months). On the other hand, he might not have those suitcases under his eyes from waking up at 3 a.m. and staring blankly into the dark. Our poor soul's returns from his equity fund investment not only trailed those on the S&P by a huge margin, but they also, even more peculiarly, trailed by a wide margin the returns of the average equity fund, which typically lagged the performance of the S&P in the years covered by the Dalbar study by a point or so annually. (The modest difference between the S&P and the average fund is pretty much the result of the burden on the latter's performance of commissions, kindred costs and -- lest we forget -- management fees.) Had the study encompassed 2001, returns of the S&P 550 and the equity funds obviously would have been even lower. And, so, alas, would have been the average return of our poor soul's portfolio. The explanation for the punk showing of the individual equity fund investor in the '84-'00 period examined by Dalbar is, in no small measure, his inevitable tendency to pile into funds at the top of markets, accompanied by another, equally consistent tendency to lighten up at bottoms. In this particular stretch, the impact of buying high and selling low was massively magnified by the incredible rise and fall of the tech stocks and the ultimately baleful effects on the funds that loaded up their portfolios with them. As Steve notes, moreover, our poor soul's meager returns also stemmed from a sad habit of chasing the latest "hot" fund and shifting his money into it just before it starts to cool. In sum, during the biggest and longest bull market ever enjoyed by investing man, the only place the average equity fund investor could have put his money and gotten less back for it was gold and Las Vegas. It's when the music stops and the glasses are suddenly empty, when the party's over, in other words, in the cold, unforgiving light of day, that the reckoning takes place. Which is what has been happening and why investors are feeling deflated and not especially friendly toward the stock market. And why, absent a full-fledged return of the bubble, which doesn't seem in the cards, that sourish sentiment is not likely to change anytime soon. Darwin was right. Many creatures who thrive in an era of easy living are likely to become extinct when conditions grow harsh. Retail investors often allocate their precious capital like sailors on shore leave (see the infamous Dalbar study referenced above). But it would be wrong to assume that all funds in hot demand are unworthy of the attention. Even the free-spending seaman at leisure makes a good buy sometimes, even if it's for the wrong reasons. Hedge funds, which often buy 75% of a convert deal, invariably offset their positions by selling short the issuer's stock. When whole races and peoples conspire to propagate gigantic mute lies in the interest of tyrannies and shams, why should we care anything about the trifling lies told by individuals? Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. Always do right. This will surprise some people and astonish the rest. Get the facts first. You can distort them later. You can't depend on your judgement when your imagination is out of focus. I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. A man who carries a cat by the tail is getting experience that will always be helpful. He isn't likely to grow dim or doubtful. Chances are, he isn't likely to carry the cat that way again, either. But if he wants to, I say let him! Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. It is not the facts that are of chief importance, but the light thrown upon them, the meaning in which they are dressed, the conclusions which are drawn from them, and the judgements delivered upon them. We do not deal much in fact when we are contemplating ourselves. Be good and you will be lonesome. Often, the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it. All our acts, reasoned and unreasoned, are selfish. I have made it a rule never to smoke more than one cigar at a time. Duties are not performed for duties' sake, but because their neglect would make the man uncomfortable. A man performs but one duty- the duty of contenting his spirit, the duty of making himself agreeable to himself. Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned. There isn't a parallel of latitude but thinks it would have been the equator if it had had its rights. Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform. It is best to read the weather forecasts before we pray for rain. Man is kind enough when he is not excited by religion. The institution of royalty in any form is an insult to the human race. There are several good protections against temptation but the surest is cowardice. A man never reaches that dizzy height of wisdom when he can no longer be led by the nose. What, sir, would the people of the earth be without woman? They would be scarce, sir, almighty scarce. Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion- several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. The history of the race, and each individual's experience, are thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal. Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it- and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again- and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one any more. Thunder is good, thunder is impressive, but it is lightning that does the work. Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them. For in a Republic, who is "the country?" Is it the Government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the Government is merely a servant- merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn't. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catchphrases of politicians. Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn't. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let man label you as they may. If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country- hold up your head! You have nothing to be ashamed of. War talk by men who have been in a war is always interesting; whereas moon talk by a poet who has not been in the moon is likely to be dull. It may be called the Master Passion, the hunger for self-approval. I believe that our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey. Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get. Mark Twain said, "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning-bug," and he knew that finding just the "right" word could be a mighty struggle. "Every one is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody." "Man will do many things to get himself loved; he will do all things to get himself envied." "It is not worth while to try to keep history from repeating itself, for man's character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible." "It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress." "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." USMC General Hawley. Said like ONLY a Marine could say it! Since the attack, I have seen, heard, and read thoughts of such surpassing stupidity that they must be addressed. You've heard them too. Here they are: 1) "We're not good, they're not evil, and everything is relative." Listen carefully: We're good, they're evil, and nothing is relative. Say it with me now and free yourselves. You see, folks, saying "We're good" doesn't mean, "We're perfect." Okay? The only perfect being is the bearded guy on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The plain fact is that our country has, with all our mistakes and blunders, always been and always will be, the greatest beacon of freedom, charity, opportunity, and affection in history. If you need proof, open all the borders on Earth and see what happens. In about half a day, the entire world would be a ghost town, and the United States would look like one giant line to see "The Producers." 2) "Violence only leads to more violence." This one is so stupid you usually have to be the president of an Ivy League university to say it. Here's the truth, which you know in your heads and hearts already: Ineffective, unfocused violence leads to more violence. Limp, panicky, half-measures lead to more violence. However, complete, fully-thought-through, professional, well-executed violence never leads to more violence because, you see, afterwards, the other guys are all dead. That's right, dead. Not "on trial, "not "reeducated," not "nurtured back into the bosom of love." Dead. D-E-Well, you get the idea. 3) "The CIA and the rest of our intelligence community has failed us." For 25 years we have chained our spies like dogs to a stake in the ground, and now that the house has been robbed, we yell at them for not protecting us. Starting in the late seventies, under Carter appointee Stansfield Turner, the giant brains who get these giant ideas decided that the best way to gather international intelligence was to use spy satellites. "After all, "they reasoned, "you can see a license plate from 200 miles away." This is very helpful if you've been attacked by a license plate. Unfortunately, we were attacked by humans. Finding humans is not possible with satellites. You have to use other humans. When we bought all our satellites, we fired all our humans, and here's the really stupid part. It takes years, decades to infiltrate new humans into the worst places of the world. You can't just have a guy who looks like Gary Busey in a Spring Break '93 sweatshirt plop himself down in a coffee shop in Kabul and say "Hi ya, boys. Gee, I sure would like to meet that bin Laden fella." Well, you can, but all you'd be doing is giving the bad guys a story they'll be telling for years. 4) "These people are poor and helpless, and that's why they're angry at us." Uh-huh, and Jeffrey Dahmer's frozen head collection was just a desperate cry for help. The terrorists and their backers are richer than Elton John and, ironically, a good deal less annoying. The poor helpless people, you see, are the villagers they tortured and murdered to stay in power. Mohamed Atta, one of the evil scumbags who steered those planes into the killing grounds (I'm sorry, one of the "alleged hijackers," according to CNN. They stopped using the word "terrorist," you know), is the son of a Cairo surgeon. But you knew this, too. In the sixties and seventies, all the pinheads marching against the war were upper-middle-class college kids who grabbed any cause they could think of to get out of their final papers and spend more time drinking. At least, that was my excuse. It's the same today. Take the Anti-Global-Warm-ing (or is it World Trade? Oh-who-knows-what-the- hell-they-want demonstrators). They all charged their black outfits and plane tickets on dad's credit card (!) before driving to the airport in their SUV's. 5) "Any profiling is racial profiling." Who's killing us here, the Norwegians? Just days after the attack, the New York Times had an article saying dozens of extended members of the gazillionaire bin Laden family living in America were afraid of reprisals and left in a huff, never to return to studying at Harvard and using too much Drakkar. I'm crushed. I think we're all crushed. Please come back. With a cherry on top? Why don't they just change their names, anyway? It's happened in the past. Think about it. How many Adolfs do you run into these days? Shortly after that, I remember watching TV with my jaw on the floor as a government official actually said, "That little old grandmother from Sioux city could be carrying something." Okay, how about this: No, she couldn't. It would never be the grandmother from Sioux City. Is it even possible? What are the odds? Winning a hundred Powerball lotteries in a row? A thousand? A million? And now a Secret Service guy has been tossed off a plane and we're all supposed to cry about it because he's an Arab? Didn't it have the tiniest bit to do with the fact that he filled out his forms incorrectly three times? And then left an Arab history book on his seat as he strolled off the plane? And came back? Armed? Let's please all stop singing "We Are the World" for a minute and think practically. I don't want to be sitting on the floor in the back of a plane four seconds away from hitting Mt. Rushmore and turn, grinning, to the guy next to me to say, "Well, at least we didn't offend them." SO HERE'S what I resolve for the New Year: Never to forget Our murdered brothers and sisters. Never to let the relativists get away with their immoral thinking. After all, no matter what your daughter's political science professor says, we didn't start this. Have you seen that bumper sticker that says, "No More Hiroshimas"? I wish I had one that says, "You First. No More Pearl Harbors." Semper Fi!