Monthly Archives: September 2012

NFL Referee Lockout

The NFL locked out their referees. They finally settled. They were using low-tier college referees as replacements. The referees from the big college leagues (BCS conferences) refused to work as replacements. These referees are normally considered for promotion to the NFL.

The NFL wanted several concessions from the referees. The NFL wanted to end the defined-benefit pension plan for referees. The NFL wanted to convert some (not all) referees to full-time employees. The NFL wanted to increase the total number of referee crews. By adding extra crews, that meant each referee would work fewer games per season and get paid less. The referees refused to give in, leading to the lockout. The referees were willing to work without a contract.

In 2011, the *TOTAL* salary pool for referees was $18M. That’s less than Peyton Manning gets paid. If you add in benefits, that’s only another couple million. If one star player was injured due to incompetent replacement referees, that costs the NFL more than referee salaries FOR AN ENTIRE SEASON.

“NFL referee” is a part-time job. Almost all referees have other jobs as lawyers, judges, doctors, or other professional careers. That gives the NFL very little leverage with the referees.

The lockout is silly. NFL referee salaries are a tiny fraction of overall league revenue. The disputed amount is negligible compared to NFL profits. Why should the NFL take the risk? The lockout comes from a desire to squeeze every last concession out of workers, rather than a serious evaluation of league expenses.

Even if the owners ceded every point to the referees, the total disputed amount was negligible compared to overall league salary. If one star player got injured due to incompetent replacement referees, that would cost *MUCH MORE THAN* the disputed amount.

When the players are locked out, a sports league stops operating. The referees are locked out, but the league keeps operating. Is that legal? Normally, in a lockout, a business stops operating. Is it legal to lock out workers and hire replacements, even if workers don’t strike?

I’m surprised that none of the referees challenged the legality of the lockout. Would the lockout be legal if the union decertified? Would the lockout be legal if a referee declared “financial core” and quit the union? However, all NFL referees are only given 1 year contracts, so that loophole might make the lockout legal.

The NFL is stupid for locking out their referees. The disputed amount is negligible compared to NFL profits. Most NFL referees have other jobs, which gives the NFL very little leverage.

Categories: Uncategorized

Misleading Statistic – 47% Of People “Pay No Federal Income Tax”

This story was interesting. Allegedly, 47% of people pay no Federal income tax. That statistic is misleading.

That statistic ignores the 15.3% payroll tax (Social Security and Medicare). Remember to include both the employer and employee portion! For many low-income workers, the payroll tax costs more than income taxes! (For very low income workers, the “Earned Income Tax Credit” partially rebates the SSN+Medicare payroll tax. Remember to include the employer-paid amount!)

For super-wealthy CEOs and hedge fund managers, they use the carried interest tax loophole to dodge the payroll tax and income taxes.  Most of their income is long-term capital gains via share grants and option grants.

That statistic ignores the effect of a restricted market. Suppose your labor is worth $20/hr, but you only get paid $10/hr. You’re “paying” a 50% hidden tax, but that doesn’t show up in any State statistic. This missing $10/hr goes to profits for the CEO and executives who control your workplace.

Romney made an embarrassing and misleading quote, regarding people who don’t pay Federal income taxes. It was harshly criticized and misinterpreted. I understand what Romney really meant. It would have been more accurate if he said

Democrats buy votes with taxpayer money. They buy votes with welfare payments. They buy votes with salaried unionized government employees. Those people will not vote Republican, no matter what we do.

If someone is totally dependent on government, they won’t vote for a candidate who wants to shrink government and reduce spending.

It is not sustainable, when a large portion of the population is dependent on government handouts. We have to fix this problem, or the country and economy is in serious trouble.

If we don’t fix this, the system that makes us wealthy will fall apart.

That’s what he really meant. However, there are two points that should be added to make it really accurate, although Romney doesn’t understand this and would never say it.

1. The problem is not just welfare recipients and unionized State employees. Bankster theft is a much bigger problem. Banksters steal more than all welfare recipients and unionized State employees. Lloyd Blankfien and Jamie Dimon are the true welfare queens.  Banksters and insiders receive massive State subsidies, and then spend a lot of money lobbying to keep the pork flowing.

2. Most of the super-wealthy didn’t get there on true merit. Many of them inherited wealth and influence from their parents. Most of them excelled at navigating a corrupt system. When that system falls apart, their wealth will disappear. Most super-wealthy people could not build or run a profitable business in a really free market.

There’s another reason that Romney’s quote is embarrassing.  Most politicians give a different speech to different groups, tailoring their lies to the audience.  When a politician speaks to super-wealthy insiders (i.e. his true backers), he’s speaking closer to the real truth.

