Monthly Archives: October 2015

Apple’s Strong Stance on Data Protection

iphonepicAfter being asked by the court to access data stored on an iPhone as evidence for a case, Apple stated that accessing data on iPhones with the two latest versions of iOS (iOS 8 and 9) would be impossible. Apple is one of many companies that have responded to the growing privacy and security concerns that plague our modern world by increasing its focus on protecting users’ data. The recent versions of iOS require a passcode in order to access data kept on the device; a passcode that Apple does not store and cannot access.

The case Apple was responding to happened to involve an iPhone that was not running either of the iOS versions that include this passcode feature but, interestingly enough, Apple asked

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Bars Bustle with Sports Season Boost

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Fall is my favorite season. I delight in the changing leaf colors and temperate weather patterns. But what I love most is that it’s the time when the world of spectator sports seems to come into full bloom, cramming in college and NFL football as well as NHL hockey. Furthermore, the baseball world series run is also in full trajectory. And my favorites – the NCAA and NBA basketball seasons – are just around the bend.

Bars and restaurants that have been on a slow cooker during the summer months suddenly become alive with sports enthusiasts from all walks of life, as the dawn of fall sports season arrives. The sound of fans hooting and howling for their favorite team reflects the important role that spectator sport plays in fostering community spirit and economic development.

In this vein, local bars function as ‘third-places’, a concept coined by urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg. These are places where people congregate, other than at work or at home. In his book ‘The Good Great Place’, Oldenburg suggests that locales like community bars are vital to local civic connection and economic vitality.

 

Hot Wings and a Cold Brew

Back during my undergraduate days at The Ohio State University, a watering hole hangout called Buffalo Wild Wings & Weck (known as BW3) was an off-campus favorite of mine. It was famous for its 3.2% beer selection and blistering hot chicken wings; the hottest batch on the menu was affectionately called Three Alarm Fire.

Fast forward to almost twenty years later when BW3 morphed into what is now known as Buffalo Wild Wings, a franchised series of restaurants and bars that have become an epicenter of activity for rabid sports fans nationwide. In November of 2003, their initial public offering stock price was $8.50 per share. This price skyrocketed 35% in its first day of trading. If you had purchased shares then, you would be sitting pretty on an investment that has today realized an almost 1,600% gain on your initial investment. Just as a comparison, the S&P returned a respectable 135% over that same period.

By the way, I have a friend – a highly successful professional investor – who asked me one day back in 2010 whether I had any recommendations for stock picks. Out of my ass, I mentioned Buffalo Wild Wings. Now whenever I cross paths with her at a local Denver coffeehouse, she frequently offers to buy me a latte… which I request with a couple of espresso shots to jolt me out of the regret that I did not take my own advice and buy that darned stock.

Lest I digress, the point I am trying to make here is that bars and sports are ideal team mates for fueling a free market economy.  Let’s take pro basketball as an example. It is said that during his playing days in Chicago, Michael Jordan was worth in excess of $100 million to the Windy City. I conjecture that a sizable chunk of that amount was accrued at local bars and restaurants where foot traffic swelled, both before and after games. The same effect occurred with the Chicago Cubs and the White Sox of baseball lore.

The Top 5 Myths of a Gold Standard

Money LendersIf you can get your friend to stop laughing, and actually give you an answer as to why it would be a bad idea to return to a classic gold standard, you will invariably get one of the following responses. As we will see, some of these are either just plain wrong, or they are at best misunderstood.

1. Nobody wants heavy gold coins weighing down their pockets

This response is usually accompanied by some quip about going back to medieval times, with gold ducats carried around in purple drawstring pouches. But this just shows a lack of understanding of the essence of a gold standard. Yes, under a gold standard, you could transact in actual gold coins, which is what happened earlier in history. But people eventually figured out they could use paper currency that represented claims on the gold actually stored at banks and in vaults. The only stipulation for a gold standard is the ability to convert or redeem your money into gold, if so desired.

