M4 Support

How governments destroy value

Posted September 23, 2011 at 3:48 am

by Simon Black

Earlier this month, some economic luminaries in the United States Congress introduced a new bill, H.R. 2835. The bill intends to “establish a joint select committee of Congress to report findings and propose legislation to restore the Nation’s workforce to full employment…”

Great idea, fellas. After failing to ignore your way out of recession, spend your way out of recession, lie your way out of recession, and print your way out of recession, you now intend to legislate your way out of recession.

This bill exemplifies how completely clueless the leadership is, and highlights the common demeanor of the political class.  By definition, people are in government because they believe that government is the solution, not the problem

Legislating your way to full employment is as fantastical as prancing unicorns and the Tooth Fairy. It’s impossible. The only employment created by legislation are government jobs to staff all those new agencies and bureaus. And naturally, those jobs must come with some task, some responsibility.

With each new job is created an additional burden upon the taxpayer, and an additional bureaucratic hurdle for the productive class. From opening a bank account to going to see the doctor, things that used to be simple are now fraught with paperwork and regulation, just so some government worker somewhere has something to do.

Here in South Africa is an absolutely mind-numbing example of this mentality. A few years ago, the city of Cape Town installed digital parking meters– the high-tech kind where you could pay the parking toll on your mobile phone through an SMS… or the good ole’ fashioned way with coins should you so choose.

Then some politician decided they needed to create more jobs. So the city hired a bunch of workers to go through town ripping out the digital parking meters. In their place, the local government hired a small army of curbside parking attendants– human beings to replace the machines.

If you think this was a triumph of humanity over profit, then I have a modest proposal [continue]…


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Americans keep getting dumber

Posted September 21, 2011 at 3:55 am

by Michael Alison Chandler

SAT reading scores for graduating high school seniors this year reached the lowest point in nearly four decades, reflecting a steady decline in performance in that subject on the college admissions test, the College Board reported Wednesday.

In the Washington area, one of the nation’s leading producers of college-bound students, educators were scrambling to understand double-digit drops in test scores in Montgomery and Prince William counties and elsewhere.

“Once you hit a certain mark, you want to maintain that,” said Frieda Lacey, deputy superintendent for Montgomery schools. “Don’t think the decline didn’t bother us. It really did.”

Nationally, the reading score for the Class of 2011, including public- and private-school students, was 497, down three points from the previous year and 33 points from 1972, the earliest year for which comparisons are possible. The average math score was 514, down one point from last year but up five from 1972.

The College Board attributed the lower scores to [continue]…


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TSA buying 300 additional naked body scanners @ $149,333 each

Posted September 12, 2011 at 1:16 am

from TSA.gov

WASHINGTON – Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator John S. Pistole today announced approximately $44.8 million for the purchase of 300 millimeter wave Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines for deployment to airports nationwide – further strengthening security at U.S. airports.

The machines purchased today will be deployed with new automated target recognition software –designed to enhance passenger privacy by eliminating passenger-specific images while improving throughput capabilities of the technology and streamlining the checkpoint screening process.

“Advanced imaging technology is one of the best layers of security we have to address the threats of today and tomorrow,” said TSA Administrator John S. Pistole.

“We remain committed to deploying this integral counterterrorism tool in order to ensure the highest level of security for the traveling public.”

TSA plans to begin deploying the additional units in the coming months, and will [continue]…


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How The Unemployed Spend Their Time

Posted August 29, 2011 at 2:31 am

With the unemployment rate stuck above 9 percent for over two years, millions of Americans have had a lot more free time on their hands. How have they been spending it?

According to a new study by economists at Princeton and the University of Chicago, they’ve been doing a whole lot of sleeping and watching TV. Job hunting? Not so much.

The study’s sample also included the “underemployed” — people with part-time jobs who want full-time work but can’t find it — and those who have given up on looking for a job.

Here are some highlights, in chart format, of how the authors say that time out of work was used.

[ Source: TheDaily.com ]


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Police shut down girls’ lemonade stand

Posted July 26, 2011 at 1:32 am


Midway police bust none other than a lemonade stand, because the three girls running it didn’t have a business license.  The three girls thought if they sold enough lemonade, they could make money to go to the water park Splash in the Boro.  Well they thought wrong.  Midway police say, they’re breaking city law and have to go.

“It’s kind of crazy that we couldn’t sell lemonade.  It was fun, but we had to listen to the cops and shut it down,” 14-year-old Casity Dixon said.

The girls had only been opened for one day before Midway’s police chief and another officer cruised by and saw the stand [continue]…


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A video created by the orwellian elite — you won’t believe your eyes

Posted July 21, 2011 at 1:24 am

by Simon Black

Bruce Lee, a long-time hero of mine, died 38-years ago today, and in tribute to his intellect and philosophy, I wanted to blow the dust off an old quote of his that seems quite prescient:

“Those who are unaware they are walking in darkness will never seek the light.”

Each day it becomes increasingly obvious that there are essentially two kinds of people in this world– those who are unaware that they walk in the darkness, completely oblivious to the real dangers in the world, versus those who understand reality and seek the truth.