I heard a really amusing conspiracy theory, regarding the 2012 Presidential election. It is “The Republicans realize that the economy is going to suck for at least 4 more years. It is better to have Obama get reelected, while the economy tanks further. Then, the Republicans will control the House and Senate in 2014 and 2016, and elect a Republican President in 2016. The Republicans are losing on purpose, because they want Obama to be President while the economy continues to crash. If Romney is elected and the economy still sucks, then the pendulum will swing back to the Democrats again in 2016.”

It is misleading to say that 47% of people pay no Federal income tax. That ignores the payroll tax, other taxes, and hidden taxes. Romney’ “offensive” quote was misunderstood, taken out of context, and exaggerated. His mistake shows that he doesn’t understand the real problem. He didn’t state the problem as clearly as he could. The real problem, and what Romney really meant, is “Democrats buy votes with tax money, and these people will never vote Republican. That isn’t sustainable.” A much more serious problem is “Banksters and insiders receive massive State subsidies. They use that money to lobby and buy elections. They will block any real reform.” Bankster welfare queens steal more than all welfare recipients combined.

New Job! – Data Analyst

I found a new job. It’s a 3 month contract, with a possibility of an extension.

It’s document review for Dodd-Frank compliance. The bank stores its documents in a bunch of different databases and programs. There’s a new program that rescans the raw documents, compares all the databases, and looks for problems. If a set of documents is flagged as inconsistent data among the programs, I have to look through and figure out the error and how to correct it. I’m also verifying and fixing OCR scans. Essentially, I’m getting paid to solve CAPTCHAs.

It isn’t programming-related. The req asked for SQL experience, but that isn’t what I’m doing.  It sounds like I have a similar job to this guy.

Bank X hired consulting company Y which used staffing firm Z to hire people. That was amusing. If I’m getting paid $X, the bank must be getting billed for $3X or $4X or more.

“OMFG! We have to obey Dodd-Frank!” caused the bank to open its wallet and hire a lot of people. The consulting firm is mediating disputes among the various bank divisions, as the data is sanitized.  Every manager wants to defend his turf, refusing to admit that one of his clerks mistyped something in the database.  Instead of working to ensure the database is 100% accurate, each manager would rather refuse to admit that someone in his division mistyped something.

The motivation is that a regulator can ask “Give us all the information on X!”, and the bank has to answer immediately. They can’t do that if their databases are an inconsistent mess.

It is amusing that my job only exists because of the Dodd-Frank law. As usual with the financial jobs I’ve had, it has no real economic value.

Surprisingly, I’m getting paid a high rate for simple document review. It’s slightly more than my last job. Some headhunters say “A highly-skilled programmer with 10+ years of experience should be getting paid 2x-3x what FSK is earning.” I haven’t found any decent opportunities, not even for cheap rates.

This job could be useless experience if I go back to programming. “Computer programmer” is a dead-end career. Maybe I should try something else? Even though I’m a CAPTCHA solver, a more sophisticated name for my job is “Data Analyst”. (That’s what the paperwork says.) Maybe I should try a career switch from computer programmer to data analyst?

Amusingly, all my co-workers are Indian. Is it cheaper to hire a US citizen than import an H1-b?  It feels weird to be the token white male in the group.

There was another amusing bit. It was only a phone interview, no face-to-face. That made me suspect it was a scam, but it turned out to be legitimate. Apparently, they needed to hire a lot of people in a short period of time.

They don’t expect me to already know how to use all these programs. They actually are (*GASP!*) showing us how to use the programs. They have a bunch of screenshots and flowcharts that show all the common cases. They called it “deskilling”, attempting to reduce the job to a flowchart.

Instead of the usual idiot idea “We need someone who can hit the ground running!“, they hired everyone to start a month early, and actually are training everyone on how to use the programs. I’ve never heard of anyone doing that for a computer programmer job.  However, they need a lot of bodies to wade through the mountain of data in a short period of time.

These database programs are pretty obscure. I doubt anyone has experience in all of them. However, if one bank is using these programs, other banks must also be using them! They could be useful resume keywords, if I apply for another “Data Analyst” job.

For some of the jobs I was rejected from, the idiot hiring manager was still looking a month later. In a month, I could have learned a lot about whatever language they were using, and learned a lot about their code base. Of course, an idiot hiring manager will always say “FSK is not an exact match for the skills we need.” instead of “I’m threatened by FSK’s experience and ability.”

I’ve never heard of a programming job where the manager said “I’m going to hire someone who isn’t a perfect skills match, and I’ll take a few weeks to teach them what they need to know.” Why doesn’t anyone do that?

It’s actually no more boring than programming.  Does it make a difference if I’m reviewing OCR scans, or writing data manipulation scripts?  A few years ago, I would have been offended by the idea of getting a job as a CAPTCHA solver.  Now, the economy is so bad, that I’ll take whatever I can get (as long as it’s a decent rate).  Given that computer programmer is a dead-end career, maybe I should try something else?  I can still write software for personal projects and my website.  Maybe I’ll be more motivated for personal projects, if I’m not writing software for abusive jerks at work?

