Monday, December 31, 2012

Quote of the Day: Pravda

These days, there are few few things to admire about the socialist, bankrupt and culturally degenerating USA, but at least so far, one thing remains: the right to bare arms and use deadly force to defend one’s self and possessions.

This will probably come as a total shock to most of my Western readers, but at one point, Russia was one of the most heavily armed societies on earth. This was, of course, when we were free under the Tsar. Weapons, from swords and spears to pistols, rifles and shotguns were everywhere, common items. People carried them concealed, they carried them holstered. Fighting knives were a prominent part of many traditional attires and those little tubes criss crossing on the costumes of Cossacks and various Caucasian peoples? Well those are bullet holders for rifles.

Various armies, such as the Poles, during the Смута (Times of Troubles), or Napoleon, or the Germans even as the Tsarist state collapsed under the weight of WW1 and Wall Street monies, found that holding Russian lands was much much harder than taking them and taking was no easy walk in the park but a blood bath all its own. In holding, one faced an extremely well armed and aggressive population Hell bent on exterminating or driving out the aggressor.

This well armed population was what allowed the various White factions to rise up, no matter how disorganized politically and militarily they were in 1918 and wage a savage civil war against the Reds. It should be noted that many of these armies were armed peasants, villagers, farmers and merchants, protecting their own. If it had not been for Washington’s clandestine support of and for the Reds, history would have gone quite differently.

Moscow fell, for example, not from a lack of weapons to defend it, but from the lieing guile of the Reds. Ten thousand Reds took Moscow and were opposed only by some few hundreds of officer cadets and their instructors. Even then the battle was fierce and losses high. However, in the city alone, at that time, lived over 30,000 military officers (both active and retired), all with their own issued weapons and ammunition, plus tens of thousands of other citizens who were armed. The Soviets promised to leave them all alone if they did not intervene. They did not and for that were asked afterwards to come register themselves and their weapons: where they were promptly shot.

Of course being savages, murderers and liars does not mean being stupid and the Reds learned from their Civil War experience. One of the first things they did was to disarm the population. From that point, mass repression, mass arrests, mass deportations, mass murder, mass starvation were all a safe game for the powers that were. The worst they had to fear was a pitchfork in the guts or a knife in the back or the occasional hunting rifle. Not much for soldiers…

~ Stanislav Mishin, from Americans never give up your guns

Putting the "Fun" Back in Dysfunctional: Why I'm in Favor of Going Over the Fiscal Cliff

It's all about honesty. The country has been living a lie for the past 12 years, a lie that has gotten dramatically worse the past 4 years. Anyone who thinks the deficit can be closed merely by taxing the rich is a fool. Let's be honest-- there are two ways out of this mess: 1) the middle class must get soaked with higher taxes because that is where the majority of the money is, or 2) the fed must inflate the country out of the mess the politicians have created. My guess is the ultimate solution will be a combination of the two. The politicians will go to great pains denying they are raising taxes on the middle class, while doing it quietly behind the scenes in the most indirect ways they can. There is no way the country can keep spending $1.50 for each dollar in taxes they collect. When is the last time you heard anyone propose any real spending cuts? Prepare to get soaked.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Taxpayer's Guide to the Federal Debt



This video is a little dated. The situation is actually worse now.... the national debt is only..... $16,350,218,944,255.22 as of 31 Dec 2012 at 01:09:38 AM GMT. Thank you, politicians, for your gross incompetence and complete mismanagement of the federal budget.

Charles Ellis & Mark Cortazzo: Controlling Investment Costs

Quote of the Day: P.J. O’Rourke

Mr. President, the worst thing that you’ve done is that you sent a message to America in your re-election campaign that we live in a zero-sum universe.

There is a fixed amount of good things. Life is a pizza. If some people have too many slices, other people have to eat the pizza box. You had no answer to Mitt Romney’s argument for more pizza parlors baking more pizzas. The solution to our problems, you said, is redistribution of the pizzas we’ve got—with low-cost, government-subsidized pepperoni somehow materializing as the result of higher taxes on pizza-parlor owners.

In this zero-sum universe there is only so much happiness. The idea is that if we wipe the smile off the faces of people with prosperous businesses and successful careers, that will make the rest of us grin.

There is only so much money. The people who have money are hogging it. The way for the rest of us to get money is to turn the hogs into bacon.

The evil of zero-sum thinking and redistributive politics has nothing to do with which things are taken or to whom those things are given or what the sum of zero things is supposed to be. The evil lies in denying people the right, the means, and, indeed, the duty to make more things.

Or maybe you just find it easier to pursue a political policy of sneaking in America’s back door, swiping a laptop, going around to the front door, ringing the bell, and announcing, “Free computer equipment for all school children!”

~ P.J. O’Rourke, from Dear Mr. President, Zero-Sum Doesn't Add Up

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Quote of the Day: James Shikwati

Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the foreign aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa’s problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn’t even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.

~ James Shikwati, from "For God's Sake, Please Stop the Aid!"

Grouch: Here's an idea for the geniuses involved in the fiscal cliff negotiations who seem hell bent on taxing and spending the country out of existence: let's try cutting some spending for a change...... reductions across the board in all foreign aid would be a good first start, followed by rolling back and freezing spending levels at all government agencies to 2010 allocations until the yearly deficit is reduced. It is a lot to ask a politician to make a decision for the good of the country instead of their own narrow self-interests, but that it what leadership is all about. By the way, where has leadership and statesmanship disappeared to? We seem to have nothing but a bunch of self-serving fools in charge of the country.

Fiscal Cliff Rock



A shallow and whimsical look at the fiscal cliff.

How the Green Energy Scan Works


In the 1950's, there was only the military industrial complex to worry about. Since then, the politicians in their "infinite wisdom" (sarcasm intended) have created the welfare industrial complex and the environmental industrial complex. The kickbacks just keep coming.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Quote of the Day: Thomas Sowell

When I was growing up, an older member of the family used to say, "What you don't know would make a big book." Now that I am an older member of the family, I would say to anyone, "What you don't know would fill more books than the Encyclopedia Britannica." At least half of our society's troubles come from know-it-alls, in a world where nobody knows even 10 percent of all.

Some people seem to think that, if life is not fair, then the answer is to turn more of the nation’s resources over to politicians — who will, of course, then spend these resources in ways that increase the politicians’ chances of getting reelected.

......

If you don't want to have a gun in your home or in your school, that's your choice. But don't be such a damn fool as to advertise to the whole world that you are in "a gun-free environment" where you are a helpless target for any homicidal fiend who is armed. Is it worth a human life to be a politically correct moral exhibitionist?

The more I study the history of intellectuals, the more they seem like a wrecking crew, dismantling civilization bit by bit -- replacing what works with what sounds good.

Some people are wondering what takes so long for the negotiations about the "fiscal cliff." Maybe both sides are waiting for supplies. Democrats may be waiting for more cans to kick down the road. Republicans may be waiting for more white flags to hold up in surrender.

......

Everybody is talking about how we are going to pay for the huge national debt, but nobody seems to be talking about the runaway spending which created that record-breaking debt. In other words, the big spenders get political benefits from handing out goodies, while those who resist giving them more money to spend will be blamed for sending the country off the “fiscal cliff.”

