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.

Nonviolence and Freedom

I’ve decided that Dr. Ron Paul would be the best next President of the United States, and it comes down to two principles: Nonviolence and Freedom, which may just be two sides of the same coin.

To understand my train of thought it’s important to understand two principles:

  • Fundamentally, government is the sanction use of force. Nothing gets done by means of government without the threat of men with guns showing up to take you away or kill you if you resist being taken away. This was illustrated for me this summer when the Federal Government conducted a siege of the house of a local dentist and her husband for several months until they were finally apprehended and taken away to prison for not paying taxes they feel are unconstitutional. The only thing that stopped a military-style assault on their home in June was a call from a well-placed official in Washington after the assault was already underway. Without buying their logic, legal strategy, or motives, I can sympathize with how they must’ve felt.

  • The natural state of the human being is freedom, and government should exist to maximize the freedom of each individual, only limiting it where one person’s actions will limit the freedom of another. One can derive this principle from history, religion, or game theory, but regardless of motivation, Freedom is the central notion in the founding of the United States of America.

Now, there are some other ideas that are important to keep in mind to build upon those principles:

  • Government is part of Society – deal with this via set theory if it’s easier, as the current state of affairs of the Nation may lead one to think that Government controls Society. This is a corruption of the natural order of things, and Society is the moral superior of the two, as Society operates through consensus, not violence. Charity is one key element of Society, and Government has been working hard over the last century to get a lock on Charity, as a means to ensure power. Besides that, Charity done through the threat of violence can scarcely be given that label.

  • Government is very hard to fire – Let’s take a concrete example of this: Road maintenance. Let’s say that a stretch of road, Stretch A, has its maintenance contracted out to it by a local government (assume government ownership of the road for this thought experiment) to Company A. Stretch B’s maintenance is contracted out to Company B. Now, Company A does a lousy job. The road gets potholes and people damage their cars, they don’t salt and sand it properly in winter, people get into lots of accidents, the road washes out where it’s not maintained, etc. Company B’s stretch of road is kept very nicely. They fill potholes, do the proper maintenance, and people go about their merry way. So, what do you do as the local government? The answer is strikingly clear – you fire Company A and assign Company B to maintain Stretch A of the road. This is basic, basic, free market principles at work. Now, suppose the Government maintains the whole road. What do you do when it fails to maintain the roads? The process to fix it is far more complex, and far less certain to achieve the proper result. This is a simple illustration of why the Government should be involved to the smallest degree as possible in each of its affairs – we have no competition in Governments.

  • You don’t have a right to steal from your neighbor. The logical extension of this principle is that all of the people on your block don’t have a right to steal from a given neighbor just because they decide they’d like to. However, a tipping point is reached, typically at a town level, where a large enough group of people decides to take from a person a portion of the fruits of his labor, and the general consensus these days is that this is OK. It’s balanced to a degree by the uniform application of taking across the citizenry, but it’s still inconsistent to the starting principle. To the extent that there isn’t yet a suitable replacement for taxation, the degree of taxation must be minimized to maximize Freedom and the ethics of the citizenry.

  • The Ends Don’t Justify the Means – the most common rallying cry of the Socialist is that ‘everybody will be better off in the end’. The justification “The ends justify the means” has been used by the most gruesome dictators throughout history, and is a lift ticket up the Slippery Slope. A virtuous people do not pepetrate evil, no matter the outcome.

  • The Rule of Law Ensures our Freedom – The United States of America was a unique experiment built upon the principles of the greatest thinkers in human history and these values are enshrined in our Constitution. The Constitution limits our Government’s power, ensuring that our personal freedom should flourish. To the degree that we ignore it, we imperil our freedom, as if our founding principles are ignored, the only thing preventing an oppressive government is the righteousness and incorruptibility of those holding government offices. We would be wise not to count on that.

  • Corruption Increases with the Square of Distance – This is a name I’ve put to an observation – that the further away from the people power is rested, the more likely it will be influenced by corruption. Just ask yourself how much corruption is present on your Selectboard vs. how much corruption is in the State government, vs. how much corruption is present in the Federal government, and I think you’ll agree that it clearly gets worse at a distance. This is both a function of how easy it is to make a change, and how easy it is to keep an eye on the policy makers. Also factor in how easy it is to organize opposition, and how easy it is to concentrate corruption when it’s centralized.