However, Data Analyst is a job with less leverage than Computer Programmer.  I estimate that, at best, I’ll be 2x or 3x faster than the others.  In software, I can be 10x or 100x more productive.  However, in software, an evil manager will outperform a competent worker.  Even though I’m a great programmer, it’s almost impossible to find a job where that’s appreciated.  If you’re technically illiterate, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between a good programmer and a good liar.  Therefore, the software profession is dominated by evil liars.  If I review 2x the documents as every else per day, with a low error rate, that should be obvious in their tracking system.

It could be useful experience, to work as a “Data Analyst” instead of “Computer Programmer”. I know I’m on the top end of the ability scale, but I haven’t found any computer programmer jobs. Every hiring manager has evil tendencies, and would never hire someone smarter and more experienced. This could be bad experience if I try to go back to software, but maybe “Data Analyst” is a better career choice? After all, there must be a shortage of data analysts, if this employer was willing to hire and train people.

Shire Silver Is A Scam!

In “Business Insider Trolls Against Gold“, I wrote in a comment “APMEX Fractional Silver is a better deal than Shire Silver.”

Shire Silver is an example of “nice idea, lousy execution”.  For Shire Silver, the premium to spot silver is too huge.  It is better to use fractional generic silver rounds from APMEX.

I didn’t realize this was an important subject, until someone left a hostile trolling comment:

“You can get 1/10 or 1/4 or 1/2 oz silver coins from APMEX, which is good if you’re using silver as barter money. APMEX fractional silver is a better deal than Shire Silver.”

If you’re talking about investments, yes using APMEX is a better deal than Shire Silver. But Shire Silver isn’t meant to be used as an investment. Its meant to be used as a currency or barter tool.

No one except hardcore gold/silverbugs are going to use traditional bullion for trade. Its too inconvenient, bulky, heavy, and the smaller coins are difficult for people to use. For example, how many times have you dropped a penny or dime on the floor only to have it roll under the store counter?

The masses moved to paper because for most purposes it is superior to coins. They don’t really care about inflation as long as its low and relatively consistent – even if in the long term it is very harmful. And even if we could temporarily get people back to using coins during a SHTF scenario, as things settle out people will desire a return to the convenience of paper. And of course, the typical “Problem! Reaction! Solution!” solution of the banksters would have everyone returning to a system that gives them control. That is where Shire Silver really shines. It breaks the cycle of control by giving the people a precious metal based currency that is approximately as convenient as paper.

And seriously, ounces are retarded.

Silver rounds are a much cheaper cost per ounce than Shire Silver. I don’t see the point of paying the substantial premium for Shire Silver.

Shire silver still is based on FRNs as money, according to this link. 1 gram = $2, 5 grams = $10. That is wrong thinking. The exchange rate from silver to FRN should be floating and not fixed.

1 troy ounce is 31.1 grams. 1/10 fractional APMEX rounds are $4.67 right now.  (spot = $34.55/oz when I wrote this)  To get 3.11 grams of shire silver, that costs $6.22. Shire silver is 33% more expensive than generic silver rounds.

Also, the 5 gram card has the same huge markup rate as the 1 ounce card.  That is wrong.  If you take into account the labor for making the card, the 5 gram card should be worth less than five 1 gram cards.

It is reasonable to pay a premium to spot for rounds, especially small denomination rounds.  Shire Silver is a ridiculously high premium, compared to what is available elsewhere.

It isn’t that hard to convert from grams, troy ounces, or FRNs. I know how to multiply and divide and use a calculator. Fortunately for the operators of Shire Silver, the people who use Shire Silver are mathematically and economically illiterate. They are idiots for paying such a huge premium to generic silver rounds.

I don’t see the advantage of cards vs. rounds. I could always laminate or protect my rounds. Even if cards are better, it isn’t worth a 33% premium.

1/10 of an ounce is small enough to make change for most transactions.  APMEX fractional silver is intended for use as barter money.  For serious investment, you should get 1 ounce or larger.  Otherwise the markup is too great, due to the cost of manufacturing the coin.

And seriously, Shire Silver is retarded and anyone who uses Shire Silver is retarded. Shame on Shire Silver, for overcharging people for silver. Shame on the people who use Shire Silver, for getting fooled so easily.

I appreciate the hostile trolling comment.  That indicates the importance of the subject.  When I wrote on node.js, the trolls who disagreed with me also called me a retard.  I didn’t realize that Shire Silver was such a big ripoff.  I did a brief comparison once, and concluded APMEX fractional silver was better.

