Mend it, don’t end it.

Public Domain

In the beginning, debate in both houses of Congress was unlimited. Eventually, the growing House created limits on debate, but the smaller Senate still allows unlimited debate on most issues, subject to a vote of cloture, which today requires three fifths of sitting senators.

Over the years, senators have used their privilege to speak without end to stall legislation. Because the majority can change the Senate rules, and the minority is most likely to use the filibuster, the temptation for the majority to kill the beast is tremendous. But unlimited debate survives; apparently, both parties want it to be there…


Let me first establish my bona fides. Here’s an excerpt from an article I posted on financial site Seeking Alpha more than ten years ago:

The time has come to ban all naked short-side derivatives. The only way to take a net short position on an asset should be traditional short selling. Everything else creates too much moral hazard.

Some short sellers are scumbags. They short stocks then publish hit pieces about them, driving the price down, where the shorts can cover. There’s nothing wrong with what these noisy shorts do in principle. If a stock is terrible, shorting it…


Quantity has a quality all its own.

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Fifty years ago, internet fraud wasn’t a thing. But if someone told you in 1980 that you should not expose your personal data on line, would you cite the lack of data breaches at that time as a reason not to worry? What we all do changes what we can do safely. Willie Sutton robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.” I believe that people screw with the votes, if they can, where the ballots are. So long as those ballots are created almost entirely in secure and private booths, there is no accessible point of attack. …


A little counterfeit never hurt anybody

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is getting a lot of attention these days. Proponents of MMT tend to be politically liberal, and many use MMT to explain why their schemes for massive government spending won’t bankrupt the country. Of course, those schemes may be bad ideas on their own merits regardless of their monetary and fiscal consequences. Still, critics of the programs seem obligated to be critics of MMT, too, as if MMT implies that the programs are good, as opposed to affordable. …


Photo by Frederick Warren on Unsplash

Inflation is …

Inflation is one of the most misunderstood concepts in finance, perhaps because the term is often used imprecisely. I will use the word precisely in this essay, not in the sense that I will use it in the only “correct” way, but in the sense that when I use it here, it will mean the very specific thing I intend it to mean.

Irving Fisher’s Equation of Exchange connects money and economic activity:

MV=PQ

For purposes of this essay, “inflation” means a positive change in P, and “deflation” means a negative change in P. Thus, as used…


Energizing greed to energize the world

Photo by Dainis Graveris on Unsplash

I read the other day that China is booting out its Bitcoin miners because they are using too much dirty energy. Where are they going? Apparently, to Texas, where wind and solar energy are cheap and the government doesn’t give a shit about anything that matters. (I have to believe some are moving to Oklahoma!, where the wind come sweepin down the plain.)

The average cost of something depends on volume, so there’s a chicken-and-egg dynamic for many new technologies: they are too expensive only because not enough people want them, yet. Green energy is cheaper in Texas than elsewhere…


What’s safe and what’s practical are not always the same thing.

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

The CDC has determined that vaccinated people needn’t wear masks to protect themselves from acquiring the disease or to protect unvaccinated people from acquiring the disease from them. It is, therefore, safe for vaccinated people to go maskless at all times, whether or not those around them have been vaccinated.

It is not safe, however, for unvaccinated people to go maskless indoors with other unvaccinated people. Thus, it really, really matters to unvaccinated people whether those around them who are maskless really are vaccinated. Believe it or not, some unvaccinated people will pretend to be vaccinated if that will enable…


Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.

Photo by Mike Benna on Unsplash

I used to work for a company that sold tax shelters. We sold them to upper-medium sized businesses — companies you may have heard of, but not behemoths. Then, one day, someone in our industry got the idea to sell something like our product to Wal-Mart. That was the end of that tax shelter.

Ransomware is a big deal locally when it hits, but it has been until now only a nuisance nationally. The Federal government has had bigger fish to fry, and in today’s political climate, only the biggest fish get fried. But last week, a bunch of hackers…


Blurring distinctions where distinctions are everything

Photo by Johannes Krupinski on Unsplash

“***gers” is a bad word. Still, if you go to law school in New Jersey, you may find yourself saying it, as it may be the name of your school.

The first thing they teach you at law school is “how to think like a lawyer.” (I’ll pause while you make little jokes to yourself. Let’s continue…) Because so much of lawyering is about precedent, lawyers are taught early on the importance of “distinctions,” details that distinguish, or don’t, the legally relevant facts of a current situation from those in an earlier case that may be a precedent. …


Do you think Pence knows what an awful human being he is? His role in 2016 was Judas goat. Those who followed Pence to the moral slaughter (as opposed to those who embraced Trump's evil directly) at least have their cluelessness as a defense. But Pence? Is there really anything good that anyone can say about him? Anything that would evoke sympathy? If so, it hasn't been said to me yet.

Remarkl

Self-description is not privileged.

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