Therefore, you can still have currency and even units like ‘dollars’ as long as they represent a fixed amount of gold. This is what is meant by ‘gold-backing’. The option to convert to gold keeps banks and governments honest, but as long as citizens are unconcerned that banks or governments would ever default on this pact, then they will happily use the dollars and leave the gold in the vaults. In fact, our monetary system wouldn’t look much different; you would still have your checking and savings accounts, debit cards and credit cards, all denominated in dollars. The only difference is the additional option to convert those dollars to gold at any time.

2. Gold is a barbarous relic

Economist John Maynard Keynes and even talented investors like Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger have described gold in these terms. It has been suggested that if aliens saw humans digging up gold from the ground – refining it and shaping it into coins and bars, only to bury it back in the ground in vaults and guard it – they would think we are crazy. Perhaps this is not an unreasonable remark, considering the wasted resources on all of this energy, equipment and labor.

Harriet Tubman: New Face of the $20 Bill?

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The abolitionist Harriet Tubman has long been admired for her civil rights legacy. And if a grassroots organization has its way, she will one day adorn the front of a $20 bill.

The group, Women On 20s, recently asked the public to vote to get Tubman on U.S. printed currency. She garnered nearly 34% of the vote, edging out former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for the distinction of replacing Andrew Jackson. If this is codified by the Department of Treasury, Tubman would make history as the first woman and the first African-American to be represented on American paper currency.

A little history about Tubman. She was arguably the most influential figure in the Underground Railroad Movement, a network of routes that facilitated slaves fleeing to northern free states as well as Canada. Tubman, who herself escaped slavery in Maryland, made it her personal cause to free hundreds of slaves out of bondage. In addition to her work to free slaves, she was a passionate advocate for women’s equality and suffrage.

As she noted about her abolitionist work, “I was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, never running my train off the track and never losing a passenger.”

This campaign to highlight women via U.S. paper currency has gained a ton of political support, including U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), from a state that has a prominent history in the freedom movement. Women on 20s has delivered a petition to President Obama, asking him to instruct Treasury Secretary Lew to circulate these bills in anticipation of the women’s suffrage centennial in 2020. This will be an unprecedented move if executed; one with rich historical significance for the cause of liberty.

 

 

Rocky Times for Obamacare: What’s Next

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A few of my friends here in the Rocky Mountain State recently had a jagged boulder heaved their way. Sadly, I had warned them that this would be likely to occur, but they wouldn’t listen. Now, after drinking the health care reform Kool-Aid, they are the ones whining about the very initiative for which they had high hopes.

So here’s the scoop…..

Colorado HealthOp, a non-profit co-op that has been a key element of Obamacare in this state, announced last week that it will not be offering health care plans in 2016, becoming the seventh of 23 taxpayer-funded co-ops to shut down across the country. This comes on the heels of the $2 billion-plus in government funding that has already been distributed to insurance cooperatives across the nation to fuel a more competitive environment for Obamacare marketplaces.

This decision to close down is due in large part to a ruling from Colorado’s health insurance regulator, decertifying the insurer from Connect For Health Colorado, the state’s Obamacare marketplace exchange. Reports suggest that the move is linked to financial troubles at the co-op, attributed in large part to the federal government reneging on its commitment to provide $10 million for operational support under the Obamacare Risk Corridor program. As a result, it is estimated that nearly 83,000 Coloradans will struggle to find alternative

America’s Growing Qualms About Banks

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“I will lose my vehicle if I don’t get my money. My car note is past due.”

“They (Rushcard) make 94 cents every time a direct deposit hits, $2.50 every time you withdraw money and $1.00 every time you use the card.”

“No access to my money. Been waiting since Oct. 9th”

“This card only preys on poor folks who have messed up their credit and can’t get a regular bank account.”

These are among the comments posted on social media in response to technical issues facing RushCard, a prepaid debit card program founded by iconic hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. This highly popular alternative to traditional banking has recently faced major criticism among its members due to paychecks and direct deposits failing to appear in their accounts. It also raises questions about whether services such as those offered by RushCard take advantage of people who, due to myriad reasons, may be unable or unwilling to secure a traditional bank account. “