Shire Silver is another scam like the Liberty Dollar, charging people ridiculous premiums compared to generic silver rounds. They are exploiting people who want to use gold and silver as money, and charging ridiculous markups.  If someone wanted to pay me in Shire Silver, I’d only give them credit for the melt value and not the ridiculous premium.

Reader Mail – 09/16/2012 To 09/22/2012

Progressquest commented on Rise Of Legends - No Patch Server! - v2.5 patch.
Thank you. I re-installed this game after several years and was looking for the patches.

commented on Gold In Italy.
Actually, it was a very poor analogy. They did not dare address the issue of counterfeit.

someone commented on Is It Morally Acceptable To Walk Away From A Mortgage?.
"If Ben Bernanke said “I’m printing more money and giving it to my bankster friends!”"

This is incorrect. No one can print money. One can print paper, do note the difference. Money, can be a piece of paper that has a value.

Can one print value? No. If one could, then we would not need to work, there would be instant communism. We would just concentrate our best efforts on creating the most powerful printing press in the world, and live happily ever after.

Unfortunately for us, and fortunately for Bernanke, value can not be printed up. But, it can be stolen. Every freshly printed note that is spent into circulation or deposited in the bank to replace the missing reserve, immediately steals it's value from everyone of us, who holds similar notes.

So, you should have asked:

If Ben Bernanke said “I’m stealing more money from the people and giving it to my bankster friends!”

You are confusing money and wealth.

The Federal Reserve can create money.

The Federal Reserve does not create wealth. Ben Bernanke claims that stealing via inflation "stimulates the economy" and creates real wealth. He is wrong.

That's the "advantage" of paper money. In a paper monetary system, insiders can always steal via inflation.

With metal money, theft via inflation does not occur.

Richard Gadsden commented on Is It Morally Acceptable To Walk Away From A Mortgage?.

Except with the discovery of large, easily mineable resources of the metal - whereupon the owner of the resources can steal value via inflation.

Potosi isn't going to happen again, as the world's gold and silver resources have been rather more carefully examined than they had been in 1492, but making over-general statements can result in malicious nit-picking, rather than the friendly sort I'm trying to use.

I'd much rather take the risk that someone will find a huge undiscovered gold mine (unlikely) than the risk that Ben Bernanke will print a lot of new money and give it to his bankster friends (guaranteed).

Even if a huge new gold mine is discovered, labor is required to extract and refine the gold, limiting the inflationary effect.

Even if someone discovered a cheap and efficient way to convert lead into gold (unlikely), people would drop gold and switch to something else. Until that extremely unlikely event, I'm sticking with gold.

The point is that people should be free to choose whatever they want as money. I choose metal. If you want to pay me in Bitcoins or paper or whatever, I'll accept it, adding on the transaction fee for converting to my preferred money. In the present, State laws and State violence force people to use State paper.

If your preferred choice of money is genuinely liquid, it should be easily convertible to my preferred choice of money.

Anonymous Coward commented on SEO Progress - Ranking For My Own Name.
> For example in Google chrome its called incognito mode.

Beware of the evil Google clowns.

The Google Clowns took the HTML renderer from the already written Open Source browser Konqueror which was available on Linux over a decade ago.

It is wrong for the Google Clowns to take all the credit for their clownish Google Chrome browser as it was based on Konqueror.

The Google Clowns are good at being clowns and less so at actually new software development now.

The Google Clowns bought into the StreetView renderer.

The Google Clowns bought the Android operating system from another company.

When you want software written, you go to a software developer not an evil, sinister clown.

someone commented on Flash Game Design Defect - Action Points.
or may-be these action points are designed to keep your boiling desire to continue, while giving you some time to relax, instead of just having you burn out, waste a week on nothing but games, and then quit for good.

I think it is offensive for them to "manage" my behavior either way, though, cooling me down or pushing me, so I take offense no matter what management they are trying to pull on me.

I don't play that stuff specifically because I have noticed they have started to manage my behavior. No one manages me. It is always either my way or highway.

Thought you'd take this view into an account. No matter my feelings, the point is they are trying to manage your behavior, by cooling you down.

Robert commented on Quantitative Easing 3.
Great post. You are a lot more succinct than I remember back in 2007. You have gotten sharper as a writer. Keep it up FSK!

I agree that my writing is better. That's one reason I plan to rewrite my old popular posts, rather than import my archive. I look at some of my old stuff, and my reaction is "Yuck! I wrote that?"

That's one value of the rule "1 post per day!" You learn by doing. I also get feedback from comments and my Piwik analytics stats.

I'm slowly working on filling in my FAQ section, hopefully turning it into a book.

Robert commented on Quantitative Easing 3.