~ Thomas Sowell, from On Christmas, Liberals Are By No Means Liberal

Finally a Politician I Can Agree With



I would raise the debt ceiling on one condition and that would be a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Barring that, people in Congress, those who I’ve met up here, they don’t deserve to manage any more money. They’re doing a bad job managing the money they have. We should not send them any more money. They’re not to be trusted with money.

~ Rand Paul

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Quote of the Day: The Economist

"The S&P 500 Index has now outperformed its hedge-fund rival for ten straight years, with the exception of 2008 when both fell sharply. A simple-minded investment portfolio—60% of it in shares and the rest in sovereign bonds—has delivered returns of more than 90% over the past decade, compared with a meager 17% after fees for hedge funds (see chart). As a group, the supposed sorcerers of the financial world have returned less than inflation. Gallingly, the profits passed on to their investors are almost certainly lower than the fees creamed off by the managers themselves."

~ The Economist, from Hedge Funds: Going Nowhere Fast




Note: The expense ratio on a Vanguard S&P500 Index ETF is only 0.05%, which is 1/20th of 1 percent, or just $50 per $100,000 of investment funds, or basically almost free. So you can invest for almost free using index funds and ETFs, or pay hedge fund managers large fees to earn much lower returns.

A Christmas Carol by Orson Welles' Mercury Theater



In 1939, the “Campbell Playhouse” brought in two especially formidable thespians, Orson Welles and Lionel Barrymore together for Orson Wells's adoptable of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Sarah McLachlan: "O Little Town Of Bethlehem"

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas, Burglars


Today, in an early Christmas present to burglars, the Journal News in upstate New York, owned by Gannett, published the names and addresses of all gun permit holders in the Westchester and Rockland county areas of New York. Now all would-be burglars, whether hard-core criminals, or just the average kid in the neighborhood who is running short on drug money, will know who's packing, and more importantly who is not. Job well done, Journal News. You guys are criminal geniuses.

Dan Solin: The Show Wall Street Doesn't Want You to See

Passive Investing: The Evidence the Pros Do Not Want You to See

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bill Gross' Tips for 'Beating the Wealth Tax'


Bill Gross, founder and co-chief investment officer of bond giant PIMCO, has devised four ways individuals can beat the "wealth tax" – i.e. higher dividends and capital gains. In an interview with The Daily Ticker he outlines his proposals:

Tip #1: Invest in intermediate securities and roll down the yield curve. This includes buying 5-to-10-year TIPS in the U.S. and U.K. as central bank inflation targets rise. Gross believes negative real interest rates will continue for some time as policymakers around the world try to inflate their economies.

Tip #2: Buy real assets. Gross also recommends holding real assets, such as gold and oil, that keep pace with an inflationary global environment. The recent decline in the price of gold should not affect this thesis, he notes.

Tip #3: Buy stocks that offer steady cash flow and dividends in an unstable economy. Gross says examples of these stocks include Coca-Cola (KO), Procter & Gamble (PG), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Pepsico (PEP). In general investors should buy stocks that have consistent records of growth and can withstand a downturn.

Tip #4: Invest in developing economies with attractive balance sheets. Gross specifically names Brazil and Mexico as the best examples here. It's time for investors to recognize this new era of growth, he says, and these economies are "excellent" buying opportunities.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Your Tax Dollars Hard at Work for the Common Good


I see now why this administration needs more tax dollars. It costs a lot of money to put out "Holiday" cards like this one from our Ambassador to Finland. This man's name is Bruce "Mr. Clean" Oreck, of the Oreck vacuum cleaner fortune, and he's bundled over $500K for the Obama campaign (the price of ambassadorships is on the rise). I think it is only fair that middle class tax payers muscle up a little more dough to help promote the image of the US overseas.

Gift Giving Traditions Around the World

Gift Giving Traditions Around The World

This interactive gift giving map, brought to you by Cloud 9 Living, is meant for world travelers, study abroad students, those living in or visiting a foreign country; and anyone with curiosity about cultures, traditions and etiquette standards around the world.

The map specifically covers gift giving traditions in China, India, Japan, Brazil, Turkey, Zimbabwe, Italy, Sweden, Bolivia, Tibet, Morocco, Russia, Samoa, Israel and the English Commonwealth. With holidays ranging from Diwali to Christmas, and traditions from gifting yogurt to pulling on earlobes; everyone will learn something new.

Liberal or Conservative?


Via The Looking Spoon.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Penn & Teller Call BS on Gun Control



As politicians and TV pundits fall all over themselves to call for new gun control laws, few even understand the problem much less have a viable solution that will make anyone but the criminals safer. Penn & Teller help put things into proper perspective. My personal belief is incidents of mass shootings whether it be Ft. Hood or Sandy Hook have more to do with the way our society manages the mental health of the most marginalized in society rather than guns themselves. Those wanting to do harm will always find a way, whether its buying guns on the black market or making fertilizer bombs. Banning certain types of guns or ammunition may make politicians feel good, but have little effect other than make law abiding citizens less safe.

"We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions." ~ Ronald Reagan

Or as another wise man once said: "Nobody blames cars for drunk driving."



The most deadly weapon in world history.





Friday, December 14, 2012

The Face of Retirement: Meet the Future You


Can a brokerage firm scare you into saving for retirement by adding years to your picture? Try it at http://faceretirement.merrilledge.com/

What Makes Guinness Guinness



A pint of Guinness examined from a physicist's point of view. The science of Guinness doesn't interest me as much as owning Diageo stock and tilting back a pint very now and then as I help the company grow its profits.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Year of Linux



Grouch: I'm a big Linux fan, even though I recently gave Windows 8 a try. You name it, I can figure out how to do it for free. My only limit is my imagination.

Here's a picture of my desktop-- two 23 inch monitors.


Quote of the Day: George Will

It is enough to make you want to hop in your Fisker and drive off a fiscal cliff.

You should know Fisker because you have helped to finance the Anaheim, Calif., company that makes — well, has made a few — electric cars. Its only model, the Karma — really; Obama administration green investments are beyond satire — costs $110,000. Your subsidy helped Justin Bieber, the fabulously rich Canadian teenager (he sings), buy one. No one ever said saving the planet one electric car at a time would be easy.

The Wall Street Journal reports that despite Fisker’s $192 million in Energy Department loans, the Karma “has been hobbled by recalls and quality problems” and the company has sacked half its employees. But perhaps Fisker’s biggest problem is that its source of batteries, A123 Systems, has gone bankrupt in spite of its $249 million Energy Department grant. The administration that in the fiscal cliff drama is demanding control of much more of the nation’s wealth is the author of many Solyndra-style debacles.

~ George Will

Grouch: Comrades, this cannot be true. Mr. Will surely knows our central planners have great and glorious visions of the future that will lead us to economic nirvana if we only give them a greater percentage of our money. His kind of wit is not appreciated at the highest levels of the politburo. We just may have to gift him a Fisker and let him suffer the consequences.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Quote of the Day: Adam Carolla

Well, first off, we should stop saying, "tax the rich," and say, "tax the successful." Because I'm not rich, I'm successful. And rich is easy to tax because that's just the guy who inherited daddy's money, whose dad was the Monopoly man and he lives up on the hill.

