A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Money Management Mishaps’ tag

Altering the Deal

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I’ve never understood the business model of relying entirely on one other company for revenue. It might sound like a good idea at first, especially if the other company is being especially generous, but if the other company changes the deal, you’re shit out of luck:

Apple is shutting down an App Store affiliate program that shared a small percentage of revenue generated by third-party links to purchase apps or in-app content.

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Apple’s decision comes as a sucker punch to outlets like mobile gaming news and reviews site TouchArcade, which has long relied on the App Store affiliate program for a significant chunk of its revenue. As TouchArcade editor Eli Hodapp writes in a despairing post, the loss of the “reliable” affiliate revenue stream could very well kill the site, which will now lean more heavily on Patreon donations and Amazon affiliate links to stay afloat.

“I genuinely have no idea what TouchArcade is going to do,” Hodapp writes. “It’s hard to read this in any other way than ‘We went from seeing a microscopic amount of value in third-party editorial to, we now see no value.’ … I don’t know how the takeaway from this move can be seen as anything other than Apple extending a massive middle finger to sites like TouchArcade, AppShopper, and many others who have spent the last decade evangelizing the App Store and iOS gaming.”

Maybe deciding what TouchArcade will do if Apple cancels its affiliate program is something that should have been considered earlier. Especially since not too long ago Apple changed the terms of its affiliate program to reduce the amount of money affiliates received.

Threat modeling isn’t an exercise that should be performed exclusively by a company’s security team. Security threats are just one kind of threat that businesses face. Loss of revenue sources is another threat that must be considered.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 3rd, 2018 at 10:00 am

Government Creates the Problems It Solves

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Here’s a familiar story. A government body implements a new policy that causes major hardships for a large number of people then swoops in to “fix” the problem. That’s what’s happening here:

The Trump administration plans to offer up to $12 billion in aid to farmers hit by tariffs on their goods, an emergency bailout intended to ease the pain caused by Trump’s escalating trade war in key electoral states, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told reporters Tuesday.

First the government created the problem by implementing tariffs then it offered to redistribute some wealth to those hurt by the tariffs. Of course the redistributed wealth has to come from somewhere, which means another problem will be created by the government that it will then claim to solve.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 25th, 2018 at 10:00 am

The New College Scam

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Students in the United States owe an estimated $1.48 billion in college loans. This shouldn’t surprise anybody. The United States government has been handing out absurdly cheap loans for college students for ages now. With this influx of cheap cash colleges have realized that they can charge more. In response the government has doled out more cheap cash and the cycle has continued to its current state of a ton of outstanding debt that can’t be repaid.

Colleges, realizing that the student loan bubble is going to burst, have been looking for alternative methods to continue charging their current rates when cheap cash is no longer available to students. Some colleges are experimenting with taking a percentage of students’ future earnings:

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — As more students balk at the debt loads they face after graduation, some colleges are offering an alternative: We’ll pay your tuition if you offer us a percentage of your future salary.

Norwich University announced Tuesday that it will become the latest school to offer this type of contract, known as an income share agreement. Norwich’s program is starting out on a small scale, mainly for students who do not have access to other types of loans or those who are taking longer than the traditional eight semesters to finish their degree.

On the upside, students pursuing degrees that traditionally result in low paying jobs, such as interpretive underwater basket weaving, have an opportunity to obtain a cheap college education. On the other side of the coin though, students pursuing degrees that traditionally result in high paying jobs, such as computer science, get a less appealing deal.

I don’t foresee this strategy working out for colleges. It relies on students actually obtaining jobs after graduating, which can never be guaranteed. Moreover, in order for colleges to continuing charging their current prices, this strategy requires most students to get high paying jobs after graduating.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 24th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Voting Other People’s Money to Yourself Must Be Nice

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Affordable housing is a hot topic here in the Twin Cities. Most people believe that there isn’t enough and that the solution is to bulldoze a bunch of existing infrastructure so it can be replaced with luxury high-density residential buildings. However, the politicians in Washington DC perceive a similar problem in their area but are coming up with a different solution:

Democratic members of Congress want taxpayers to subsidize their housing, signing onto legislation that would allow them to deduct living expenses for members of the House of Representatives.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.) introduced a bill that would ban members of Congress from sleeping in their offices and would change the tax code to allow House members to deduct their spending on housing in D.C. up to $3,000. The deduction would not apply to senators.

Thompson has also proposed turning a vacant building near Capitol Hill into apartments for House members at the expensive of taxpayers, which critics have dubbed a “Congressional Animal House.”

Being able to vote other people’s money to yourself must be nice. You can’t find a place to live in a price range you desire? Just vote to force the taxpayers to build you an apartment complex. While you’re at it, you might as well vote yourself a special tax deduction for housing that doens’t apply to anybody else. After all, you’re far more important than the little people from whom you’re stealing so it’s not only OK, it’s the moral to do!

Written by Christopher Burg

June 26th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Prison Nations Are Expensive

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The concept of justice in this country doesn’t involve trying to make victims as whole as possible, it involves locking offenders in secure storage faculties for arbitrarily defined spans of time. Seeing justice in this way has numerous downsides. One of those downsides is that the justice system becomes expensive. Couple the expense of a storage-based justice system with a list of laws so long that no single individual can ever hope to memorize it entirely and you end up with a financial crisis:

Gov. Jerry Brown’s spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1 includes a record $11.4 billion for the corrections department while also predicting that there will be 11,500 fewer inmates in four years because voters in November approved earlier releases for many inmates.

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The price for each inmate has doubled since 2005, even as court orders related to overcrowding have reduced the population by about one-quarter. Salaries and benefits for prison guards and medical providers drove much of the increase.

