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Cap'n Arbyte's Blog

Procapitalist blogging with a swashbuckling sense of humor.

Last Build Date: 10 Feb 2009 03:41:32 UT


Audit Them!

10 Feb 2009 03:40:51 UT

The numerous and recent tax scandals surrounding President Obama's nominees (Geithner, Daschle, Richardson, Killefer) and members of congress (Rangel, Franken) are disgusting and insulting. I simply don't believe them when they say they've made honest mistakes. But whether they're liars or merely stupid doesn't matter… there's an easy solution.

Audit them. Audit them all. Every year. Every member of congress, every cabinet official, every department head. The IRS performs hundreds of thousands of audits every year. Let's remove a few random audits, substituting instead these audits targeted at a population that has shown a predilection for being tax cheats.

Why doesn't someone pass a law to make this happen? …

Announcing my Engagement

17 Jan 2009 18:01:08 UT

On the night of January 16th, I put a ring on my girlfriend's finger. It was a private moment for the two of us. On July 18th I'll do it again, with friends and family to witness.

The Stimulus Error

09 Jan 2009 08:05:17 UT

This post by Arnold Kling is the most compact and powerful thing I've read recently.

I remain resolutely opposed to all government bailouts and to any "stimulus" package that increases government spending. The economy is already reeling from the credit crunch. The last thing it needs is for government to crowd out productive activity by squandering resources on alleged public goods.

Arnold guesses that about 500 people would have significant influence on how a stimulus would be spent:

I Heart T.J. Rodgers

22 Dec 2008 03:19:11 UT

From bashing nuns to bashing accountants, T.J. Rodgers is my man:

The errors and misrepresentations can get extreme. Ian Cockwell, CEO of Brookfield Homes, was reported as "earning" a negative $2.3 million in 2007 in his company's proxy statement. It seems that some of the "income" from prior years, which he never took home, did not materialize according to FASB's one-size-fits-all formula and had to be subtracted from his 2007 reported income.

… …

Executive Compensation

23 Nov 2008 22:58:10 UT

I know I haven't been writing much during this period of financial turmoil. That's not because I don't have anything to say, but that I've had so little spare time for blogging. I'm trying to ease back into it.

One of the topics I've been meaning to write about for a while is executive compensation. Outrage over the vast pay packages of corporate executives has been building for years. The government bailout of financial companies has provided another opportunity for people to vent their outrage — or, more honestly, their envy.

Why do I call it envy? Because there's no factual basis for outrage. An individual's pay is a matter between that person and their employer. (In the case of a corporate executive, the Board of Directors represents the interests of the stockholders.) If you're a stockholder and you're upset, you can vote out the Board, or more realistically you can sell your shares — exit being more effective than voice. If you're not a stockholder, what do you care how much money they make? You are not a party to the transaction. It is quite literally none of your business. …

How to Control Samba de Amigo (Wii)

05 Oct 2008 06:31:09 UT

Samba de Amigo was released for the Wii about a week and a half ago. I had played this game on a friend's Sega Dreamcast system, and we thought this game would be a natural port to the Wii, where it could use the motion sensitive Wii Remote instead of an expensive custom controller.

I bought the game. I played it. I had some trouble with the controls. I looked around online and discovered that a lot of people have had trouble with the controls. In fact, the most common complaint is that the game doesn't control very well. I found some well-intentioned recommendations online but they didn't help me very much.

Then I stated experimenting, and I've figured it out. The controls are actually excellent, perhaps better than on the Dreamcast, but only if you use the proper technique when playing. …

Vegas Vacation Report

05 Oct 2008 03:32:57 UT

I recently vacationed for three days in Las Vegas, Thursday afternoon until Sunday afternoon, and had such a great time that I can't resist writing about it. Enjoy this rare economics- and politics-free post. :)

I was there with my main squeeze (who wishes to remain anonymous) and we stayed at Treasure Island (natch). Almost everything we did was on the strip, but it was still an excellent idea to rent a car because we spent time at four different casinos and had many errands to run, too.

I can happily recommend Treasure Island. The room was great: spacious, clean, attractive and comfortable furniture, and the shower/bathtub was excellent. In fact I only have three complaints about the room: 1) It didn't have a phone book. 2) The toilet ran a little (but you couldn't hear it outside the bathroom). 3) The alarm clock didn't work. It was originally stuck at 11:10pm with no apparent means for the guest to set the time. Housekeeping eventually fixed that but they got AM/PM reversed, so the alarm didn't go off. …

Rep. David Wu on the Bailout

04 Oct 2008 23:11:57 UT

My "representative" in Congress, David Wu, voted against the bailout package on 9/29 but then voted for it on 10/3. He released statements explaining his actions on both votes and, shockingly, he cited the "sweeteners" added to the bill after it was originally rejected as the reason he changed his vote.

