A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Money Management Mishaps’ tag

This Time Will Be Different

without comments

Albert Einstein is often credited with say, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” General Motors (GM) announced that it would be laying off 15 percent of its workforce. While tariffs aren’t entirely to blame for GM’s problems, they did contribute:

When President Trump announced tariffs last summer, Detroit’s Big Three automakers — GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler — all trimmed their profit forecasts for the rest of the year, citing the rising commodity costs that would lead to hikes in prices and manufacturing costs. GM took a hard stance, warning of the fallout within the auto industry and saying that the tariffs risked “undermining GM’s competitiveness against foreign auto producers by erecting broad brush trade barriers that increase our global costs” in comments filed with the Commerce Department in June.

So tariffs didn’t bring economic prosperity to the automobile market (or any other market) so the solution must be more tariffs:

Donald Trump has renewed threats to impose tariffs on imported cars after General Motors announced job cuts and plant closures.

The US President tweeted that tariffs were “being studied” and that duties could have stopped the GM closures.

Tariffs have done nothing by damage to the economy so the solution is obviously more tariffs! There really should be a constitutional amendment that requires all incoming presidents to read the collected works of Ludwig von Mises and pass a comprehension test to guard against this kind of economic stupidity.

What’s even worse than the fact that the United States has a president that is committing economic seppuku is the fact that his successor will likely leave all of the tariffs in place. For some reasons politicians have an aversion to undoing the bad policies of previous politicians.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 29th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Artisan… Headphone Jacks?

without comments

Remember the good old days when you could plug the same pair of headphones into your phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, television, and stereo without the assistance of dongles? Then Apple decided to show the world its “courage” by removing the near universal headphone jack and many other device manufacturers started following suit. One of the companies that followed suit was Essential. Simply removing the headphone jack wouldn’t be enough for me to mention that company specifically but the solution it announced is worth mentioning:

So if you really, really want to use wired audio, you can fork over a $150 for this accessory. That price seems just a bit excessive considering the entire phone has had fire sales for $250 and $224.

The Essential Phone is compatible with the usual headphone jack dongles, so this add-on is being pitched as an artisanally crafted accessory for the discerning audiophile. The company says the “limited edition” accessory is “handcrafted” and made from “100% machined titanium.”

And you thought the title of this post was pure mockery. Nope. Essential actually is advertising its headphone adapter as being an artisan head crafted” headphone jack. Will this be the accessory that turns the failing company around? I wouldn’t be the farm on it.

While I understand the market for luxury goods in general, I don’t understand the market for luxury electronics. Electronics tend not to stick around too long. A cellphone is generally upgraded every few years. Unless Essential makes a guarantee that this headphone adapter is going to be compatible with all future phones (considering the company’s financial situation it’s optimistic to believe the company will release another phone) this accessory will likely be obsolete in the near future. Why spend $150 for an accessory for a $250 phone when the entire kit will be disposed of in the near future? Buying artisan cellphone accessories seems as stupid to me as buying artisan water. You’re just going to piss out the water later in the day so why spend extra for it?

Written by Christopher Burg

November 20th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Chip-and-Fail

with 2 comments

EMV cards, those cards with the chip on the front, were supposed to reduce fraud but credit card fraud is rising. What gives? It turns out that the security provided by Chip-and-PIN doesn’t work when you don’t use it:

The reasons seem to be twofold. One, the US uses chip-and-signature instead of chip-and-PIN, obviating the most critical security benefit of the chip. And two, US merchants still accept magnetic stripe cards, meaning that thieves can steal credentials from a chip card and create a working cloned mag stripe card.

A lot of stores still don’t have credit card readers that can handle cards with a chip so you’re stuck using the entirely insecure magnetic strip. And most credit cards equipped with chips don’t require entering a PIN because Americans are fucking lazy:

The reason banks say they don’t want to issue PINs is that they’re worried it will add too much friction to transactions and make life difficult for their customers. “The credit-card market is pretty brutally competitive, so the first issuer who goes with PINs has to worry about whether the consumers are going to say, ‘Oh, that’s the most inconvenient card in my wallet,’’ says Allen Weinberg, the co-founder of Glenbrook Partners. “There’s this perception that maybe it’s going to be less convenient, even though some merchants would argue that PINs take less time than signatures.”

