$1.5 million bullshit artist

On this blog and elsewhere, I’ve been an advocate for shedding debt. Including paying down your mortgage early.

Investments are a gamble. If the percentage gains in my 401(k) were turned into a roller coaster design, I’d probably make more money off the design than my 401(k) would over the long term. I said this commenting on an article on ABC News called “Making extra mortgage payments can pay off, but should you?

I’ve seen my 401(k) go up or down in any given week by more than I take home in a paycheck. I’ve seen that happen in a single day. The “rate of return” on my 401(k) for calendar year 2015 was -3.7% according to the brokerage. Let me emphasize that:-3.7%. Minus 3.7%. Sometimes it’s lost more than that in a month. If I go for June 1, 2015, to June 1, 2016, the rate becomes -11%. Minus 11%.

Investment accounts can be a roller coaster with no guarantee on gains. Putting that money against your mortgage is a guaranteed gain in your wealth since you are paying down a liability.

And now, Business Insider published an article called “I’m worth $1.5 million, and I’d never recommend paying off your mortgage early“. And why is it that this person would never make that recommendation? You guessed it: invest it instead. Seriously these kind of articles piss me off. They operate on the presumption that investments will only go up. And this article that BI published pisses me off even more than any other article I’ve read on the topic.

My current home set me back $176,000 and I had the money to pay cash. I briefly considered it, but instead took out a mortgage. I kept the money invested, mostly in an S&P 500 index fund. Let’s take a look at how the experiment is coming along.

And that is why.

The author had enough money to be able to put down $180,000 without borrowing. But instead he put down only $40,000 and kept the rest invested. Hands up if you can do the same.

So nothing about the author’s situation makes anything he has to say realistic. His article is nothing but speculation and hypothetical. “See how great your wealth could be if you invest.” Come down to the rest of us in the real world, with needs and tighter budgets that need to be balanced against the potential of financial disaster. In general you need money to be able to invest, and not many actually have a chunk of change they’re just willing to hand over to someone on the possibility they’ll get more back over time.

Most don’t even have a positive net wealth, meaning they owe more than they actually have. I’m fortunate to say that isn’t the case for me, but I know I’m in a minority on that.

And if I had the ability to buy a home for cash, I too would still take out a mortgage courtesy of the accounting concept called “leveraging“. It’s why businesses borrow money all the time even if they have cash in the bank.

In business-to-business and wholesale transactions, many vendors offer their customers a discount if an invoice is paid in a shorter period of time. An example is “2% 10 Net 30”, meaning 2% discount if the invoice is paid in 10 days, otherwise the full balance is due in 30 days.

Let’s you have a $2,400 invoice on 2% 10 Net 30 terms. If you can pay the invoice within the 10-days, you’ll receive a discount of $48 and pay $2,352.

Now let’s do a little math. If you borrow the $2,352 at 10% interest and pay that off in a month, you’ll pay $19.60 in interest on the loan. Even if you take two months to pay off the loan, you’re still coming out ahead, albeit not nearly as much. In raw numbers, that is. Depending on what the invoice represents, that leveraging may have put you further ahead than paying the invoice out of pocket, either with or without the discount, simply because of the utility you’d have gained with the item(s) or service(s) in question.

That is why leveraging is a very important concept in business and personal finance.

But two points are overlooked in the common “invest the money instead of paying down debt” advice: 1. paying down debt is a guaranteed way to increase your net wealth and 2. investments aren’t. You are trading money for an asset of fluctuating value. If you’ve handed your money over to an investment firm to put into an index fund, you’re trading money for a wish.

You can throw all the hypothetical numbers you want at people to try to convince them to hand their money over to the stock market. I’ve gone after the idea numerous times over, and, again, it’s about trading what would be a real, guaranteed gain in net wealth for what might be a gain in net wealth over time.