I'm successful, you're successful because we worked our tails off. And it's harder to take money away from people that work very hard for it.

And it's very easy to say, "Tax the rich." But, really, it should be "Tax the successful."

~ Adam Carolla

Grouch: Couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Quote of the Day: Nicholas Kristof

This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency. Our poverty programs do rescue many people, but other times they backfire.

Some young people here don’t join the military (a traditional escape route for poor, rural Americans) because it’s easier to rely on food stamps and disability payments.

Antipoverty programs also discourage marriage: In a means-tested program like S.S.I., a woman raising a child may receive a bigger check if she refrains from marrying that hard-working guy she likes. Yet marriage is one of the best forces to blunt poverty. In married couple households only one child in 10 grows up in poverty, while almost half do in single-mother households.

Most wrenching of all are the parents who think it’s best if a child stays illiterate, because then the family may be able to claim a disability check each month.

~ Nicholas Kristof, from Profiting From a Child’s Illiteracy

Grouch: The three laws of social programs all too often apply to those receiving Government benefits under the best of intentions:
  1. The Law of Imperfect Selection. Any objective rule that defines eligibility for a social transfer program will irrationally exclude some persons and all efforts to correct that exclusion will expand that program well beyond the original problem area.
  2. The Law of Unintended Rewards. Any social transfer increases the net value of being in the condition that prompted the transfer (i.e., what you subsidize you get more of).
  3. The Law of Net Harm. The less likely it is that the unwanted behavior will change voluntarily, the more likely it is that a program to induce change will cause net harm.

Cartoon of the Day: A Debt that will Live in Infamy


Sunday, December 9, 2012

An Update on My Windows 8 Experience

I took another shot at installing Windows 8 this weekend. For some reason this time the moon and stars aligned and I was able to complete a successful install and activation. I also received my Windows Media Center key 7 days after my initial request, and was able load this feature. This time applying updates did not introduce any undesired side effects. The only difference this time is that I wiped my hard drives clean before beginning the install. I was able to set up permissions in Windows 8 to stream recorded video to my PS3. My other goal was set up a dual boot environment between Windows 8 and Ubuntu 12.10, and after quite a few hours of loading operating systems it was completed.

My overall impressions of Windows 8 remain similar to my original post.

On the positive side:
  1. I like the Metro UI and think it will be very effective on the Surface.
  2. There appear to significant performance improvements (thank God!) over previous versions of windows.
  3. The app store feature is intended make the platform "idiot proof."
  4. Task Manager functionality has been significantly improved.
  5. Ability to pause and resume file transfers.
  6. Search feature is very powerful and fast.
  7. Media Center does a nice job of recording and playback of signals off of the TV antennae.
  8. Improved boot times.
  9. Integration with web apps of Microsoft's choice.
The cons:
  1. Feels like two desperate operating systems bolted together. It suffers from split personality syndrome.
  2. Moderate learning curve for users to become proficient with Windows 8.
  3. Windows close action is tedious from mouse users.
  4. Ads are annoying.
  5. Can't help but have the feeling data is being collection about my browsing habits, and my app usage.
  6. It is easy for the unsophisticated user to get lost admin the confusion of different screens and styles.
  7. Power users may be less empowered by Windows 8 than previous versions.
  8. Can't display more than one Metro app and a screen at a time.
  9. I find horizontal scrolling in general very annoying. Metro institutionalizes horizontal scrolling.
  10. Emphasis of Metro appears to more on cosmetics than delivery of information.
  11. Unveiling the password log in screen is an unnecessary step.
  12. No obvious reason to upgrade from Windows 7..... Vista on the other hand still sucks, and is worth the upgrade.
I've made significant strides from last weekend in getting Windows 8 installed and up and running. But the jury is still out in my mind as to whether this is an improvement over Windows 7 or not. The performance improvements are a welcomed relief, but the disjointedness of the user interface and overall user experience should cause user to think twice about upgrading. Those on Windows 7 should stay put. Anyone on prior versions of Windows should consider upgrading.

Quote of the Day: Lord Monkton

Quietly, politely, authoritatively, I told the delegates [at the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha] three inconvenient truths they would not hear from anyone else:
  • There has been no global warming for 16 of the 18 years of these wearisome, self-congratulatory yadayadathons.
  • It is at least ten times more cost-effective to see how much global warming happens and then adapt in a focused way to what little harm it may cause than to spend a single red cent futilely attempting to mitigate it today.
  • An independent scientific enquiry should establish whether the U.N.’s climate conferences are still heading in the right direction.
As I delivered the last of my three points, there were keening shrieks of rage from the delegates. They had not heard any of this before. They could not believe it. Outrage! Silence him! Free speech? No! This is the U.N.! Gerrimoff! Eeeeeeeeeagh!

One of the hundreds of beefy, truncheon-toting U.N. police at the conference approached me as I left the hall and I was soon surrounded by him and a colleague. They took my conference pass, peered at it and murmured into cellphones.

Trouble was, they were having great difficulty keeping a straight face.

Put yourself in their sensible shoes. They have to stand around listening to the tedious, flatulent mendacities of pompous, overpaid, under-educated diplomats day after week after year. Suddenly, at last, someone says “Boo!” and tells the truth.

Frankly, they loved it. They didn’t say so, of course, or they’d have burst out laughing and their stony-faced U.N. superiors would not have been pleased.

~ Lord Monkton, from Bad boy smashes U.N. wall of silence

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Deck the Halls with Macro Follies



Put one in your Christmas stocking today before the Grinch arrives on Jan 1, 2013.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

California Teacher's Union Educational Videos



You have to be pretty dumb to buy into this propaganda....... but then again that explains a lot of things.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Quote of the Day: Warren Meyer

Here is what I am doing for the rest of the year -- working with every manager in my company so that as of January 1, 2013, none of our employees are working more than 28 hours a week. I think most readers know the reason -- we have got to get our company under 50 full time employees or else I am facing a bill from Obamacare in 2014 that will be several times larger than my annual profit. I love my workers. They make me a success. But most of my competitors are small businesses that are exempt from the Obamacare hammer. To compete, I must make sure my company is exempt as well. This means that our 400+ full time employees will have to be less than 50 in 2013, so that when the Feds look at me at the start of 2014, I am exempt. We will have more employees working fewer hours, with more training costs, but the Obamacare bill looks like about $800,000 a year for us, at least, and I am pretty sure the cost of more training will be less than that.

.....

But this is going to be an ENORMOUS change in the rest of the service sector. I have talked to a lot of owners of restaurants and restaurant chains, and the 40-hour work week is a thing of the past in that business. One of my employees said that in Hawaii, it was all the hotel employees could talk about. Many chains are working on mutli-team systems where two teams of people working part-time replace the former group of full-time employees. 2013 is going to see a lot of people (who are not paid very well to begin with) getting their hours and pay cut by 25%. At the same time that they are required, likely for the first time since many are relatively young, to purchase health insurance.

