Restoring The Republic

Q: When does a politician issue a press release that’s a 5000-word essay on history, political philosophy, and the sad state of affairs of his country while being hypercritical of his own party?

A: December 12th.

Yeah, it’s not a joke. In the candidly-named, Let It Bleed: Restoring the Republican Party, Michigan Representative Thaddeus McCotter lays into the ‘Cashocrats’ in Washington, condemns the members of his party and lays out a set of principles for a coming wave of what he calls ‘Restoration Republicans’. What do they want to do? Only wash away all the bad government of the past 100 years and re-focus on liberty and freedom.

In his essay he provides quite a bit of background, political theory, and makes many salient points about what shaped our government over the past 100 years and why current socioeconomic conditions render the entire premise for our governmentally-regulated society inappropriate.

This essay will probably be come to be known as a major catalyst for change – not on the level of Common Sense, but easily beyond the Contract With America.

I first heard about him in an interview on the Dennis Miller show. This guy is sharp and can go toe-to toe with Miller on obscure references and witty jabs, and he’s already in office.

He’s one of the good guys. Keep an eye on this one.

DirectBuy – Apparent Scam

I’ve seen/heard ads for DirectBuy on CNN and local radio. I figured I’d check out who these guys are, and came across this website.

Apparently the membership fee is $4950, they use high-pressure sales tactics, and their deals of are questionable value. Some write that it’s a good deal if you’re looking to buy more than $50K in product and enjoy their selection, but others write you can’t look at the selection before you sign up. Sounds like a scam. I’ve written the producers of a couple shows I listen to who promote the company, passing along this URL.

Here’s an older piece by WCBS in NYC for those more impressed by big media. They quote an NYU business professor describing their do-or-die technique as characteristic of disreputable companies.

I know all of my readers wouldn’t succumb to high-pressure sales tactics, but there are less savvy folk out there.

Selling Blood

BWJones writes on his blog about blood donation, selling blood, blood costs, blood shortages, and some historical problems with paying for blood.

He would like for all blood donation to be voluntary but accepts that paying for it may necessary at times. I think it’s a great idea all the time. Here’s how it could work:

We need to address these problems:

  • people donating too frequently

  • people donating who aren’t eligible due to age or history

  • people donating who are likely to give bad blood

for any such system to work.

Bryan cites studies from the ’70’s showing that the quality of blood that was paid for was lower, and this makes sense.

But today we have technology we didn’t have thirty years ago.

Let’s consider a system like this:

  • person signs up to be a blood donor

  • standard tests are done

  • a biometric (retinal scan, I’ll recommend) is taken

  • this data is uploaded to a database. Let’s say the Red Cross manages this.

  • Blood collection units are outfitted with a retinal scanner and laptop to enroll and check people.

  • Wifi or cellular connection needed (fall back to the old system where unavailable)

So, a person coming in to donate needs to:

  • Sit down in front of the scanner. Positive ID made.

  • The system checks on all the various criteria and decides if the person is eligable to donate

  • Blood is donated.

Note, there’s nothing in these steps about ID. This can be totally anonymous. This will increase the number of people donating blood.

Now, if the blood is bad, it’s:

  • rejected from the blood supply

  • the donor is marked in the database as either a problem donor (3 strikes and you’re out) or is permanently off the list (hepatitis, AIDS, etc.)

If the blood is good:

  • The blood enters the blood supply

  • The donor is marked as a good donor

So, now the issue of payment has to be dealt with. We have risk involved here for the blood manager, as there is some unknown aspect of the quality of the blood. By collecting the above data we have a system to rate the quality of the donor.

To these we’ll assigned a tiered pricing scheme. For donors with no score at all, there are two options:

  • Cash on donation

  • Delayed payment

For those who wish to remain anonymous, and are new, cash on donation is the only option. But they are also the riskiest. We only give them $20. If their blood is bad, it’s marked as such and they won’t get $20 again.

If the person is willing to give his personal information, that’s more valuable. For them, we’ll give them $50 for the unit of blood, but only after it’s been verified to be OK. This encourages good donors since their payment is delayed and they won’t donate if they know they have a problem since they won’t get any money. The value difference is good enough that they’re willing to wait a week or so for their check/direct deposit.

Giving personal information is also useful to many people because it serves as a free bloodbourne-disease screen, but we need to know how to let them know if they’re sick. Still, many people prefer their privacy, and if you mandate this you lose donors. Let’s keep our eye on the ball.