The result is a per-inmate cost that is the nation’s highest — and $2,000 above tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses to attend Harvard.

If California wants to spend billions of dollars for nothing of value, I can think of some alternatives that would at least have some kind of positive quality.

The only positive thing that I can say about a storage-based justice system is that it eventually bankrupts any government that implements it. Unfortunately, the bankruptcy doesn’t happen until a lot of misery has been created both in the victims because no real attempt has been made to make them whole again and the prisoners who spend years sitting in a cage doing nothing of value to anybody.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 20th, 2018 at 10:00 am

$1 Trillion Doesn’t Go as Far as It Once Did

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$1 trillion doesn’t go as far as it once did… literally:

The House Armed Services Committee has sent its report on the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to the floor. And buried in that report are words of caution about the F-35C, the Navy’s version of the F-35 Lightning II, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter—and the Navy’s whole carrier air capability in general. The reason for that concern is that the F-35C doesn’t have the range to conduct long-range strikes without in-flight refueling—and the Navy’s tanker planes are not exactly “stealth.”

Perhaps I’m mistaken but isn’t this something that should have been considered when the jet was initially being designed? Isn’t coming up with needed capabilities the first step in designing a jet?

I’m firmly convinced that the F-35 was never seriously meant to be a legitimate fighter jet. Instead I think it was meant to be a perpetual stimulus package for the defense industry. That’s the only logical explanation for dumping over $1 trillion into a jet that still cannot fulfill the missions for which it is designated.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 23rd, 2018 at 11:00 am

The World’s Most Expensive Homeless Shelters

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Government choo-choos are all the rage these days in the Twin Cities. While they’re stupidly expensive, advocates for government choo-choos claim that they enable the poor, which is true. However, when those advocates claim that the choo-choos will help the poor, they mean that they will help the poor find jobs in wealthier neighborhoods. It turns out that the choo-choos are really mobile homeless shelters:

Grassrope is part of a chronic homeless population living on the Twin Cities light rail system. Authorities estimate some 200 people are using the system for shelter each night and the number is rising at an alarming rate.

Hey, at least somebody is riding it!

But this raises another question, is $2 billion a bit steep just to build another homeless shelter?

If the line from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie is built, Hennepin County will bear the brunt of the local cost. With the overall tab now projected to be just over $2 billion, commissioner Jeff Johnson, a Republican candidate for governor, said it’s time to stop approving cost increases.

Obviously I’m being a bit tongue in cheek here. I know that the new line won’t serve as a homeless shelter. Now that government officials are aware that homeless individuals are using the choo-choos to shield themselves from the elements, the fares will be raised. If there’s one thing government officials hate, it’s homeless individuals having an ounce of additional comfort. But $2 billion is a lot of money. While advocates for government choo-choos claim that they more than pay for themselves, I have a difficult time believing that more public transport (a bus system already exists) between Eden Prairie and Minneapolis is going to bring $2 billion of additional economic activity anytime soon.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 18th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Missed Opportunities

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Toys ‘R’ Us is one of many victims of the recent retail apocalypse. Now that its assets are being liquidated, we’re learning that the company missed some potentially significant opportunities:

Among the URLs purchased by Toys ‘R’ Us and now up for sale are sex-toys-r-us.com, kinkytoysrus.com, and aforementioned adult-toys-r-us.com. There are also more benign domain names, like toysrussucks.com, burgers-r-us.com, and cigars-r-us.com.

If Toys ‘R’ Us had associated businesses for those URLs, it probably wouldn’t be in its current financial situation.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 17th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Find a Career in Letting Children Get Gunned Down

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Are you looking for a career that will allow you to live comfortably in your old age? Try a career in standing by while the children you’re tasked with protecting get gunned down:

Scott Peterson, the Broward County sheriff’s deputy who failed to engage the Parkland high school shooter, is eligible to receive an annual pension in excess of six figures.

The Sun Sentinel obtained records from the Florida Department of Management Services showing that Peterson, who retired in the weeks after the March shooting, is due to collect $8,700 per month. That works out to slightly more than $104,000 a year. Peterson, who is 55 years old, will be able to receive that pension for the rest of his life, and Broward County taxpayers will cover 50 percent of his health insurance premiums.

I guess the only solace here is that half of his health insurance premiums will quickly gobble up $104,000 per year at the rate it’s increasing.

My criticism here isn’t so much against Peterson (I’ve already criticized him) but against the department that employed him. Peterson failed to do his job and that failure likely lead to unnecessary deaths (shooters tend to off themselves upon meeting armed resistance so Peterson’s mere presence with a firearm would have stood a very high chance of immediately resolving the situation). He should have been terminated from the department for that. Instead the department let him retire and collect his absurd pension.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 17th, 2018 at 10:00 am

The Stupidest Thing I’ll Read All Day

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Throughout human history heads of state have done some really nutty thing. For example, Caligula was said to have declared a war on Neptune, deployed his legions to the coast near Britannia to attack the sea (literally, stab at the sea and hurl artillery into it), and collect seashells as spoils of war. But compared to this, Caligula seems positively sane:

Eliminating the national debt, which Trump said he could accomplish “over a period of eight years,” was one of several ambitious claims Trump made in an interview with The Washington Post published on Saturday. The Republican front-runner explained that he will govern in the similarly atypical, convention-defying manner he has campaigned.

He’s going to eliminate over $19 trillion of debt even though the country he’s heading is spending so much money that it’s still increasing that debt? If he managed to do that, at least outside of declaring the United States bankrupt, it would be a literal miracle. But nobody expects politicians to keep their promises and Trump realizes this. He’s simply the first president to decide that if he’s going to lie anyways, he might as well tell really big ones.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 4th, 2018 at 10:00 am