There’s also a third point: paying down your mortgage early doesn’t require putting out much. Again, in a comment on the ABC article:

Putting extra cash toward the mortgage is a guaranteed, real gain in wealth as well, unlike the gamble investments can be, as you are helping to shed a liability faster. An extra payment here and there, if you can afford it, is going to help in the long run. And that’s the same with any loan: mortgage, student loans, personal loans, car loans, what have you. Even inflating your payment a little — an extra $20 or $50 or even $100 for example — will help in the long run. Depending on your loan payment, this could be a spread-out substitute of making an extra payment per year. With my car payment, I put an extra $50/mo on top of what the loan agreement called for, about the same as an extra payment for a calendar year. This put me far enough ahead that I was able to skip a payment entirely and still stay ahead on the loan.

Much of the backlash against those of us who recommend paying down your mortgage seems to come from a fallacious foundation, and by extension fallacious reasoning. If you put a few hundred dollars into a stock market index fund, it’s likely not going to gain much, especially if there are fees involved — how exactly do you think investment brokers make money? You have to keep adding to it. And there’s always the risk your investments will go down in value.

But if you take a couple hundred dollars and use that to make a higher payment toward a loan, that’s several hundred dollars in principal that you no longer owe. And that pays off in the long run through less interest. If you keep doing that, you’ll pay still less interest over time. And you might even be able to open your loan up enough to be able to skip a payment and still be ahead on the loan, as I was able to do with my vehicle loan.

Those of us who make that recommendation don’t say to put all your spare cash at your debts. That would be beyond stupid, financially speaking, as you’d be taking an even greater risk. Instead, put extra money against your debts only if you can afford to do so. Invest only if you can afford it.

The problem is that most likely can’t do so. Most don’t have a 6-figures in an investment account that will earn more in raw dollars in a year than will be paid against a mortgage in 10 years. Most can’t readily put 20% down on a home. Hell, most can’t afford to readily pay out several hundred dollars.

So in short, the Business Insider article wasn’t even realistic, let alone persuasive.

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Violence as speech

A disturbing trend has taken root in the United States and much of the Western world. And it is the redefinition of speech by certain individuals perceived to be “privileged” as violence, and the simultaneous redefinition of violence by individuals and groups perceived to be “oppressed” as speech. Or as one commenter on 9-gag observed, speaking I will presume against conservatives given the context:

Speech is free. Violence is not. Once we define their speech as violence and our violence as speech, we win.

And the idea of violence being speech has been endorsed by a sitting member of the House of Representatives. In a poem he read on the House floor, Representative Hank Johnson [D-GA(4)] included the line “Disenfranchised youth driven to violence as speech”.

As a libertarian I am an adherent to the non-aggression principle. To the uninitiated, the principle, in short, says that aggression and violence may not be used against someone except as a response to someone else’s illegitimate violence against themselves and/or others. And when that violence is to be legitimately employed, it can only be employed to the extent that is necessary to stop the violence and threat of violence of others. It’s derived from the golden rule.

So how then have groups managed to redefine the speech of other groups as “violence”? By calling them “micro-aggressions”. Or by labeling it “hate speech” and saying that such speech has no protection — despite the fact the Supreme Court of the United States ruled quite the opposite1.

And thus the logic goes that since someone else’s speech is an aggressive act, the target of that speech has full right to respond with violence.

The problem with the left is that they view their violence as speech and the right’s speech as violence.2

The original concept of micro-aggressions thankfully predates the current generation, but that is the only saving grace on the concept. The concept was coined in 1970 by Harvard professor Chester Pierce, MD, in 1970, as a means of describing insults and dismissals against black students by whites. The concept was expanded to include women in 1973 by MIT adjunct professor and conflict resolution specialist Mary Rowe.

So under the non-aggression principle, a person is within their right to employ aggression to defend themselves and others against the illegitimate aggression of others. Speech is being labeled micro-aggression (or being flat-out labeled as violence). Thus the equation balances out with the violence by those who believe they have been victims of “micro-aggressions” with the perceived “privilege” of the alleged “aggressor” being used in determining disparity of force.