The former group comprises the vast majority of society. This is your voting electorate and mainstream media audience, and they’ll buy every bit of propaganda that’s sent their way… whether it’s support for the war(s), ruinous economic programs, child molesting TSA policies, or just plain old fear and hate.

In its latest effort to spread fear and hate, the Ministry of Love, also known as the Department of Homeland Security, has produced an Orwellian new video (watch here) intended to encourage Americans to rat each other out.

If you’re not in a place to watch the video right now, I’ll summarize briefly.

First of all, it’s one of the most pathetic attempts at filmmaking in the history of motion picture; the average shampoo commercial has better acting and production quality… and is much more subtle in its message.

In the world of Homeland Security, terrorists all drive unmarked full-size vans, wear hooded sweatshirts, and deposit backpacks in conspicuous public places. They might as well have had a cackling James Bond villain twirling his moustache in the corner.

At its core, the video is filled with [continue]…


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Making millions in the slot-machine industry

Posted July 20, 2011 at 1:59 pm

by Brendan I. Koerner

Rodolfo Rodriguez Cabrera didn’t set out to mastermind a global counterfeiting ring. All he wanted was to earn a decent living doing what he loves most: tinkering with electronics. That’s why he started his own slot-machine repair company in Riga, Latvia. Just to make a little cash while playing with circuit boards.

Born and raised in Camagüey, Cuba, Cabrera always had an affinity for technical pursuits. Once, after winning a student essay contest in 1976, he was given a personal audience with Fidel Castro. When the dictator asked the 10-year-old what he wanted to be when he grew up, Cabrera confidently replied, “An architectural engineer.”

Nine years later, after becoming obsessed with airplanes as a teenager, Cabrera won a scholarship to Riga Civil Aviation Engineers Institute, home to one of the Soviet Union’s finest aeronautical-engineering programs. While working toward his degree, he fell in love with an older Latvian woman, and though he was expected to return to Cuba after graduation to serve Castro’s regime, Cabrera decided to stay in Riga and build a new life designing and working on aircraft.

But soon after Cabrera completed his degree, Latvia broke free from the dying Soviet Union. The newly independent country had no aerospace industry of its own, and thus no aerospace jobs. Instead of fixing jet engines, Cabrera was forced to make money repairing radios and telephones. In 1994 he accepted a gig with a company called Altea, servicing the boxy videogame consoles found atop Eastern European bars, where they offer drunks the chance to waste a few coins answering trivia questions or playing Tetris.

As Latvia became more open and prosperous, slot machines began to pop up in the nation’s bars, clubs, and supermarkets, creating new repair opportunities for Altea. Though he wasn’t much of a gambler, Cabrera was drawn to these devices. He spent hours dissecting slot electronics to learn everything he could about how they worked. The deeper he plunged, the more he came to regard slot machines as his true professional calling. So in 2004, Cabrera used his modest savings to found his own repair company, FE Electronic.

Cabrera was particularly fond of the slots made by [continue]…


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The Biggest Green Scam in America

Posted July 12, 2011 at 3:55 am

by 5280 Magazine

The spring day had been a warm one, but as Taylor Romero walked from his Centennial office across the parking lot to the Embassy Suites, the sun was setting and the air chilled. His employer, Wayde McKelvy, had been holed up in a room at the hotel for days. Romero knew this likely meant one thing—well, two things: booze and hookers. For as long as Romero had known McKelvy the guy exhibited hedonistic, self-destructive tendencies. Lately, though, he’d been on a Charlie Sheen–like tear.

The 46-year-old McKelvy had taken to showing up at work drunk, holding the waist of whichever working girl he’d flown in. He was so blatant that even his wife, the mother of their twin girls, knew about it all. By then, late spring 2009, Donna McKelvy had grown accustomed to her husband and his prostitutes. What she could not abide, however, was the whore du jour banging up the Mercedes-Benz. She’d asked Romero to go to the Embassy and get the keys.

Romero took the elevator up and knocked. The way he remembered it, the door opened, and there, standing on a floor littered with empty Bud Light bottles, was McKelvy. The two men were not merely colleagues, they were friends. They plopped onto a couch, McKelvy dropping his 6-foot-4-inch, 250-pound frame. Romero learned the keys to the Benz were gone. And sure enough, so was the girl. While Romero stuck around, waiting, the two men discussed their dream of making a movie together. It would be dark and atmospheric; McKelvy already picked a tagline: What’s the Definition of Insanity?
Young with long dark hair, Romero is the kind of computer-programmer dude who wears flip-flops to work. He’d built a website for the Mantria Corporation, a new green company for which McKelvy was the lead investment broker and ultimately the sole money engine. This startup, as McKelvy had put it to anyone who’d listen, was a revolutionary investment opportunity. Mantria, so went the pitch to investors, was constructing the country’s first carbon-negative residential community, where energy-efficient housing would be built with sustainable materials, and the whole thing would be powered by alternative energy.