A book would be awesome! I must say that just in the last few years I have met a lot more people who volunteer libertarian/agorist ideas before I have said anything about my views, which to me is the most honest metric to use when forming my objective opinion that I think more people are becoming more aware of the evils of the Federal Reserve and the fallacies of big government. That said, I mention your blog to all of them and others. Furthermore, I really think blog could become one of the leading liberty/economics web sites on the Internet one day. I have seen that you rank well already with certain stats you have posted. It's one of those things that sometimes explodes over night.

Robert commented on Quantitative Easing 3.

Meant to say "I really think your blog could become...." Sorry.

I get about 150 readers per day according to Piwik, ~500 per day according to my raw Apache logs.

When I do publish a book, my goal is to earn enough royalties to cover my hosting costs for a year. My plan is to compile my FAQ posts into a book, and add some editing, so you can read it for free if you want.

I'm still nowhere near as popular as or Stefan Molyneux. One key is persistence. If I keep publishing stuff, I should gradually grow my audience. The more posts I have, the more "long tail" searches that direct people to my blog.

Someday, I want to expand to videos and comedy.

Robert commented on Chicago Teachers' Strike.
This is an article I found, what are your thoughts?

Vote in the upcoming U.S. elections if you want to endorse, approve of, and support a power beyond your control and over which you have no control whatsoever, a power that can you to any extent it wants to and by any means it chooses to,

...take any amount of your wealth and transfer it to whomever it pleases or use it for any purpose it pleases,

...draft you into a fighting force if it

decides to,

...tell you what to eat,

...control who appears on ballots,

...borrow any amount of money,

...itself decide what is legal for it to do,

...enter warfare with anyone it chooses whenever and wherever it chooses,

...interpret the Constitution as it sees fit,

...regulate any product in any way it chooses,

...regulate commerce no matter how insignificant,

...take property for any use it wants to, you at its pleasure,

...restrict your ability to own weapons,

...restrict your ability to defend yourself,

...make it a crime to own weapons and defend yourself,

...make it a crime to use a wide range of drugs,

...make it a crime to buy many goods or produce them,

...control all communications,

...control all transportation,

...arrest you without warrant,

...spy on you by any means it chooses,

...postpone elections and declare martial law if it chooses,

...hold you in prison without trial,

...kill you, short, pass any law it pleases and enforce it on you and against you.

Vote in the elections if you wish to stand up for, confirm, subscribe to and sustain a power that holds you in its grasp and can hold you totally in its grasp if it so decides.

A vote for either the Democrats or the Republicans is a vote for this power, which is the power of either party and both parties together.

Vote in the elections if you have been brainwashed into thinking your vote makes a difference.

Vote in the elections if you have been brainwashed into thinking a vote for a given party makes a difference.

Vote in the elections if you have been brainwashed into thinking that this is your duty, or that this is a patriotic act.

Vote in the elections if you have been brainwashed into thinking that you have no right to complain unless you vote.

Vote in this election if you think you are voting for the lesser of two evils, rather than thinking you are endorsing evil and have another option, which is not to endorse evil.

Vote in the elections as a statement that you kneel before, acknowledge and accept a power that controls your life, your liberty, your property, and your pursuit of happiness.

Vote in the elections as a sign and confirmation that you place little or no value on your life, liberty, property and pursuit of happiness, and that a power beyond your control may do as it wishes with you.

Vote in the elections if you want to endorse and confirm your own status as a slave who is subject to this power.

Vote in the elections if you want to acknowledge that you are little more than a trained dog whose freedom is limited and controlled by its master.

I saw that. It was interesting.

Politicians claim the power to tax and control you, whether you vote or not. If you don't vote, they'll say "If you're too lazy to vote, that's your problem."

People dependent on the State vote in blocs to support their candidate. Unions are one example. Theoretically, if you don't vote, it's easier for such groups to influence the election, but voting is a fake choice anyway.

In an honest election, one of the choices on the ballot would always be "I do not consent to the current form of government."

Voting is a waste of time. It's a fake choice between insider-screen candidates.

However, if there was a serious libertarian candidate on the ballot, it's only a small bit of effort to vote and support him. I didn't waste my time changing my registration from Democratic to Republican so I could vote for Ron Paul in the primary.

It's better to focus your energy on other tactics than voting and electing less-corrupt candidates. You can't reform a corrupt system by working within the system. However, if there is a promising candidate on the ballot, it isn't too much of a loss to vote.

Anonymous Coward commented on Gold-Plated 10 oz Tungsten Bar.
Just my uninformed opinion, but Australian gold and silver bullion coins from the Perth Mint would be hard to fake because they are just so good. The kangaroos have detailed fur and the Kookaburras have detailed feathers. Some coins have 3 - 4 different textures on the coins - smooth and shiny, matt/satin, fur or rippled.

Bullion coins have the Queen's head shiny on matt and their proof coins have a matt head on a very shiny reflective gold background.