Since card holders face little in the way of liability for fraudulent transactions, they have little motivation to enter a four to six digit PIN every time they purchase something. If card holders aren’t motivated to enter a PIN, card issuers aren’t likely to require holder to enter a PIN because it might convince them to get a different card. It’s tough to improve security when nobody gives a damn about security.

Eventually the level of fraud will rise to the point where card issuers will take the risk of alienating some holders and mandate the use of a PIN. When that day finally comes, card issuers will discover that Americans are absolutely able to overcome any barrier if doing so allows them to continue buying sneakers with lights in them.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 16th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Freedom Isn’t Free

without comments

Freedom isn’t free. It costs $6 trillion:

WASHINGTON — The price tag of the ongoing “war on terror” in the Middle East will likely top $6 trillion next year, and will reach $7 trillion if the conflicts continue into the early 2020s, according to a new report out Wednesday.

The annual Costs of War project report, from the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, puts the full taxpayer burden of fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria over the last 17 years at several times higher than official Defense Department estimates, because it includes increases in Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs spending, as well as new military equipment and personnel.

“Because the nation has tended to focus its attention only on direct military spending, we have often discounted the larger budgetary costs of the post-9/11 wars, and therefore underestimated their greater budgetary and economic significance,” the new report states.

And what does the United States have to show for this $6 trillion? The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria are still ongoing as are wars in other countries that are related to the “war on terror.” On top of that none of these countries show any sign of stabilizing. As if that weren’t bad enough an unknown number of innocent civilians have been killed on top of the casualties incurred by all factions engaged in fighting.

So, really, the United States has jack shit to show for those $6 trillion. But it doesn’t seem to understand that because there is no sign that the “war on terror” will end anytime soon.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 16th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Crowdsourcing Healthcare

without comments

A lot of statists have been pointing out the prevalence of healthcare-related fundraisers on crowdsourcing sites like GoFundMe as an argument for implementing government monopolized healthcare (usually sold under the euphemism “universal healthcare”). On the one hand, there are quite a few healthcare-related fundraisers on crowdsourcing sites. One the other hand, a lot of them are for bullshit treatments that no government monopolized healthcare system would cover anyways:

They focused on five treatments that were showing up a lot in their results, searching the sites systematically for US- and Canada-based campaigns from the last three years that were specifically for those five. They found 1,059 campaigns that fit the bill, with the collective goal of raising more than $27 million, and hitting about a quarter of that target.

Just less than half of the campaigns were for an obvious culprit: homeopathic or naturopathic treatments for cancer, which raised $3.5 million across 474 campaigns. Around 200 campaigns were raising funds for hyberbaric oxygen therapy for brain injury, which supposedly “enhances the body’s natural healing process by inhalation of 100 percent oxygen in a total body chamber.” Much like homeopathy, it’s ineffective for anything other than efficiently emptying people’s pockets. While these treatments themselves might not do any direct harm, the harms of untreated cancer are glaring. (And we probably don’t want to be funneling funds towards the people offering these therapies.)

The other treatments on the list were less popular, but offer more direct dangers. Stem cell therapy for brain injury or spinal cord injury carries substantial risks, while unproven claims of benefits are oversold. And long-term antibiotic therapy for so-called “chronic Lyme disease” can damage the body’s microbial partners, as well as causing antibiotic resistance and heightened risk of life-threatening infections. Together, these made up around 400 campaigns, raising $2.5 million.

Isn’t it annoying when somebody performs more than a cursory glance of your shoddy argument?

Most crowdfunding sites have little oversight of fundraisers. Obviously illegal fundraisers, such as people trying to crowdsource money to buy illegal drugs, usually get pulled quickly but if somebody managed to write a solid sob story about how they’re going to lose their house or die of cancer, it seems very little investigative effort is put into verifying the claims. Does the person who setup the fundraiser even live in a house? Does the treatment being sought by the cancer patient who setup the fundraiser have any medical validity? Who knows!

If you’re going to point to the number of healthcare-related fundraisers on crowdsourcing sites, you should take the time to investigate how many of those fundraisers are legitimate.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 26th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Apocalyptic Financial Predictions Aren’t Just for Libertarians Anymore

without comments

Apocalyptic financial predictions are a staple of libertarianism. This isn’t without merit. Governments around the world implement financial policies that can lead to nowhere but ruin. However, the mainstream media has always laughed at these libertarian predictions… until now:

Financial experts noted several ominous economic indicators, including skyrocketing student loans and U.S. household debts, that could predict a crash “worse than the Great Depression,” according to a report in the New York Post.

