Monthly Archives: October 2015

A New Era for Birdmen

drone1As a child, I loved remote-control toys with complex mechanics. If the toy happened to fly, so much the better. Unlike most kids, I wasn’t too concerned with commandeering them for a role in my latest GI Joe reenactment. I took them apart and attempted to put them back together again, often finding myself in a Humpty-Dumpty situation…“all the king’s horses and all the king’s men….”

Although my RC car days are long gone, the rapidly growing drone market has peaked my interest, as it has with many other people. Drones – long used in warfare for their stealth, maneuverability and often undetectable nature – have become increasingly popular with the masses (looking to be the most popular Christmas gift of 2015). Current drone prices range from under $100 to upwards of $2,000. The majority of drones on the market offer the advantage of aerial pictures and 360° video capability. While these consumer drones are hardly military grade, it seems they pose a challenge for air traffic controllers and a safety hazard for aircraft. Air traffic controllers state that the minimum safe distance for any object to be near an aircraft is 1,000 feet plus.

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Irwin Schiff – A Man of Conviction

Irwin SchiffIrwin A. Schiff just passed away on October 16th, at the age of 87, still under lock and key as a political prisoner. Most people know Irwin Schiff as the father of investor and fellow gold advocate, Peter Schiff. Irwin Schiff was also known as the most prominent tax protester of our time, a man who stood up to the IRS and was imprisoned as a result. But the legacy he leaves is much deeper than his fight with the IRS, and there are some valuable lessons we can learn from his life and teachings.

For those unfamiliar with Irwin Schiff, he was the son of Jewish immigrants. He served in the Korean War and later opened his own insurance brokerage. He read Henry Hazlitt and F.A. Hayek in college, gaining exposure to Austrian economics. He was a staunch supporter of liberty and limited government, undertaking grassroots campaigns and later staging an (unsuccessful) write-in campaign for Governor of Connecticut. He was also a candidate for the Libertarian Party Presidential Nomination in 1996.

Irwin Schiff was also a supporter of sound money, testifying in 1968 before the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency against the removal of gold-backing for our currency. My personal exposure to Irwin Schiff was through his book ‘How an Economy Grows and Why It Doesn’t’. Originally written as a children’s book in an illustrated comic-book style, it is accessible to everyone, yet contains high-level economic and political concepts that most adults do not understand.

The book starts off with an island economy, and it logically illustrates how that economy grows only through savings and capital goods investment. It then shows the disastrous results that occur when the government inflates and devalues the island’s currency. The book has been updated by his sons, Andrew and Peter, and I would highly recommend it to everyone. It is truly a joy to read. Irwin also wrote a similar book called ‘The Kingdom of Moltz’, which is also very clever.

Of course, most people who know anything about Irwin Schiff focus on his tax theories and, unfortunately, many write him off as a tax cheat who was eventually imprisoned for his actions. But his story is much more nuanced.

Your Energy is the Key

green-energyFor Bill Gates, reinventing the wheel is unnecessary. His focus is on changing how the wheel runs. Over the last decade and a half, Gates has been one of the largest proponents of energy research and development. In 2000, he and his wife Melinda founded the world’s greatest transparently-run private venture: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. BMGF concerns itself with the health and welfare of the world’s poorest communities. The foundation’s recent work includes the Omni Processor which aims to convert fecal sludge into pure clean water and a source of energy.

In order to meet basic human needs,

A Rush to Objectivism: Fueling the Message of Ayn Rand

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“No, his mind is not for rent
To any God or government
Always hopeful yet discontent
He knows changes aren’t permanent
But change is”

These are lyrics in a song Tom Sawyer produced for the rock group Rush (Spirit of the Radio: 1974-1987).

Unlike most African-American men, I grew up on rock music. Groups like Journey, Boston, Foreigner, AC/DC and Kansas were a constant part of my listening experience. But there is one group that really stood out for me, due to their edgy themes and powerful lyrical messages; that group was Rush.

Originating in Canada, this musical troupe featured guitarist Alex Lifeson, singer/bass and keyboardist Geddy Lee and drummer extraordinaire Neil Peart. Of this trio, Peart probably had the most thematic impact as he is apparently the the one who single-handedly integrated Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy into many of their musical scores. While in recent years Peart has reputedly distanced himself from Rand’s thinking, the legacy of her work still lives on through the music of this iconic group.

2112 – the band’s 1976 album – was dedicated to the “Genius of Ayn Rand.” It was inspired by Rand’s novel, ‘Anthem’, which explores a dystopian world where totalitarianism is threatened by the rediscovery of the guitar. Interestingly, Rush has the distinction of being the only music group ever to be cited in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. “

Patent Laws Take a Bite Out of Apple

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UPDATE 10/17/15:

The Daily Mail reported the actual cost of the suit to be ruled at $234 Million.

Apple was charged with patent infringement this week, says PC Mag. The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, or WARF, is the body behind the charges. WARF manages patents for The University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM). The cost of the patent suit they are pursuing against the tech giant could reportedly reach $862 million.

WARF previously settled out of court with Intel, who they also sued over their Core 2 Duo processor back in 2008. In this case, the jury has already ruled that Apple was guilty

The Auto is “On Auto”

google-driverless_3147440bOver the better part of the last seventy-plus years, passing the driver’s license exam was a rite of passage. Teens longed for the day when they could get behind the wheel of Dad’s old Mustang and leave behind a cloud of dust as they raced towards the horizon. Sitting in the driver’s seat with a parent alongside yelling “Hands 10 and 2… eyes on the road… use your turn signal!” became quite the typical family outing. Eventually, that driver’s license brought you freedom and responsibility – road signs for an ‘Adult Life Ahead’.