You have to go through hoops to buy a bullion coin direct from the Perth Mint, otherwise a reseller is easier. Their proofs coins cost quite a bit more than the melt value and that's why you should go to a Perth Mint reseller to get a bullion coin.

It's stupid to pay a high premium to bullion for State-issued coins. If the quality is high, a small premium is reasonable.

According to this page, $2800 (US$) for a 1 ounce coin is ridiculous. Spot gold is $1775/oz right now. That's more than a 55% premium to spot gold. Ideally, you should never pay more than a 10% premium.

In the USA, American Eagles are typically 5%-10% more than generic bullion. That's the highest premium I would pay for State coins instead of generic bullion.

Anonymous Coward commented on Gold-Plated 10 oz Tungsten Bar.

Oh dear. I think you missed what I was trying to say.

The Perth Mint only makes it easy to buy the more expensive _proof_ coins from them directly. They are more expensive. Proof coins are made to a higher standard and have a mirror like shine to them.

However you can buy _bullion_ coins from the Perth Mint if you are willing to jump through their identification hurdles. Bullion coins are just over the spot gold price.

As I said before you can buy a sensibly priced bullion Perth mint coin from a gold coin reseller. I won't mention any by name as I don't want to be accused for advertising, but they are very easy to find with Internet searches.

Even Perth Mint's bullion coins are of a very high quality and still have 3 - 4 different textures on each coin.

Anonymous Coward commented on Gold-Plated 10 oz Tungsten Bar.

Just to make it explicit.

There are two kinds of coins you can buy from many mints.

*PROOF* coins are much more than the gold spot price. They are very shiny and produced to a high standard.

*BULLION* coins are always close to the spot price.




Anonymous Coward commented on Gold-Plated 10 oz Tungsten Bar.

The URL for cheaper bullion coins is

Anonymous Coward commented on Gold-Plated 10 oz Tungsten Bar.

So from your post, I take it you will be buying the Perth Mint 1 tonne gold coin!

I was confused, proof vs. bullion. However, the website was misleading. The links direct you to proof coins, and you have to dig deeper to find the bullion.

That's a common trick among sleazy gold dealers, leading people to proof coins instead of bullion.

According to this page, the bullion coins are $1805/oz, a reasonable premium. It's only slightly more expensive on APMEX, $1835/oz. That's only $18/oz more than generic bullion on APMEX. Can I buy directly from the Perth Mint from the USA, or do I have to use a US-based dealer like APMEX.

Here is another post on tungsten-filled gold.

Anonymous Coward commented on Gold-Plated 10 oz Tungsten Bar.

You can directly buy from the Perth Mint even though you are in the USA, but you will have to pay for the FedEx delivery. A while ago if you ordered over a certain amount, the FedEx delivery charged will be waived.

I would also check that there is no import tax on gold for the USA. I don't live there and so I don't know.

I would buy from Apmex as the delivery charges should be cheaper than having stuff sent over from Australia. But who knows? Put it in your shopping cart and see what the charges are.

If buying bullion, it will be easier from Apmex as the Perth Mint require you to send identification over to buy bullion coins. It is a hassle. For proof coins, everything is easy from the Perth Mint.

I just mentioned the Perth Mint because their coins are one of the best. I think it will be better if you buy from Apmex though.

Anonymous Coward commented on Gold-Plated 10 oz Tungsten Bar.

> Can I buy directly from the Perth Mint from the USA, o

So you are going to buy their 1 tonne gold coin?

Gullveig commented on Gold-Plated 10 oz Tungsten Bar.

Gullveig shudders at the thought of gold plated tungsten.

When your paper money turns to dust, Gullveig will be reborn again.

sth_txs commented on Gold-Plated 10 oz Tungsten Bar.

I've used a lab version some years ago. They were as big as a washing machine and required liquid nitrogen.

Richard Gadsden commented on The Reality Show Economy.
If that manager-behavior is more likely to result in promotion than the opposite (which certainly seems to be empirically verified) then senior managers in large corporations, who have risen through the ranks (either of their corporation or of other corporations) are highly likely to behave in this fashion.

Start-ups are likely to be the exception - startup founders are not subject to being replaced from below, because they are owners, and they compete company-to-company, rather than for promotion within their company.

This seems to be an adequate explanation for the lifecycle of successful companies.

Actually, startups can be even worse. A computer illiterate owner can hire someone incompetent to implement version 1.0. They can burn through a lot of capital, especially if the founder or VCs have deep pockets.

No Batting Title For Melky Cabrera

This story was amusing.  Melky Cabrera was leading for the NL batting title.  He was suspended 50 games for a positive steroid test.

A player needs 502 plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.  Melky Cabrera only had 501 plate appearances before getting suspended.  There was a rule that said “If a player has fewer than 502 plate appearances, he may be credited with enough outs to give him 502 plate appearances.  If he still leads, he wins the batting title.”

