Colorado’s Amendment 64

Pot legal in Colorado

Opponents warned that the law — despite its 21-year age minimum — would set Colorado and Washington on a collision course with the federal government and encourage teenagers to use marijuana. It is still unclear how much will change. The streets here in Denver and across Colorado are already lined with shops, their windows decorated with green crosses and pot leaves, advertising all-natural plant treatments and herbal health aids.

We have a similar scene here in Florida, only it’s not pot these stores sell, it’s liquor. The “health aids” advertising is simply a side effect of how these initiatives get introduced, Colorado has had medical marijuana laws for some time now. In the end, it all comes down to individual rights. Congrats to voters in my home state, they did the right thing.

Another election goes by

Another election, another government that won’t be able to fix anything.

In 2007, the federal government came close to balancing its budget – the deficit that year was 161 billion. At that time the outstanding public debt (debt we have to service through interest payments) was 4.9 trillion dollars.

Fast forward through the insanity of 2008 through 2012. Now we have public debt equaling 11.4 trillion, and a budget deficit for the fiscal year of around 1.2 trillion.

Today we have two political parties, neither of which has a solution to above problem. If you turned the entire problem over to either party, they wouldn’t be able to fix it. Take for example the looming fiscal cliff which entails tax increases on the rich, middle class, and poor, including payroll taxes, income taxes, and investment taxes, from two different administrations (one democratic, one republican), and spending cuts in the systems both parties hold dear – entitlements and defense.

The total annual revenue generated by these changes – between 500 and 700 billion dollars. So even if we jump off the cliff, we still walk away with 500-700 billion dollar budget deficit.

One thing I think we can count on – neither party will let this happen. There is one thing these two groups can agree on, the best solution is to kick the can down the road some more.

So now let’s fast forward four years. 1.2 billion dollar annual deficits continue and the public debt continues to grow. At the current rate, we’ll add an additional ~3 trillion in serviceable debt, assuming we don’t hit another recession, which is entirely likely over the next four years. I’d say the odds are good we’ll add at least 4 trillion, give or take a few hundred billion.

So where are we in four years?

Serviceable debt increases to 15.4 trillion. The work force will have continued to decline thanks to the baby boomers hitting retirement. Social security continues to eat away more than it takes in. Medicare costs continue to rise around 6% each year… and the kicker –

The historical mean for serviceable debt in cases where FED interest rates aren’t zero bound is around 4%-5%, and the average maturity is around six years.

Under these conditions, we would see our debt service increase by around 500-600 billion. In 2007 our debt service was 250 billion.

If you go back to 2007 and add an additional 500-600 billion – we would have run a budget deficit between 650 and 750 billion dollars. This was under a republican president, with a democratic congress. Raising taxes on the rich doesn’t fix this. Lower defense spending by a few hundred billion doesn’t fix this. Cutting discretionary spending doesn’t fix this. Cutting entitlement spending doesn’t fix this.

The last congess had the chance to address this, it was called Bowles-Simpson, but nobody got behind the deal, including the current president. There’s no reason what so ever to expect a change of heart with a 2% popular vote split.

I don’t really know what will happen, but I’m not going to sit idly buy and hope for the best. You shouldn’t either.

Prometheus

Meh. A trillion dollar science expedition headed up by a bunch of gung ho reckless buffoons? I think not. This film is filled with implausible situations that have you thinking, “you have got to be freaking kidding me!” and unexplained occurrences that never get tied together in the end. Special effects can’t cover up bad story writing.

Thus far there have only been two truly great aliens films, Alien and Aliens. Every film in the series after those totally sucked. Unfortunately Prometheus continues this trend.

Disfunctional

“Overall, the minutes showed that further [quantitative easing] is not yet a consensus view among FOMC members and would only likely be triggered if the economic recovery were to lose momentum,” said Jim Reid, strategist at Deutsche Bank in London. “So last week’s slightly [disappointing U.S.] payrolls number isn’t probably enough evidence yet.”

Ironically, the market is more likely to gain ground in the near term if economic data deteriorates, he said, in a note, because that would be more likely to prompt more action.

I wouldn’t be surprised by this either. What happened to fair value markets? They went away five years ago and have yet to return. How can anyone apply a long term strategy in this mess? I wish the FED would take a step back and let the markets value correctly. Constant interventionism is doing more damage than good.

Netgear WN3000 Universal WiFi Range Extender Review

Short summary: I can’t get this thing to work and will likely return it. Updated, it’s sort of working now. See updates below.

This is unfortunate because the device has most of the features I was looking for – easy router config and connect, MAC address filtering, and all the normal forms of connection encryption.