As if that weren’t enough, Mantria was also supposedly on the verge of releasing an unprecedented technology that turned garbage into usable materials and produced something called biochar, a charcoal that when used as a fertilizer was carbon-negative. Operating from his hometown of Denver, McKelvy would raise close to $40 million from hundreds of investors, the majority of them from Colorado.
After a while, a short Latina woman walked into the hotel room holding a bag of groceries and the car keys. Slurring, McKelvy yelled at Romero. Romero yelled back. Something about the family’s car and the prostitute. From a corner of the bottle-strewn room, the prostitute piped up: “Why are you talking about me like I’m not here!” She put down the keys, Romero grabbed them, and he split. Talk about the definition of insanity: “It was classic Wayde under pressure,” Romero says. “The bigger things get, the harder Wayde crashes.”
The crash had only just begun. In November 2009, some six months after that night in the hotel, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a civil lawsuit against McKelvy and his wife, and against the Philadelphia-based owners of Mantria. As far as the SEC was concerned, McKelvy had fleeced his investors out of tens of millions of dollars in a big, green Ponzi scheme.

Multimillion dollar white-collar scams are as American as apple pie. See, most recently, Bernie Madoff, who wormed his way into Wall Street and decimated the portfolios of thousands of investors to the tune of $17 billion. Sentenced to life in prison, Madoff has become the infamous face of financial-market malfeasance nationwide. Coloradans, meanwhile, witnessed their own high-profile grifter. Denver hedge fund manager Sean Mueller ripped off 65 people, including John Elway, for some $71 million. Last December, Mueller was sentenced to 40 years in prison. But whereas Madoff’s and Mueller’s frauds could have occurred anywhere, during almost any era, McKelvy and Mantria’s “business plan” was based on a uniquely contemporary premise, and one that has been especially appealing for Coloradans.
The United States shouldn’t be dependent on foreign oil; the country must create a workforce for the 21st century; the environment must be protected: These are a few of the reasons the federal government has been nudging industry toward green, or clean, energy. The national trend has dovetailed nicely with progressive thinking in Colorado, where conservation and sustainability are rooted in the mountain lifestyle. Former Governor Bill Ritter lured numerous clean-tech companies to Colorado, including the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, Vestas. He successfully championed a bill that required the state to produce 30 percent of its electricity from renewable energy, the largest proportion in the Western states.
Colorado is so synonymous with green power that in February 2009, President Obama chose to announce his $787 billion economic-stimulus package—filled with “clean-energy” provisions—in Denver. The venue the president chose was the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, where the roof is home to a solar-panel field, which was installed by a Boulder-based company, Namasté Solar.

Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to imagine a place more perfect than Denver to exemplify the confluence of environmentalism and capitalism (not to mention the venture capitalism of Boulder). Arguably, no one is more primed for green investment opportunities—or susceptible to clean-energy con men—than Coloradans. “If you can show me how to save the world,” as a Denver-area woman who was one of the first Mantria investors puts it, “sign me up.”
It was just after Obama’s Denver appearance that McKelvy and his Philly-based Mantria partner, CEO Troy Wragg, were telling investors that the company was engaged in promising meetings with the president of Ivory Coast; that Mantria was hobnobbing with the Clinton Global Initiative; and that the company was “this close” to selling $240 million worth of its “systems.” To develop their audacious projects Wragg and McKelvy needed cash. Mantria investors, according to the SEC, were offered securities in the form of “promissory notes, stock, limited partnership interests, and so-called profits interest.” These contracts promised extraordinary returns over periods as short as eight months.
The reality, according to the SEC, was that Mantria produced virtually no [continue]…


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Scam Watch: 12 Nasty Work-From-Home Scams

Posted June 16, 2011 at 1:44 am

via Forbes

Whether it involves stuffing envelopes, processing medical insurance claims or assembling toys, most victims never get paid for their work or ever recoup their startup fees.

You might think the opportunity of making easy money in your pajamas would get anyone’s hackles up. Indeed, thousands are duped every year. The most likely prey includes senior citizens, stay-at-home mothers and people with low incomes.

In 2009 the FTC received 7,955 complaints involving work-at-home-business opportunities, up from 6,126 in 2007 when the latest recession started taking hold.

The FTC estimates that only one in every 55 of those work-at-home opportunities was legitimate. Stopping the scammers is like a never-ending game of Whack-A-Mole: Smack one on the head and another pops up.

For a complete list of 12 common classic home-based-business scams, click here [slideshow]…


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You want to appear smart about the future?…or… just make money now?

Posted June 14, 2011 at 4:01 pm

by Barry Goss

I’ve said it before — and have said in some focused, raw, lets-get-real-here-Johnny ways — and I’ll keep saying it:

Practically since the dawn of time (whenever the first human wanted to exchange an idea or item for the day’s form of money), selling fear has always been a lucrative market.

It’s easy for marketers as a) they only have to find validation to protect your future instead of increase the value of your present and b) they know there’s plenty of meek souls who need a good excuse or two to not succeed.

You can read a few of my past Chicken Little Investor rants here, here, and here.

But, for now, here’s how Mark Ford (editor of The Palm Beach Letter) put it [an excerpt of a Cigar Bar conversation with Tom Dyson]:

Continue Reading…


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