~ Warren Meyer, from The Biggest Economic Story of 2013

My Experience with Windows 8


First, let me state that I am long-time linux/unix/solaris user on my home computers. I use windows for two reasons: 1) to print coupons, and 2) to do my taxes once a year. Other than that, I have little use for windows, and absolutely no use for extravagantly priced Apple products. However, I thought now might be a good opportunity to replace my copy of Windows XP with something more modern. So I forked out my $65 bucks and took my chances with Windows 8.

A few days later a package arrived containing the 32 and 64 bit versions of Windows 8 Pro along with a product key. I attempted to install the cd on a PC I'd wiped clean. On the first try, the install hung after accepting the customer agreement. On the second try, the install could see my hard drive, but refused to apply the software. To get around this problem, I installed an old copy of Windows XP and was then able to successfully upgrade to Windows 8.

I now had Windows 8 installed on my hard drive, and began getting used to the major changes in the user interface. I found the system, the new graphics and the metro ui to be visually appealing. However, the bouncing back and forth between the metro ui style screens and the Windows 7 style screens felt very jarring, and like two disparate operating systems were being pasted together to try to make a whole. The user experience is disjointed to say the least. The metro ui is not particularly mouse friendly and seems designed for tablets, not desktops.

Weird is the one word I'd use to describe the user experience, but at least everything was working correctly so far. That is, until I decided to apply system updates. That's when things all went to hell. After the updates, my sound no longer functioned and my video went on the fritz. I couldn't figure out how to fix these problems so I went to plan B--- install Windows 8 in a VM under linux.

Things went swimmingly with Plan B until it came to activating the release. Windows 8 refused to accept the product key that came with the product, even though it was typed in correctly. I'll be researching this problem over the next couple of days to determine how to fix. Needless to say, the initial experience of this user has been less than satisfactory, and I'd advise those running Windows 7 not to rush to upgrade to 8.

PS: I should also add that media center does not come with Windows 8 Pro. You have to buy that separately. For a limited time Microsoft is offering Media Center for free to early adopters. I applied for my free license key for media center which was supposed to be emailed to me within 48 hours. It's been over a week now with no communication from Microsoft. It's not difficult to conclude that my experience with Windows 8 has been rather sucky. I'm glad I have viable alternatives.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Quote of the Day: Warren Buffett

That’s because bonds are as sound as a dollar – and we view the long-term outlook for dollars as dismal. We believe substantial inflation lies ahead, although we have no idea what the average rate will turn out to be. Furthermore, we think there is a small, but not insignificant, chance of runaway inflation. Such a possibility may seem absurd, considering the rate to which inflation has dropped. But we believe that present fiscal policy – featuring a huge deficit – is both extremely dangerous and difficult to reverse. (So far, most politicians in both parties have followed Charlie Brown’s advice: “No problem is so big that it can’t be run away from.”) Without a reversal, high rates of inflation may be delayed (perhaps for a long time), but will not be avoided. If high rates materialize, they bring with them the potential for a runaway upward spiral.

~ Warren Buffett, 1984

and

The faith that foreigners are placing in us may be misfounded. When the claim checks outstanding grow sufficiently numerous and when the issuing party can unilaterally determine their purchasing power, the pressure on the issuer to dilute their value by inflating the currency becomes almost irresistible. For the debtor government, the weapon of inflation is the economic equivalent of the “H” bomb, and that is why very few countries have been allowed to swamp the world with debt denominated in their own currency. Our past, relatively good record for fiscal integrity has let us break this rule, but the generosity accorded us is likely to intensify, rather than relieve, the eventual pressure on us to inflate. If we do succumb to that pressure, it won’t be just the foreign holders of our claim checks who will suffer. It will be all of us as well.

~ Warren Buffett, 1987


Grouch: The deficits of 1984 and 1987 look like rounding errors for today's deficits. All taxpayers and those who live off of the largess of the government should encourage him to voluntarily write larger checks to the US Treasury. But an even better idea is that perhaps we should establish a national lottery to have the nation's billionaires make charitable donations to fund the government for 5 - 10 minutes at a clip....... then when there are no more billionaires, we can move on to the millionaires and then when there are no more millionaires then the average Joe can start picking up the bill to fund the government at 5 - 10 seconds a clip. Wouldn't that be true social justice? Wouldn't that gradually reduce the smoke-screens politicians use to hide their incompetence and callousness in abusing American citizens through foolish and frivolous overspending.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Quote of the Day: Alexis de Tocqueville

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years."

~ Alexis de Tocqueville, from Democracy in America

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Quote of the Day: Jeremy Grantham -- US on the Road to Zero Growth Long-Term

Summary

  • The U.S. GDP growth rate that we have become accustomed to for over a hundred years – in excess of 3% a year – is not just hiding behind temporary setbacks. It is gone forever. Yet most business people (and the Fed) assume that economic growth will recover to its old rates.
  • Population growth that peaked in the U.S. at over 1.5% a year in the 1970s will bob along at less than half a percent. This is pretty much baked into the demographic pie. After adjusting for fewer hours worked per person, man-hours worked annually are likely to be growing at only 0.2% a year.
  • Productivity in manufacturing has been high and is expected to stay high, but manufacturing is now only 9% of the U.S. economy, down from 24% in 1900 and 15% in 1990. It is on its way to only 5% by 2040 or so. There is a limit as to how much this small segment can add to total productivity.
  • Growth in service productivity in contrast is low and declining. Total productivity is calculated to be just 1.3% through 2030, if we use current accounting methods.
  • Resource costs have been rising, conservatively, at 7% a year since 2000. If this is maintained in a world growing at under 4% and a developed world at under 1.5% it is easy to see how the squeeze will intensify.
  • Going forward, GDP growth (conventionally measured) for the U.S. is likely to be about only 1.4% a year, and adjusted growth about 0.9%. The price rise might even accelerate as cheap resources diminish. If resources increase their costs at 9% a year, the U.S. will reach a point where all of the growth generated by the economy is used up in simply obtaining enough resources to run the system. It would take just 11 years before the economic system would be in reverse! If, on the other hand, our resource productivity increases, or demand slows, cost increases may decelerate to 5% a year, giving us 31 years to get our act together. Of course, with extraordinary, innovative breakthroughs we might do even better, but we certainly shouldn’t count on that. (Bear in mind that we don’t even know precisely why the prices started to rise so sharply in 2000.) Excessive optimism and doing little could be extremely dangerous.
  • For a few years fracking will add helpfully to growth: my guess is that the benefit will peak at about 0.5% within five years, but be modest over longer periods. The key concept here for understanding growth is to know when the maximum upward push will occur.
  • Increasing climate damage, reflected mainly in food prices and flood damage, is going to increase. With any luck this will not be severe before 2030 (we allow for a 0.1% setback) but it is very likely to accelerate between 2030 and 2050. A great deal will depend on our responses.
  • The bottom line for U.S. real growth, according to our forecast, is 0.9% a year through 2030, decreasing to 0.4% from 2030 to 2050 (see table on Page 16). This is all done presuming no unexpected disasters, but also no heroics, just normal “muddling through.”
  • Investors should be wary of a Fed whose policy is premised on the idea that 3% growth for the U.S. is normal.
  • Remember, it is led by a guy who couldn’t see a 1-in-1200-year housing bubble! Keeping rates down until productivity surges above its last 30-year average or until American fertility rates leap upwards could be a very long wait!