I was unsuccessful in connecting an XBox 360 and two different tablets (Win8 and Android). All devices failed to aquire an I.P. address. The extender also does something funky with virtual mac addresses I was never able to figure out. (Speaking of which, what the heck is a virtual mac address? The internet doesn’t have a good definition.) Another complaint, the web based admin interface seemed buggy, clicking on the main sectional nav links didn’t spin the throbber in my browser, and sometimes the interface I selected simply didn’t come up. One last complaint, the documentation through the web based admin interface wasn’t very good. One of those classic cases where the person who wrote the docs didn’t have good english skills.

Overall Netgear has a useful little device here if they work out the connection problems. The device had strong signal from various parts of my house, it connected to my WPS router with zero effort, and it had the security features I wanted. However getting a pc, tablet, or xbox connected to it should “just work”. It didn’t, and the support docs and support web site were of little help.

Update – I managed to get this working by performing a system reset. Basically, plug the device in, wait for green lights, then hit the device reset button using a paperclip. I then went through the same process of getting it connected to my router using WPS. After which I was able to connect via a Windows 7 laptop and the XBox 360. (However, I received a warning from the xbox about NAT issues which concerns me. Does this device have issues with UPnP?) Also, the xbox test connection process was very slow. I’ll run with this for a bit and see how things go. If the connection speeds are bad or I have issues with games, I’ll likely still ditch the unit. Linksys sells a similar model, I might try that product out if the Netgear extender totally fails to impress.

Update 2 – More connection problems, this time with an android tablet. The tablet connects and attempts to get an IP address which it seems to accomplish, but then it immediately loses the address, and attempts again. This cycle goes on continually. With all the issues I’ve had, I think in the end this device is going to be a waste of money. I am not impressed.

I did figure out the virtual mac address thing – the device maps a virtual address to the address of a device connected to it. If you use mac address filtering you’ll need to set up filters for both addresses on your router and the device itself. Kind of a pain really, since you have to maintain two lists. For devices connected to the extender, you’ll need to add the device address and then add the virtual address to your router. If you want to be able to connect to both access points simply add both addresses to both lists.

PRO:
1) easy router set up
2) mac address filtering and encryption

CON:
1) major issues with getting clients connected
2) Mysterious NAT warning on the xbox
3) Android connection cycling
4) buggy web based administration interface
5) crummy web site support

Interesting ZH article

On The Verge Of A Historic Inversion In Shadow Banking

This is an interesting article which details something I’ve been curious about – a correlation between what I’d term the shadow money supply and FED action. I’m wondering if this analysis is correct – the FED buys up what I’d term a hard asset, say for example a mortgage backed security (a mortgage basically) from a bank or investment firm. Now normally if this type of transaction were occurring entirely in the private sector, when a bank purchases an asset like this, they would then go out and buy an insurance policy on the asset (a CDS?). The company (say AIG?) that sells the policy doesn’t need collateral (deposits) to cover a loss on the policy. So in effect, money is printed – the bank owns an asset with little risk of loss, meaning they can continue to invest (risk) the value of the asset in other areas, and AIG simply sits back and preys nothing goes wrong.

Looking back at the FED scenario, if the FED buys the asset no insurance policy will be issued so the value of the asset will not be reinvested back into the markets. Within the private sector this set of transactions creates money, but when the FED gets involved net new money creation is ~zero.

If this is all basically correct, then for every dollar the FED prints to buy assets like MBS, an equal amount of money is removed from the money supply – resulting in a net zero change. Hence, no inflation.

One thing in the article isn’t clear to me –

Said inflation buffer, however, is getting smaller and smaller every quarter, and at this rate, shadow banking as a transformational conduit will completely disappear in a few short years, at which point everything will be in the hands of fickle depositors.

Why is this assumption made? Once things begin to calm down, wouldn’t the investment banks of the world, and the AIGs, go risk-on again? Has something changed that prevents them from doing so? The SBN graph in the ZH article appears to reflect a bottoming process is taking place, so at some point an increase in money printing through non-deposit backed credit will resume. But maybe I’m missing something that will prevent that.

Overall what this seems to indicate is that the FED’s QE initiatives were doomed to fail from the start.

One other thought, due to the inherent money printing in these types of transaction isn’t there an inflationary risk tied to the FED unwinding its portfolio by selling assets back into the private sector? If the FED really wants to create inflation, shouldn’t it start selling assets now while we are still experiencing deflationary headwinds, or does the FED want to keep all that money printing potential out of the markets? Also, wouldn’t waiting to unwind ultimately exacerbate future inflationary forces? Overall current FED policy seems rather flawed to me.

addendum: In thinking about this a bit more, if the bank sells the asset to the FED, it receives newly minted money in return, which it can then invest. So maybe the insurance portion isn’t needed to print and the net creation of money is still positive?

ABCD

“My investing model is ABCD: Anything Bernanke Cannot Destroy: flashlight batteries, canned beans, bottled water, gold, a cabin in the mountains.”

David Stockman interview

The whole interview is rather interesting. I’ve been reading a lot of these doom and gloom stories, I don’t know if I buy into them 100%, but I do get the sense that we are currently in a suspension phase and that more trouble is on the horizon.