Next, we have historically good donors. They’ve donated a dozen times, all checking out OK. These folks get $50 at the donation center instead of having to wait a week since the odds of their donation being bad are very low. If it is, the system will correct itself the next time around (they’re back on the the wait-a-week plan). This will encourage more people to donate because they gain immediate gratification and can take their family out to dinner that night. This is a powerful motivator.

And, of course, anybody can waive the payment if they wish to donate magnanimously.

Now, this appears to increase the cost of blood slightly. 20%, according to BWJones’s numbers ($50 on top of $200, not counting the cost of laptops/scanner). But that only considers the immediate cost of the blood. If you have twice as many people showing up at a blood drive, why you don’t need to have as many blood drives. Therefore, I believe this proposal would be, on the approximate, cost-neutral and increase the blood supply.

All without getting the Federal Government involved in the process, and more importantly, getting donors who don’t file a Schedule C with the IRS.

Does M3 Matter?

Donald Luskin, CNBC commentator and chief investment officer of Trend Macrolytics LLC, writes:

If I’m right and Ron Paul doesn’t just fade away as the primary season progresses, he’ll make a real difference. His anti-war message would make life difficult for Hillary Clinton, by drawing away the most pacifist elements of the Democratic base. But it’s on the economics side where I think he could make the biggest impact. In an election year in which bigger government, higher taxes, and protectionism seem to have so much momentum, Paulonomics may be just what is needed to rebalance the debate in favor of growth.

Yet he dismisses Dr. Paul’s criticism of The Fed’s discontinuance of M3 as ‘nutty’. Mr. Luskin manages to weave ‘radical’, ‘gadfly’, ‘flamboyant’, ‘nutty’, and ‘Kucinich’ all into feints of aspersions, but backs away from each carefully. Is this now the price of admission for a nationally syndicated article?

I found an old interview with Paul discussing his criticisms of M3’s discontinuance before he was running for anything other than district Congressman. One may find grounds to argue with his relative valuation of M3, but he clearly explains his thinking, and if M2 and M3 move independently, it would be interesting to hear a reasoned explanation for how it’s not useful or how the same information can be derived from M2. As I understand it, the only explanation offered is that it’s ‘not useful’ and ‘costs money to calculate’. The latter case is obvious, the former needs justification.

If anything The Fed should have realized that perceptions are important and provided good data to back their claims, since others are claiming that their intentions are skulduggerous.

They didn’t.

MacHeist – Creative Charity

Over on my business blog, I wrote about MacHeist, so I won’t repeat the software details here.

What’s interesting about it for my personal blog is that it’s a great example of creative non-governmental charity. It’s a non-zero-sum game. The buyer benefits from good prices, the developers get some revenue and publicity (plus an increased user base which equals valuation) and, I hope, the MacHeist guys take a management fee so they’re incentivized to do this again.

Oh, and so far they’ve raised over a quarter million dollars for charity, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did double that by time the sale ends. Assuming such an ending number, each charity is likely to see $50K in donations that they weren’t expecting, all without any government mandates or use/threat of violence.

This is “charity applied to mac shareware” – an admittedly narrow category. Imagine if it were repeated for thousands of more narrow categories throughout society.

Ron Paul Media Blackout Continues

Despite Ron Paul’s 2nd-place victory in the Nevada primaries, the MSM continues its blackout on any positive Ron Paul coverage. Here’s the New York Times’s race coverage today:

They continue to list Guliani and Thompson, though Ron Paul regularly bests them in most contests.

This kind of selective reporting crosses the line from journalism to promotion, and like the Fox News Debate Debacle in NH, ought to be accounted for by the FEC as campaign donations.

Since Ron Paul is winning delegates and out-fundraising the other candidates, The New York Times doesn’t have a legitimate excuse for its biased reporting. That the New York Times would stand to lose political favors under a Ron Paul presidency is probably reason enough for their stance, and understandable as a business transaction. But one does not get to engage in political manipulation and call it journalism. Pick one.

A nice lady waiting for her daughter at Emma’s dance school saw my Ron Paul bumper magnet and we talked about him for a short while. It’s a small world, and far more people know about his policy ideas than the MSM would care to admit. I just expected to wait for half an hour in a cold mudroom, not get a chance to talk monetary policy and constitutionalism with another 30-something. We agreed – maybe not this time around, but change is a-coming.