I now have a simple litmus test for the next election. If there is a difference in positions on the bailout among the candidates, I will support the one who voted against the bailout, or says they would have voted against the bailout. A candidate who pledges to introduce a bill to repeal the bailout automatically gets my vote.

I hope my local readers will join me in voting Rep. Wu out of office.

Troubled Investing

29 Sep 2008 03:39:06 UT

After hearing that Caterpillar had to pay a lot to raise capital in a bond sale last week — paying 3.25% over the rate for U.S. Treasuries — I suspected there might be an opportunity in corporate bonds. The banks are illiquid, but I'm not, so maybe I can make some money here.

There are probably few things more dangerous than a novice bond investor wish cash in his pocket. Fortunately I won't have to learn this lesson the hard way. I started looking at bonds and discovered that the high yields among "investment-grade" bonds are all in the financial sector. And oh my, are they high! When I see bank bonds with double-digit yields rated as A1/A+, I know I'm looking at craziness. Nothing looked attractive at all. (And a company like Caterpillar isn't attractive either; it just got me interested in the idea.)

With savings account and CD rates so low, and with a bailout plan on the way that will devalue the dollar, I'm looking for someplace to go. My glimmer of hope in bonds got crushed, and both stocks and precious metals (except for gold) have behaved poorly this year. Something ought to be cheap right now. I'm just not sure what that is. …

No Bailout

29 Sep 2008 00:21:46 UT

Arnold Kling has written an excellent short article against the bailout. He would prefer to address the current crisis by reducing bank capital requirements.

I am resolutely opposed to the proposed bailout. I do not want to invest in those rotten mortgage-backed securities, and I'm incensed that my government is going to force me to do it.

I remain deeply skeptical that any bailout of any kind is even useful, much less necessary. If anything is to be done at all, I would much prefer Kling's proposal to anything being considered by Congress. …

All Those Things I Meant To Say

08 Sep 2008 07:23:27 UT

I haven't been blogging very much in the past few months. Nothing's wrong; my relative silence has been for all the right reasons — I've acquired a girlfriend and we've been consuming each others' free time, plus a little more.

Here's a quick rundown of a few things I wanted to say, even though this is no longer timely.


09 Aug 2008 14:41:09 UT

I woke up this morning and started to check the news, and bang, Georgia and Russia are at war and Russia claims 1,500 people have already died.

Anyone else's jaw hit the floor?

The lead-up to this was not well-reported. I know I've been a little away from the news cycle lately, and blogging even less, but even so I only started seeing mentions of South Ossetia in the last couple days. I had no idea the tensions were this high. …

Using Less Paper

31 Jul 2008 05:54:04 UT

The government of Zimbabwe was recently dealt a blow by the paper company that used to supply banknote paper to the country. They decided not to sell to Zimbabwe even though, given the hyperinflation, I suspect they were a good customer.

Now comes news that Zimbabwe is resetting its currency to remove 10 zeros from all denominations.

I can't resist… This will allow the government to print narrower bills to conserve paper, a move being lauded by Western environmentalists. None of the millions of billionaires in Zimbabwe could be reached for comment.

Energy Resilience

18 Jul 2008 06:05:39 UT

Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, has written an article for The American titled Our Electric Future in which he recommends a transition toward using electricity instead of petroleum to power the U.S. transportation system.

He rightly dismisses "energy independence" as a worthwhile goal, instead making "energy resilience" — reducing the likelihood of, and increasing our ability to endure, supply disruptions — the standard. He argues that electricity should be the backbone of national energy policy.

I don't like one of his reasons:

Treesonously Bad Pun

05 Jul 2008 20:37:29 UT

A couple days ago I was out hiking with a group from work, including our intern. In a spot with an amazing view deep into the forest, I asked her to take a picture because I thought it would be fun to send it to the rest of my team at work and have them guess how many trees are in the picture. To make things interesting I added that "the closest guess may win a potentially valuable prize!"


Tim knew exactly the right answer:

Six Days to Spam

05 Jul 2008 03:09:20 UT

I receive any and all e-mail sent to the domain. This enables me to use arbitrary addresses (in my domain) as read-only e-mail inboxes. If I sign up for something online and use a new e-mail address, I can filter mail based on the address they sent to, and I can also see who sells my address to spammers.

Last weekend I upgraded the operating system on one of my computers (from OpenBSD 3.9 to 4.3) and as I was doing that I also configured the system as a Tor relay. I invented a new e-mail address to be the administrative contact for the relay. The list of Tor relays and administrative contacts is available online (indeed, that's how clients find the relays) but this e-mail address has never been used anywhere else for any purpose.

Today, six days after I started the relay, I got my first spam. I have it on good authority that my contracting company is due a payment of US$15.5M from the Nigerian government. Awesome. :) Who knew you could make money on the internet?