~ Jeremy Grantham, from On the Road to Zero Growth


Grouch: I'm not as pessimistic in the long-run as Grantham, but I am pessimistic about US growth for the next 4 - 6 years. Much damage will be inflicted on the economy during that time by the "know-nothing" political do-gooders through legislation, excessive and foolish regulation, executive order, judicial fiat and monetary policy -- and by proxy average Americans will suffer through continued high unemployment and low wage growth. I'm optimistic longer term that Americans will grow tired of this war on prosperity by the political class and will replace the bums with some pro-growth cowboys. In the meantime, the entrepreneurs always provide glimmers of hope even in the darkest times.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I, Pencil -- The Movie



Leonard Read’s classic essay “I, Pencil,” is about how the manufacture of a simple (yet not so simple) pencil is coordinated by the marketplace rather than by a central planner. Milton Friedman later famously adopted it for his Free to Choose series.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Why I'm Pro Choice

The liberal mantra "it's my body and I'll do with it as I want" applies to reproduction, but not to consumption. It's not just ok for taxpayers to pay for contraceptives and abortions for everyone; it's a god-given government-given right. But when it comes to using your own money to buy a soda...... well that's a whole other story. Nanny Bloomberg has already but the squelch on big gulps in NYC. Now the DC city council is looking to do the same for their residents out of passion and concern for their health and well being. I'm from the "just leave me the heck along and I'll be better off" school of government. That's why I'm pro-choice when it comes to type of soda and size of soda. If someone is spending their own money for an item they desire why should the government impose its iron will on the people (doesn't DC have much bigger problems to address like failing schools and crime?). Set the convenience stores free.... don't demonize the soft drink companies. Don't send taxpayers over the state line to NJ, VA or MD to buy their refreshments.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bruce Berkowitz on WealthTrack



Ignore the crowd.....

"Even the intelligent investor is likely to need considerable willpower to keep from following the crowd." - Benjamin Graham

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lara Logan on Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan



The art of politics is making otherwise intelligent people believe what they know to be false just long enough to pull the right lever in the voting booth.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Bubble Trailer



This movie is written by Tom Woods of the Mises Institute and is based on his best seller, Meltdown. Will this be one of the few honest accountings of the 2008 meltdown? Here is the trailer.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bogle on Future Stock Market Returns


Bogle's prediction based on current valuation: Expect stocks to grow on average 5% a year for the next decade.

Scenes from Detroit

The Hardest Concept in the World for Politicians to Grasp

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Return on "Investment" in Education


Is it a positive or negative number or just flat-lined at zero? No doubt the Education Industry is the big winner here, with the taxpayers continually forking over higher and higher dollars for flat to diminishing returns. Maybe it's time to try a different approach than throwing money at the problem.

Adam Carolla on Luck

Just Missed It

Left Anchorage on the 28th, then this on the 29th.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Don Yacktman Discussing His Investment Philosphy



Yacktman is a wonderful value investor who has built an enviable record at the Yacktman Funds, and before that at Selected Funds.

“Subterranean Homesick Blues” Hand Lettered



The original with Ginsberg in the background

Video of the Day

Monday, September 24, 2012

Some Pictures on the Way to Anchorage

The Canadian Rockies:






The Anchorage Tarmac






Saturday, September 22, 2012

That's Why I Pray

The Best First Pitch of the Year

Quote of the Day: Winston Churchill

You may, by the arbitrary and sterile act of Government—for remember, Governments create nothing and have nothing to give but what they have first taken away—you may put money in the pocket of one set of Englishmen, but it will be money taken from the pockets of another set of Englishmen, and the greater part will be spilled on the way.

~ Winston Churchill

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Quote of the Day: Richard Rahn

The United States was known as the bastion of economic freedom for more than two centuries, and it was because of its economic freedom that the nation became the pre-eminent economic power. However, in just a few short years, the U.S. has fallen from No. 3 in 2000 (behind the city-states of Hong Kong and Singapore) to No. 8 in 2005 and to No. 18 in 2010, the last year for which complete statistics are available. Worse yet, the U.S. decline continues, and in next year’s ranking, it is almost certain to be lower.

~ Richard Rahn


Grouch: The index Rahn refers to above measures the degree of economic freedom present in five major areas: [1] Size of Government; [2] Legal System and Security of property Rights; [3] Sound Money; [4] Freedom to Trade Internationally; [5] Regulation.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cartoon of the Day: The Road Less Traveled


Lincoln



The official trailer has just been released. Whatever projects Daniel Day Lewis is involved in are worth paying attention to.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Some Useful Websites You May Never Have Heard Of

1. openculture.com - videos about cultural, scientific topics and other curiosities
2. http://developer.ubuntu.com/get-started/ - introduction to open source programming in python
3. screenr.com – record movies of your desktop and send them straight to YouTube.
4. copypastecharacter.com – copy special characters that aren’t on your keyboard.
5. lovelycharts.com – create flowcharts, network diagrams, sitemaps, etc.
6. iconfinder.com – the best place to find icons of all sizes.
7. office.com – download templates, clipart and images for your Office documents.
8. openoffice.org or libreoffice.org - open source alternatives to ms-office.
9. gimp.org - open source alternative to adobe photoshop.
10. followupthen.com – the easiest way to setup email reminders.
11. jotti.org – scan any suspicious file or email attachment for viruses.
12. wolframalpha.com – gets answers directly without searching.
13. pdfescape.com – lets you can quickly edit PDFs in the browser itself.
14. tubemogul.com – simultaneously upload videos to YouTube and other video sites.
15. ctrlq.org/dictation – online voice recognition in the browser itself.
16. sizeasy.com – visualize and compare the size of any product.
17. myfonts.com/WhatTheFont – quickly determine the font name from an image.
18. google.com/webfonts – a good collection of open source fonts.
19. regex.info – find data hidden in your photographs.
20. livestream.com – broadcast events live over the web, including your desktop screen.
21. homestyler.com – design from scratch or re-model your home in 3d.
22. join.me – share you screen with anyone over the web.
23. onlineocr.net – recognize text from scanned PDFs.
24. flightstats.com – Track flight status at airports worldwide.
25. wetransfer.com – for sharing really big files online.
26. hundredzeros.com – the site lets you download free Kindle books.
27. polishmywriting.com – check your writing for spelling or grammatical errors.
28. typewith.me – work on the same document with multiple people.
29. noteflight.com – print music sheets, write your own music online
30. imo.im – chat with your buddies on Skype, Facebook, Google Talk, etc. from one place.
31. translate.google.com – translate web pages, PDFs and Office documents.
32. similarsites.com – discover new sites that are similar to what you like already.
33. bubbl.us – create mind-maps, brainstorm ideas in the browser.
34. faxzero.com – send an online fax for free (do people still send faxes?).
35. pipebytes.com – transfer files of any size without uploading to a third-party server.
36. tinychat.com – setup a private chat room in micro-seconds.
37. chipin.com – when you need to raise funds online for an event or a cause.
38. aviary.com/myna – an online audio editor that lets record, and remix audio clips online.
39. sxc.hu – download stock images absolutely free.
40. mailvu.com – send video emails to anyone using your web cam.
41. timerime.com – create timelines with audio, video and images.
42. stupeflix.com – make a movie out of your images, audio and video clips.
43. safeweb.norton.com – check the trust level of any website.
44. teuxdeux.com – a beautiful to-do app that looks like your paper dairy.
45. minutes.io – quickly capture effective notes during meetings.
46. youtube.com/leanback – Watch YouTube channels in TV mode.
47. builtwith.com – find the technology stack of any website.
48. mixlr.com – broadcast live audio over the web.
49. ctrlq.org/html-mail – send rich-text mails to anyone, anonymously.
50. seekingalpha.com - miscellaneous investing ideas from all styles of investors.
51. handbrake.fr - video transcoding software.
52. http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ - audio recording and editing software.
53. gnucash.org - opensource accounting and personal finance software.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

6 Sixty Second Adventures in Economics

The Invisible Hand


The Paradox of Thrift

I'd like to see a corollary video called The Paradox of Spending. Savings and spending go together much like labor and capital, too much of either is not healthy.