That is a good rule.  It benefits a player who was injured for part of the season, but played well otherwise and just fell short of 502 plate appearances.  When that rule was written, there was no possibility of a steroid suspension.

At the time of suspension, Melky Cabrera only had a slight lead.  However, the other players continued to play.  Due to mean reversion and the difficulty of maintaining a high average over a full season, Melky Cabrera now has a large lead.

They amended the rule to say “In 2012 only, a player suspended for steroids cannot get extra outs to be eligible for a batting title.”  Why go through contortions?  Does it really matter if Melky Cabrera had 501 or 503 at-bats?  The steroid suspension should make him ineligible.

A better rule is “Any player who serves a steroid suspension in a season is ineligible for any award in that season, even if he is the statistical leader.”  To avoid problems with retroactively changing records, the rule should take effect starting in 2013.

MLB Wild Card – 1 Game Series Or 3 Game Series

This season, MLB now has 5 playoff teams from each league.  There are the 3 division winners and 2 wild-card teams.  Those are the teams with the two best records among non-division-winners, even if they’re from the same division.  Those two teams play 1 game to decide who advances to the next round.

This is an improvement.  Before, the division races were less meaningful, if the 2nd place team was going to get a wild-card.  Now, it’s a huge penalty to be the wild-card team instead of the division winner.  The surviving wild-card team is at a disadvantage in the next round, because they will use their best pitcher in the wild-card game.

There are some advantages of this format.  A single game sudden death is good for TV.  It limits the delay before the start of the next round.

There’s a reason baseball playoffs are best-of-5 and best-of-7.  In a single game, the outcome is much more random.

They could have made it a 3 game series.  All games are played at the higher seed.  They play one game on the first day.  On the second day, they play a doubleheader.  The second game would only be played if necessary.  It should be a straight doubleheader and not a day/night doubleheader.  If the wild-card round is on the weekend, that would maximize attendance and TV ratings.  They could have the doubleheader for one league on Saturday, and the doubleheader for the other league on Sunday.

I was surprised that the wild-card game was a 1 game series instead of a 3 game series.  If they add a doubleheader, they could make it a 3 game series and add only 1 extra day to the schedule.  A single game sudden-death is more interesting TV, but it’s a more random outcome.

The Reality Show Economy

On a typical “reality game show”, one contestant is voted out each week or round.  Some examples are “Survivor”, “Big Brother”, and “The Weakest Link”.

You can’t win without backstabbing people.  However, that is not a model for sane human behavior.  In a healthy economy, it would be important to build long-term relationships.  The loss of the relationship would be greater than the one-time gain from cheating someone.  On a reality TV show, you never have to deal with the other players again after the show is over.  There’s no long-term loss from cheating someone.

Many people take the attitude “There’s always someone else to con.”  If you unfairly reject a good job candidate, there’s always someone else.  If you squander lots of money and do a lousy job, you can always con someone else into hiring you.

In an economy of mostly anonymous people, there’s no penalty for cheating someone.  You deal with someone once for one transaction, and then never deal with them again.  In such an environment, dishonest people thrive.

Libel laws favor dishonest people.  If you are cheated by someone, you may be reluctant to publish the information, out of fear you may be sued.

In a reality show, the most athletic or smartest person is frequently voted out early.  The other players have to get rid of the strong players early.  Otherwise, they might win each immunity round and make it to the end.  On “The Weakest Link”, this was very flagrant, where the smartest people were voted out early.

This also happens in the economy.  A boss doesn’t think “This candidate is smart!  I want him working for me!”  The boss actually thinks “This candidate is too smart!  I have to reject him.  Otherwise, my bosses may decide to dump me and keep him.”  The best employees are “voted off” by managers trying to protect their turf.

This also applies when a new boss takes over a group.  Instead of identifying the smartest people and keeping them, a new boss usually gets rid of the best employees, because he sees them as a threat.

In a reality show, the strongest players are “voted off” early.  In the corporate world, the strongest employees are “voted off” by management.  In a reality show, you can’t win without backstabbing people.  In a corrupt corporate world, dishonest people have a huge advantage over honest people.  Without a free market, there’s no penalty for inefficiency.  If the managers from every corporation do the same thing, they’re not at any competitive disadvantage.  Without a free market, people can start a new business to compete with the established State monopoly.

Instead of workers cooperating, the economy is run like a reality show, where everyone is trying to backstab each other.  Coworkers and subordinates are seen as competitors, rather than as people there to help get the job done.

Gold-Plated 10 oz Tungsten Bar

This story is interesting.  In Manhattan, a 10 oz gold bar turned out to be gold-plated tungsten.

It was a high-quality fake.  Someone took a 10 oz gold bar.  It was assayed with a serial number from a reputable source.  Someone hollowed it out and filled it with tungsten.