Turn On Your Headlights

This is my first post in ‘Driving’. I intend to offer tips, rules, and optimizations that many people seem to not understand while driving. Instead of yelling at the windshield, I’ll blog instead and perhaps improve some drivers. I’ll also shame any who are egregiously rude.

First up – headlights. Headlights serve two purposes, both important. First, they help you see. That was the easy one. Second, they help others see you. They can increase your visibility by 40%, according to something I read in a AAA magazine a while back. Canada and, if memory serves, Florida require headlights all the time. Canada, because it’s half-dark there all the time (I kid because I love), and Florida because the increase is most marked among the elderly.

Some times to turn on headlights:

  • Whenever your windshield wipers are on, unless you’re just running the wash cycle. If you’re seeing less than optimally, so is everybody else.

  • When it’s dawn or dusk – never drive with just your parking lights on. They’re called ‘parking’ lights, not ‘I should probably have my headlights on but I’m too cool for that’ lights. Today a lady was passing a car in the other lane on 120, around a curve, at dusk, and it was pretty hard for me to process what was actually happening. She only had her parking lights on, and would have been much more safe with her headlights on. (Shut up, Bevis)

  • All the time. Seriously, what do you have to lose? Since the advent of daytime running lights, nobody flashes you anymore. Your fairly modern car should turn off the lights for you.

One downside to these modern cars are the automatic lights. My wife”s minivan has an automatic headlight light sensor, and it comes on too late for safety. I’m going to experiment with putting a piece of tape over the sensor to decrease the amount of light it receives and see if that turns them on sooner.

So, turn on those lights and save a life.

Oh, Canada – drat

For some reason NHPR plays As It Happens, Canadian news at 9PM. I suppose they’re pandering to the French-Canadian ethnic group in NH (but not any other – odd). You might expect it to be about Molson and Hockey, but it rarely is. Mostly about Canadian politics and such. Contrast this with BBC World Service which has a whole world from which to chose important happenings of the day, As It Happens has to fill a full hour with Canadian news every day, and the odds of that much happening in Canada that might affect me each day are slim, so it’s hardly worth listening.

At the same time, VPR is playing Jazz with George Thomas, which is a fantastic show. Yet, somehow I sometimes to forget to switch channels. So I made this rhyme:

When Canada is on in the car,
Switch over to to Jazz on VPR.

to help me remember. Perhaps it will save you, one day, too.

A Better Mousetrap

We’re having a problem this year with our pantry being raided by field mice. After several attempts to exclude them, I headed off to Wal*Mart to get some mouse traps.

I’m not interested in poison, or even more cruel, the sticky kind which entrap them and let them starve or dehydrate to death, and the electrocution type are expensive. So I picked up a pack of the old-fashioned kill-em-quick snap traps and something else they had called a ‘Mice Cube’. Note, it’s really a ‘Mouse Box’, as it can neither hold more than one mouse nor is a cube. It’s made of cheap plastic and has a hinged door on the front which can only open inwards and is just held in place by gravity. Simple, clever design.

First up was the old fashioned kind, with the brand ‘Victor’ on them. These were really poorly made, and I snapped my fingers twice trying to set the traps. I’ve used other brands of these in the distant past and had no such trouble. I loaded four of them up with peanut butter, placed them in a corner per directions, and came back in the morning to find three of the four snapped, no mice, and all four devoid of peanut butter.

Crummy traps, but I’ve learned my foes apparently like peanut butter.

Next up, the Mice Cube. I put some peanut butter on some leftover French cracker-ish-toast-ish-bread-ish things I had leftover from buying some Boursin Fig, Raisin, and Nut cheese (mmmm) at Stew Leonard’s in CT last month which have the nice property of being heavy enough to drop in the cube, and easy to break.

First night: big fat field mouse. He’s probably in charge of food gathering and eats while he works. He got dropped off in the woods a couple miles away where there are no houses nearby. To drop off a mouse, just turn the trap upside down, the door falls open, and the mouse scurries away.

Second night: nothing.

Third night: First female. She made quite a racket trying to get out of the trap in the middle of the night. She also made an awful mess of herself – for $1.42 these are definitely considered disposable.

Fourth night: Smaller male. Calm, not too messy, wanted to climb on the trap once he got out. Weird mouse.

The Mouse Cube is made by a company called Pied Piper in New Castle, NH. I don’t see a website for them, but they seem to be located on a nice little spot of land over there on the seacoast.

Conclusion: Safe, easy, clean, humane, cheap mousetrap. A better mousetrap.