The Phillips Curve


The Principle of Comparative Advantage


The Impossible Trinity


Rational Choice Theory


Friday, September 7, 2012

Getting the Schiff Treatment: Let's Ban Corporate Profits



Maybe one day it will dawn on some of these folks that someone needs to generate wealth before it can be redistributed. Without profits, wealth can only be generated by what amounts to slave labor. But let's give credit where credit is due, at least this line of thinking is consistent with the notion: "The government is the only thing we all belong to," which is troubling on so many levels. How far we have progressed from the early days of the country's founding when the fathers of our independence expressed such quaint notions as: "Were we directed from Washington when to sow, & when to reap, we should soon want bread."


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Markets in Everything: Indigestible Health Sensor



From Springwise.com: "Just cleared by the FDA late last month, this new ingestible sensor from California-based Proteus Digital Health is about the size of a grain of sand and can be integrated into an inert pill or medicine. Once in the stomach, it is powered solely by contact with stomach fluid and communicates a unique signal that identifies the timing of ingestion. This information is transferred through the user’s body tissue to a battery-operated patch worn on the skin that detects the signal along with physiological and behavioral metrics such as heart rate, body position and activity. That data, in turn, gets relayed by the patch to a mobile application, where it can be made accessible by caregivers and clinicians. The video above explains the premise in more detail."

Decoding The Non Farm Payroll Report

Decoding The Non Farm Payroll Report

Monday, September 3, 2012

Happy Capital Day


"Capital without labor means machines with no operators, or financial resources without the manpower to invest in. Labor without capital looks like Haiti or North Korea: plenty of people working but doing it with sticks instead of bulldozers, or starting a small enterprise with pocket change instead of a bank loan."

"Like most Americans, I’ve traditionally celebrated labor on Labor Day weekend—not organized labor or compulsory labor unions, mind you, but the noble act of physical labor to produce the things we want and need. Nothing at all wrong about that!"

"But this year on Labor Day weekend, I’ll also be thinking about the remarkable achievements of inventors of labor-saving devices, the risk-taking venture capitalists who put their own money (not your tax money) on the line and the fact that nobody in America has to dig a ditch with a spoon or cut his lawn with a knife. Indeed, what could possibly be wrong about having a “Capital Day” in odd numbered years and a “Labor Day” in the even-numbered ones?"

"Labor Day and Capital Day. I know of no good reason why we should have just one and not the other."

~ Larry Reed, President of the Foundation for Economic Education
HT: Carpe Diem

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Quote of the Day: Mark P. Mills

Apple went public in December 1980. And there followed the longest run of economic growth in modern history, spanning five presidencies from Reagan through Clinton. Apple grew to become the world’s largest market cap company and a tech icon.

According to today’s techno-pessimists (Tyler Cowen, Niall Ferguson and Jean Gimpel are cited in the article), nothing like that can happen again because technology and America have plateaued. Such naysayers, who flourish like mushrooms in the depths of economic recessions, have been wrong in every one of the 19 economic downturns we have experienced since 1912. And they’re wrong again.

The techno-pessimists are innovation Malthusians cut from the same cloth as the resource Malthusians. Every time reality proves them wrong following each crisis, they say a variant of the same thing: I may have been wrong before, but I’m right this time.

Technological innovation is pivotal to whether the American economy will experience prosperity growth again. In a world with a growing population but a tepidly expanding economic pie, we see shrunken expectations and a reversion to fighting over how to get one’s “fair share.” People lose faith that the pie will ever grow again; in essence, they lose faith in the future itself. Certainly there’s limited optimism today about technology’s future and what that might mean for the economy, jobs, debt, taxation, and fairness.

When it comes to predicting the future—especially of technology—with all due respect, one does not turn to historians or economists. We are poised to enter a new era that will come from the convergence of three technological transformations that have already happened: Big Data, the Wireless Wired World, and Computational Manufacturing (3D printing).

The emerging grand transformations—Big Data, Wireless Broadband, Computational Manufacturing—are all an integrated part of the next great cycle of the information economy. Returning to Drucker, the evidence that this transformation has already happened is visible in Census data. The share of our economy devoted to moving bits—ideas and information—is already much bigger than the share associated with moving people and stuff.

Not only does the United States have the world’s most sophisticated and reliable (and low-cost) electric grid that is a vital infrastructure to fuel the information industries, but the United States also leads in the development of each of the core technological transformations. All things considered, there is every reason to be optimistic about our future.

You can’t predict what company will be the next Apple—though investors try. But you can predict there will be another Apple-like company. And there will emerge an entirely new family of companies—and jobs, and growth—arising from the transformational technology changes already happening.

~ Mark P. Mills, from The Next Great Growth Cycle

Cartoon of the Day: The Fuel Driving Green Jobs


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Markets in Everything: Virginity Cream



Weird stuff. Who would fall for such a pitch?

Neil Armstrong Bio



The baby boomer challenge--- no one born after 1935 has walked on the moon.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong - 1930 - 2012


Interviewed by the BBC. His prediction of a manned moonstation in his lifetime did not come true, but his feats certainly captured the imagination of the Star Trek generation.




Here's a challenge to the baby boomers--- no one born after 1935 has walked on the moon.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fighting the Deleveraging Trend


The Federal Governments has bravely (or not so bravely) decided to fight the deleveraging trend in the economy. With the financial crisis of 2008-2009, it was painfully obvious that the overall debt burden carried by individuals, corporations and governments needed to be reduced, and the impact of this deleveraging would slow economic growth around the world for many years, but lay the foundation for a future economic growth. The private sector has read the tea leaves and is getting their financial house in order, while the Keynesians in government have stepped on the gas pedal. So the question looms: has the economy deleveraged at all? Does private sector debt count more than public sector debt or vice versa? Can you have a solid recovery if governments need to drive interest rates to zero so they can continue to service their debt? Are we setting the table for another round of stagflation as in the 1970's?

Quote of the Day: P. J. O'Rourke

America’s retreat from visible, tangible manifestations of superiority doesn’t hurt just our pride, our economy, and our place in the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s also a bad advertising campaign. America has one great product to sell, individual liberty. It’s attractive, useful, healthy, and the fate of the world depends upon it.