Tungsten has the same density as gold.  Gold-plated tungsten can be convincing fake gold.

For silver, an alloy of cheaper metals has the same density as silver.  It’s easy to create fake silver coins.

As a casual investor, how do you prevent yourself from being cheated?  Does anyone know a good way to detect gold-plated tungsten?

I don’t like acid tests, because that damages the coin.

This page had some interesting information, on how to detect gold-plated tungsten.  It’s actually pretty hard.  If you have a really sensitive magnetic field detector, that might work.  He also mentions heat capacity, but that’s hard to measure without specialized equipment.

If you have a *REALLY* sensitive scale, you may be able to detect the specific gravity difference, between gold and tungsten.

Allegedly, if you have a lot of experience handling real gold, you learn how to detect fakes.

If you stick to small denomination coins (1 oz or less), there’s less risk of fake coins.  A would-be counterfeiter has less profit, by faking small-denomination coins.  However, if gold and silver start being widely used, fakes will be more common.

One of my agorist business ideas is “Start a gold/silver/FRN barter network.”  If I do that, I’ll need a reliable way to detect fake coins.

Another possibility is to stick to platinum.  It is nearly impossible to counterfeit platinum, because it is one of the densest metals.  The only metals denser than platinum are also more expensive than platinum.  A specific gravity test will *ALWAYS* detect fake platinum.

Another possibility is to stick with State-issued American Eagles.  The penalty for counterfeiting those coins is more serious than the penalty for counterfeiting generic bullion.  However, I shouldn’t place extra trust in State-issued coins.  Also, American Eagles trade for a premium compared to generic bullion.

If you invest in physical gold and silver, counterfeit coins are a serious risk.  It’d rather take the risk of counterfeit coins, than the sure loss from investing in the State financial system.  I should learn how to detect fake gold and silver.  If I start a gold/silver/FRN barter network, I’ll need to learn how to detect counterfeit coins.

Chicago Teachers’ Strike

This story is interesting. In Chicago, public school teachers are striking. They are demanding a ridiculously high pay increase, 30% over 4 years. They object to a new system for “giving teachers more accountability”.

The salary demand is ridiculous. How many workers got a 30% pay increase over 4 years?

Superficially, you might say “Pay teachers based on standardized tests!” is more accountability.  That is merely replacing one bureaucratic rule with another bureaucratic rule.  Teachers can “teach for the test”.  When I was in 8th grade, my English teacher cheated on a standardized test!  He gave us a “practice writing test”.  The actual test was exactly the same as the practice test!

“School teacher accountability” is a misleading issue. True accountability would be market competition. As long as State schools are funded via taxation and threat of violence, there will be no accountability. The actual proposal replaces one set of bureaucratic rules with another.

“Charter schools” are another fake reform.  “Charter schools” are still funded by taxes and the State.  There still is a lot of bureaucratic overhead.

True “public school reform” would be going to a 100% free market system.  That isn’t going to happen.  A lot of insiders make a lot of money off the corrupt way things are now.  They will always block reform.

As long as a service is provided by taxes, there always will be waste and inefficiency.  Without the market signal of prices and customers leaving for competitors, it’s impossible to manage a State service efficiently.

In the private sector, the official purpose of a union is to protect workers from greedy employers. In the public sector, who are the workers unionizing against? Private sector unions are unionizing against taxpayers, deciding how much of the stolen tax money they get.

Unions were most effective when they were illegal. Random strikes and slowdowns can be crippling. Now, the union leader is another State bureaucrat protecting his turf.  Unionized workers are legally prevented from taking any action, unless they give their employer written advance notice and go through the bureaucratic process first.

State law subsidizes unions. In a “closed shop” state, the union deducts a “representation fee” from each worker’s paycheck, even if he doesn’t join the union. When unionized workers strike, the employer can’t say “You all are fired! I’m hiring replacements!” The State requires employers to hire workers back when the strike ends. That limits the risk of the striking worker, because his job is guaranteed when the strike ends. That also reduces the incentive to hire replacements, because they must be fired when the strike ends.

A pro-State troll says “State schools are free education! That’s wonderful!” Nothing is free. The cost is paid via taxes. People pay for the cost of the education, plus all the waste and inefficiency of the State education bureaucracy. Also, State education is more about teaching people to be complacent slaves. State schools do not teach people to really think independently.

State teachers will never face true accountability, as long as they are funded via taxation/theft. True teacher accountability would be a 100% free market system, where parents directly pay and pick for the school.  A pro-State troll might say “Where will parents get the money?”, but taxes would be reduced by an amount greater than the cost of the tuition.

Who are government workers unionizing against? The taxpayers? State law subsides unions. There is the automatic payroll deduction subsidy. Employers can’t fire striking workers and hire permanent replacements.