So, deriving a set of policies from those principles is fairly easy in practice, and I believe this is why Dr. Paul often sounds so prepared on TV – it’s not all that hard:

  • The government should be as small as possible at every level.

  • Taxes should be as low as possible.

  • Charity should be returned to Society, where it can be done better.

  • Citizens should be allowed to make their own choices, so long as they don’t harm others.

  • Citizens should be treated as adults, and allowed to fail if they make poor choices. Only through this process can poor choices be eliminated.

Now, the biggest issue of the current campaign seem to revolve around issues of charity, so it’s worth expanding on that briefly. The current thinking among the Socialist-leaning candidates (please, ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ are meaningless labels) is that ‘somebody’ needs to do ‘something’ about [insert favorite issue here]. This thinking is a combination of laziness and guilt. Penn Gillette recently told a story about a conversation he had with an affluent friend of his arguing for government healthcare for children. This man asked Penn, who was arguing for small government, “but who will take care of the crack babies?” Penn answered with a pointed finger, “You. You will take care of the crack babies. If you care about them, then you will donate your money, you will donate your time, you will give of yourself.” But it’s easier to just make other people do it, isn’t it? This is part of treating the Citizenry as adults – they can make their own decisions, and we need to respect people’s decisions, even if they are the wrong ones. Sure, try to peacefully convince them otherwise – I’m all for it – but don’t ignore them and then send men with guns to their houses anyway.

So, if you can follow my line of reasoning, there’s only one candidate for President who agrees with nearly any of the above: Dr. Ron Paul.

He has many great ideas. For instance, taking the budget-neutral stance of returning Federal spending to Year 2000 levels and abolishing the personal income tax. Participating only in declared wars, so that our soldiers are afforded the protections of the Geneva convention. Unleashing the free market on our energy problems so that we can get out from under the thumb of the Middle East and other oil-rich thugs and dictators. Returning as much power as possible to the States, so that our Laboratory of Democracy can operate effectively.

And, the proof, as they say, is in the pudding: At the last debate, the candidate to volunteer to tackle the question of gasoline prices was Dr. Paul. He pointed to a Wall Street Journal article from the previous day comparing the price of gas compared with 8 years ago. It’s up about 300% in US Dollars. But it’s only up 200% in Euros. And it’s flat in terms of the price of gold. Dr. Paul has talked for hours about monetary policy and argues for pegging the US Dollar to a reserve, most reasonably gold. I’d sure like to be paying $1.03 for gas today, wouldn’t you? People complain that he prattles on about fiat currencies, fractional reserve banking, and the weakening of the dollar, but c’mon, people, this is a country of 300 Million people and the world’s largest economy we’re talking about putting somebody in charge of, we need somebody who understands this stuff cold, not someone who plays a mean riff on guitar. If we’re asking to be treated like adults we ought to start acting like ones.

In closing, I’ll be taking a stand tomorrow on what I believe in, not based on what some talking head on national TV has told me is reality. If everybody does so, we’ll prove those taking heads wrong.

Waterhorse

Emma and I went to see Waterhorse: Legend of the Deep the other night. It was exactly as it should have been. So, 5 stars on the lived-up-to-its-job scale.

I was especially impressed that it was emotional, suspenseful, and just about scary for a kids’ flick. Emma was on the edge of her seat more than once, but it never stepped over the edge. If you think Disney flicks are all that kids should see, you won’t like this one. There’s no inane humor, and while there is toilet humor, it’s not fart-jokes at all, it’s very tastefully done.

I had an ounce of trepidation going in as it’s billed as part of the Chronicles of Narnia, and I didn’t like The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe all that much, but there are almost no similarities between the two.

Plus, the display out in the lobby is fantastic:

Hi

Welcome to my personal blog. If you’re looking for computer stuff, head over to the BFC Computing Weblog where I post that stuff.

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