We are the most important and maybe the only country that fully embodies the sanctity, dignity, independence, and responsibility of each and every person. “American” is not a nationality, an ethnicity, or a culture; it’s a fact of human freedom. Our country was not created and is not governed by a ruling class or even by majority rule. America is individuals exercising their right to do what they think is best with due respect (to the extent human nature allows) for the right of all other Americans to do likewise. This is not an ideology or a system. This is a blessing.

The rest of the world would like to be so blessed. But the concept of individual liberty is harder to grasp than we Americans think. Those with little experience of liberty understand license and lawlessness better than they understand freedom. We want everyone on earth to have sanctity, dignity, independence, and responsibility. And we want everyone to want it for each other. We want this not because of our idealism but because of our selfish desire for a little more peace and plenty.

The world will never be good. People fight hard and cause a lot of trouble when commanded by their self-interest. But people fight viciously and cause ruin when commanded by the interests of others. Individual liberty is the best we can do. Try any other sociopolitical combination—collective liberty, individual oppression, communitarian despotism.

However, if we are going to promote the benefits of individual liberty, we have to show what free people can do. We need evidence to support the truths we hold to be self-evident. We have to advertise. Putting something double the size of the Burj Khalifa where the World Trade Towers once stood and building a Corvette that can top 300 mph would be a start.

~ P. J. O'Rourke, from Of Thee I Sigh: Baby Boomers Bust

Friday, August 24, 2012

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a Crony



Why be a taxpayer, when you can be a taxspender?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lemon of the Week: PIMCO High Income

Would you be interested in buying a closed end mutual fund that traded at a 70%+ premium to net asset value even if it yielding 10%? I know I wouldn't. But investors in the closed end fund PIMCO High Income (PHK) are doing just that to buy a leveraged junk bond fund. What could go wrong here? The fund is only 30% leveraged to go with its 70% premium, along with an expense ratio of 1.16%. Just imagine what will happen to investors should the premium shrink or its junk bond portfolio perform poorly.

The first mission of investors is to manage their risk. This fund seems off the charts risky to me and won't find a place in portfolio. I come from the investing should be like watching paint dry or grow school of money management. Roller coaster rides are not for me.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Niall Ferguson: The Six Killer Apps of Prosperity



1. Competition

2. The Scientific Revolution

3. Property Rights

4. Modern Medicine

5. The Consumer Society

6. The Work Ethic


Today we have the welfare state destroying the work ethic, cronyism between government and business degrading competition, and property rights continuing to be eroded by government. We are still advancing forward through the efforts of the few with the scientific revolution, modern medicine and the consumer society.

Ferguson's three questions:

1. Is the west deleting its own apps?

2. Does the sequencing of the download matter, and what happens when countries get the sequence wrong?

3. Can China continue to prosper without private property rights?

P.T. Barnum is Alive and Well, and Living in New Jersey

According to the New York Times, John Corzine is unlikely to be prosecuted for his role in the collapse of MF Global, and to celebrate his good fortune Mr. Corzine is contemplating starting a hedge fund based on his trading prowess.  Rumor is investors are chomping at the bit to invest with this wizard of Wall Street (well, not really).  Anyway, we though it would be a good idea to help him come up with a name for his new endeavor:

Son of MF Investments

Black Box Investments

Madoff, Bozo & Corzine Investors

Toxic Paper Capital Management

Up in Smoke Investments

The Presidential Pardon Perpetual Income Fund

The Nifty Fifty Basketcase Fund

The Falling Knife Capital Opportunity Fund

The 'La Dolce Vita' Sinking Market Fund

The House Always Wins Fund

Can't Miss Partners

The Bet the Farm Market Neutral Fund

The Fickle Finger of Fate Investment Partners

The Mythic Myopia Fund



Readers, please feel free to chip in with your ideas.



"I simply do not know where the money is... I do not know which accounts are unreconciled or whether the unreconciled accounts were, or were not, subject to the segregation rules."
- Jon Corzine

3D Printing a Custom iPhone Case

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Verse: Charles Bukowski

16-bit Intel 8088 chip

with an Apple Macintosh
you can't run Radio Shack programs
in its disc drive.
nor can a Commodore 64
drive read a file
you have created on an
IBM Personal Computer.
both Kaypro and Osborne computers use
the CP/M operating system
but can't read each other's
handwriting
for they format (write
on) discs in different
ways.
the Tandy 2000 runs MS-DOS but
can't use most programs produced for
the IBM Personal Computer
unless certain
bits and bytes are
altered
but the wind still blows over
Savannah
and in the Spring
the turkey buzzard struts and
flounces before his
hens.

~ Charles Bukowski


Grouch: Not one of Buk's better poems, but a reminder of just how fast today's whiz-bang technology  falls on the trash heap of history.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Quote of the Day: The evil, evil Charles Koch

If your struggling car company wants a government bailout, you’ll probably have to build the government’s car – even if it’s a car very few people want to buy.

Repeatedly asking for government help undermines the foundations of society by destroying initiative and responsibility. It is also a fatal blow to efficiency and corrupts the political process.

When everyone gets something for nothing, soon no one will have anything, because no one will be producing anything.

~ Charles Koch, from Why We Fight for Economic Freedom

Grouch: I encourage readers to read the entire editorial just to see how diabolical this man truly is. This will help you understand why he's so hated by progressive thinkers in our society.

Corporate Freeloaders



Maybe we should take a big chunk of money away from the government and let the taxpayers keep more of their earnings.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Markets in Everything: Who's Your Daddy?

In a sign of the times, New Yorkers might see this truck cruising their streets offering quick DNA tests. The DNA tests, which cost between $299 and $575, require a simple cheek swab from each participant and lab analysis. Results are available in a couple of days. I'll leave it to reader's imaginations as to why this service would be in high demand.



How 3-D Printing Can Build a Custom House in 20 Hours



Yahoo News -- "An engineering professor, Behrokh Khoshnevis, at the University of Southern California, is really thinking big: He has figured out a way to build housing with a giant 3D printer. The apparatus, instead of being the size of your typical laser printer, would actually be somewhat bigger than the house it would build through a concrete layering system called Contour Crafting.

The professor explained the process in a speech at the TEDx conference, which you can watch above. (Start at 4:30 to see the animation demo.) In the video, the professor demonstrates how the machine lays down a concrete foundation, puts up walls, even inserts wiring and plumbing, and eventually constructs an entire building, which Professor Khoshnevis says can be completed in less than a day. (All that's left to add are doors and windows.) Robotics could even be used to add details like tiles, says the professor."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Quote of the Day: Voltaire

To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.

~ Voltaire

Why So Much Cheer on Wall Street?

Last Friday's 217 point rise on Wall Street was triggered by some good news on the jobs front. Trader's cheered a modest increase in payrolls, and politicians trumpeted (as they have other months) that we have finally turned the corner, and the recovery is ready to take off like a rocket.  But what do the numbers tell us?  Let's look st some historical data.


Not exactly a robust 3 1/2 years of job creation for the current resident in the White House.  Now let's look at the info represented in a slightly different format.