Goldman Sachs predicted that this year’s U.S. fiscal outlook would be “not good,” and that U.S. household debt had been increasing since the 2008 housing crisis led to American taxpayers bailing out the big banks.

In 2018, experts said, a $247 trillion global debt will be the greatest cause of the next cataclysmic financial crash. Additionally, low wages and the U.S. national debt’s steady rise are expected to drag down the economy.

This is from Newsweek of all sources.

Granted, the only reason the mainstream media is jumping onboard of the SS Financial Meltdown is because Trump is in office. If Hillary had won and implemented the same policies that Trump has, the mainstream media would still be laughing at predictions of financial meltdown. Regardless of their reasoning it’s still funny seeing this kind of story appearing.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 17th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Fiscally Conservative

without comments

If you ask most people what one of the major difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is, they will tell you that the Republican Party tends to be more fiscally conservative. The Republican Party is in power now so a wave of fiscal conservation is upon us, right? Not so much:

The U.S. federal budget deficit rose in fiscal 2018 to the highest level in six years as spending climbed, the Trump administration said Monday.

The deficit jumped to $779 billion, $113 billion or 17 percent higher than the previous fiscal period, according to a statement from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. It was larger than any year since 2012, when it topped $1 trillion. The budget shortfall rose to 3.9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

It turns out that neither party is fiscally conservative. And really, why should they be? They’re not spending their own money. They’re not even primarily spending out money. They’re spending the money that they’re printing. Since they can print an infinite amount of money, there is no motivation for them to spend less… at least until the whole financial system collapses due to an irreconcilable misallocations of resources. But that’s a problem for the next generation, right?

Written by Christopher Burg

October 17th, 2018 at 10:00 am

I Want to Alter the Deal

without comments

The Witcher series of games have been phenomenally successful. In fact their success has overshadowed the books that they were based on. Unfortunately for the author, he made a bad deal and now wants to alter the deal:

“I was stupid enough to sell them rights to the whole bunch,” Sapkowski said at the time. “They offered me a percentage of their profits. I said, ‘No, there will be no profit at all — give me all my money right now! The whole amount.’ It was stupid. I was stupid enough to leave everything in their hands because I didn’t believe in their success. But who could foresee their success? I couldn’t.”

Sapkowski has now made a public demand for six percent of the profits obtained for the lifetime of the franchise, which adds up to more than $16 million for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt alone.

I especially enjoy how he admits that he was initially offered a percentage of the profits and turned the offer down because he didn’t believe that the project would be successful. So even he’s admitting that his failure to capitalized on his novels was entirely his fault.

Higher risks generally come with greater rewards, which makes sense since there needs to be a justification for taking a risk. Sapkowski played it safe and took the low risk/low reward option. Generally speaking, if you can bear the brunt of losing out on a high risk/high reward situation, take it. Sapkowski had income from his books so he may have been able to bear the brunt of not receiving any money on the series if it flopped. If you ever find yourself in a similar position, give the high risk option some serious thought.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 5th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Security Theater Is Expensive

without comments

During the Super Bowl Minneapolis was effectively turned into a giant prison camp. Barriers were erected, snipers were positioned, Humvees were cruising around, and heavily militarized law enforcers from numerous agencies were marching around. While all of that security theater may have looked impressive, it was also expensive:

The department is expected to spend $175.6 million for the fiscal year, coming in at $1.9 million over its $173.7 million budget, according to new projections from the city’s finance department. The projections were a part of a second quarter 2018 financial report presented to the Ways & Means Committee on Tuesday.

“The Police department expects to come in $1.9 million over budget due to payments to other agencies and overtime related to the Super Bowl and SWAT for the X-Games,” read an earlier draft of the report released on Monday. In the final version that was presented at Ways & Means, the wording was revised to “large planned events.”

It’s a good thing that Minneapolis has so many tax cattle to make up for this shortfall. It’s also a good thing that the National Football League was able to subsidize its security expenses by shoving a huge chunk onto the tax cattle. And let’s be honest here, you can’t put a price on the the convenience of the super wealthy tax cattle being able to attend the big game without the hassle of flying to it on their personal jet.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 30th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Altering the Deal

without comments

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.

[…]

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