Again, hardly a reason for cheer in any recent news.  In fact, not much room for cheer since the Dotcom bubble burst in the late 1990s.  The lost decade of stock performance now threatens to stretch into two decades.  We can look to the usual suspects for the poor performance: aging demographics with an avalanche of Boomers set to retire, a poor educational system that fails to match skills to employment needs, the inability of workers to retrain for new careers, union quasi-wage controls that deter employment and send companies to source products from abroad, an outdated immigration system that restricts the entry of highly skilled workers (engineers, doctors, software designers, etc.), and last but not least, government regulations that deter employment such as minimum wage rules, high employment taxes (FICA, SSN), the burden of health care plans, the highest corporate tax rate among OECD nations (39.2%), and artificially low interest rates that punishes savers and subsidizes borrowers. Things have only gotten worse on many of these fronts in the past 3 1/2 years, or the past 12 years, or the past 20 years.

The recent stock market cheer, in my opinion, represents the triumph of hope over reality, and the fatigue of a sideways market for the past 10 years. In all likelihood a pullback is coming from these lofty level that are unsupported by the current economic reality. Expect a sideways market for the next 3 - 5 years while the economy works through the current round of excesses, artificial manipulations, and malinvestments. Only when politicians give up on trying to "fix" the economy will we see a sustainable turnaround and real recovery.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Quote of the Day: Thomas Sowell


The Miracle of 3D Printing: "Magic Arms"



From Venture Beat: "The heartwarming video above documents the story of a small child whose life has been radically changed for the better because of 3D printing technology.

Two-year-old Emma was born with a rare disease called arthrogryposis that makes it so she can’t raise her arms without assistance. Through the use of 3D printing, a Delaware hospital created a mobile plastic exoskeleton that now allows Emma to use her arms for many things.

3D printing ensures that a new exoskeleton can be created if Emma breaks or outgrows it. Emma is now on her second 3D-printed jacket and calls the device her “magic arms.”

The video was created by 3D printing business Stratasys, which recently merged with Objet in a $1.4 billion deal. A Stratasys 3D printer was used to create Emma’s jacket."

The 3D printing revolution is in its infancy and will dramatically transform manufacturing and medicine in ways no bureaucrat can foresee if left unfettered.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Evil Oil Companies: How Exxon Mobil Stiffed the Taxpayers


Can you believe that over the last 10 years Exxon Mobil had the nerve to only pay $1.075 trillion dollars in taxes on their profits of $352 billion? What an outage. Just think what would the price of gas be if they paid taxes equal to their profits, not 3 times their profits?

Computer Security Tips from Bruce Schneier



Bruce's main points:

1. The State of Encryption: "Not that great, and getting worse"

2. DNSSEC: It's In Your Future
The Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) technology is all about cryptographically signing DNS information in order to provide a new layer of integrity and authenticity. The call for "DNSSEC Everywhere" was first raised in the summer of 2008, after security researcher Dan Kaminsky revealed that DNS was at risk from attack.

3. The Best Defense: Backup, AntiVirus, and a Good "Bullshit Detector"

4. Software: "All Equally Mediocre"

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Happy100th Birthday Milton Friedman!

Here are some of my favorite Milton Friedman quotes:

1. There is nothing as permanent as a temporary government program.

2. Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.

3. Inflation is caused by too much money chasing after too few goods.

4. Sloppy writing reflects sloppy thinking.

5. All learning is ultimately self-learning.

6. I'm in favor of legalizing drugs. According to my values system, if people want to kill themselves, they have every right to do so. Most of the harm that comes from drugs is because they are illegal.

7. Nobody spends somebody else's money as carefully as he spends his own. Nobody uses somebody else's resources as carefully as he uses his own. So if you want efficiency and effectiveness, if you want knowledge to be properly utilized, you have to do it through the means of private property.

8. The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.

9. The Great Depression, like most other periods of severe unemployment, was produced by government mismanagement rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy.

10. The high rate of unemployment among teenagers, and especially black teenagers, is both a scandal and a serious source of social unrest. Yet it is largely a result of minimum wage laws. We regard the minimum wage law as one of the most, if not the most, antiblack laws on the statute books.

11. Industrial progress, mechanical improvement, all of the great wonders of the modern era have meant relatively little to the wealthy. The rich in Ancient Greece would have benefited hardly at all from modern plumbing : running servants replaced running water. Television and radio? The Patricians of Rome could enjoy the leading musicians and actors in their home, could have the leading actors as domestic retainers. Ready-to-wear clothing, supermarkets - all these and many other modern developments would have added little to their life. The great achievements of Western Capitalism have redounded primarily to the benefit of the ordinary person. These achievements have made available to the masses conveniences and amenities that were previously the exclusive prerogative of the rich and powerful.

12. President Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."... Neither half of that statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. "What your country can do for you" implies that the government is the patron, the citizen the ward. "What you can do for your country" assumes that the government is the master, the citizen the servant.

13. On the difference between public vs. private education: "Try talking French with someone who studied it in public school. Then with a Berlitz graduate."

14. And what does reward virtue? You think the communist commissar rewards virtue? You think a Hitler rewards virtue? You think, excuse me, if you'll pardon me, American presidents reward virtue? Do they choose their appointees on the basis of the virtue of the people appointed or on the basis of their political clout?

15. Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.

16. Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.

17. I am favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible.

18. Inflation is the one form of taxation that can be imposed without legislation.

19. Most economic fallacies derive from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.

20. Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government.

21. Only government can take perfectly good paper, cover it with perfectly good ink and make the combination worthless.

22. One man's opportunism is another man's statesmanship.

Quote of the Day: Burton Malkiel

Look at 10-year Treasurys, which are now yielding—what?—1.39 percent and they seem to be going toward 1 percent. They’re down toward 1 percent in Germany and Holland and Japan. And for a retirement plan—not as a trader—thinking you're safe by including those as one of your long-term assets is crazy. They are going to prove to be very bad investments.

Let me just mention that the last time 10-year Treasurys yielded 1.4 percent in the United States was in 1946. We had a big debt—we had a debt-to-GDP ratio of 120 percent after World War II. To help finance the debt, we pegged interest rates at very low rates. This is what’s called financial repression. Interest rates were pegged until the early 1950s. They then rose only slowly. But people lost enormous amounts of money on bonds.

By 1980, we had a debt-to-GDP ratio of 30 percent. We solved the debt problem, but we solved it on the back of the bondholders. And I think that that’s exactly what’s going to happen in the United States and also in Europe. That’s why I’m very negative on bonds. We know equities aren't the greatest inflation hedge in the short run. But, in the long run, they are an inflation hedge. They do represent real assets. And I think equities are unusually attractive today. And, having said that, I will say that not only are multinationals attractive in the United States, but even though I'm pessimistic about European governments, a stock like Siemens—which is a sort of German General Electric—is a very attractive investment, particularly as the euro declines.

I’m generally bullish on equities, and bullish on equities in emerging markets because, again, valuations are very attractive. Before the crisis of 2008 emerging markets equities sold price-earnings multiples of 15 percentage points higher than price-earnings multiples in developed markets. And now they're 10 to 15 percentage points lower. So I think emerging markets are also extremely attractive.

~ Burton Malkiel, from Don’t Get Buried By Bonds

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I, Smartphone



The "I, Smartphone" video above is a modernized 21st century version of the classic essay "I, Pencil," written in 1958 by Leonard Reed, founder of the Foundation for Economic Education.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012