Derald Wing Sue, PhD, of Columbia University clarified the concept to mean “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership”. And the problem should be quite obvious as it labels people as bigots even if bigotry isn’t the person’s intention merely because they said something that could be interpreted as denigrating another group of people.

Add into this the redefinition of racism and sexism to mean, in short, “systematic” racism and sexism, and suddenly you find that blacks cannot be micro-aggressive against whites and women cannot be micro-aggressive against men.

Talk about being in a “privileged” position. It means that women can be blatantly sexist against men and avoid the label of sexism — “No, I can’t be sexist because women aren’t the privileged class”. It means that blacks can be blatantly racist against whites (and boy are there many, many examples of that) and avoid the label of racist because of “systemic racism” and, the almost-universal fallback, “slavery”.

And it is that redefinition that caused two black individuals, one male and one female, to believe they had the right to accost and detain a white male for having his hair in dreadlocks. As the video shows, the black female did everything to prevent his departure from the area. Both black individuals were gleefully smiling the entire time. Until they realized they were being filmed. At which point the black female tried to act like she was the victim. Which is a classic bully tactic.

Again, the concept of micro-aggressions means, in short, that all whites are racist, all men are sexist, all cis-gendered persons are transphobic, all heteronormative persons are homophobic, all atheists are religious bigots, all non-Muslims are Islamaphobic, all upper and upper-middle class people are classist, and so on and so on. It’s thought crime. And like all thought crimes, there is no escaping it.

A slight against one person is treated as a slight against all groups to which that person belongs. If I call a homosexual friend an asshole because he/she is demonstrably being an asshole, I have, by extension, called all homosexuals (and possibly including all bisexuals) assholes.

But then we also have arrived at the point wherein kindness is demeaning and denigrating. If a man holds a door for a woman, he is denigrating not just her, but all women by extension. And he is not just denigrating women, but oppressing them.

And where there is the perception of thought crime, there is thought policing. You’re presumed guilty until proven innocent. And as there is no way to prove your innocence, the presumption against you will stand in perpetuity and be used against you wherever possible. There is no escaping it.

But yet that is where “microaggressions” have brought us. Actually the original idea of microaggression theory isn’t what brought us here. What brought us here is the perception that any negative action against one individual perceived as being a member of an “oppressed” group is aggression or oppression against all members of that group.

And even better, the list of what constitutes “aggression” is being continually expanded.

 

  1. Snyder v. Phelps, 562 US 443 (2011) []
  2. Source: That’s Bullocks on Tumblr []
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How to not run a business

In business, trust is key. Your customers need to be able to trust you with all aspects of how you run your business, including how you handle customer information.

It’s pretty easy to summarize: a business is generally NOT allowed to reveal who their customers are. If I owned a store and Barack Obama was a regular customer, I couldn’t even confirm that to anyone who asked, even if he was standing in my store at the time. The customer can always confirm whether they are a regular customer, but, in general, businesses cannot without explicit consent from the customer.

It’s about the same as in medicine. A person can say all they want that they are a patient of a particular physician. Even if that’s not true. But the physician, on the other hand, is prohibited by law from confirming whether a person is a patient. In the United States, such would be a violation of the Health and Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). But even if it wasn’t illegal, it still wouldn’t be ethical.

As another example, I’m a regular customer of Performance-PCs, and I’ve noted that many times over on this blog. But if you were to call or write into Performance-PCs and ask, their own privacy policy means they wouldn’t be able to confirm that:

We require this [personal] information to understand your needs and provide you with a better service, and in particular for the following reasons:

  • Internal record keeping.
  • We may use the information to improve our products and services.
  • We may periodically send promotional emails about new products, special offers or other information which we think you may find interesting using the email address which you have provided.
  • From time to time, we may also use your information to contact you for market research purposes. We may contact you by email, phone, fax or mail. We may use the information to customise the website according to your interests.

And a lot of companies have very similar privacy policies. They will collect certain information from you — simply because it’s inevitable for them as part of conducting business. And as people are concerned with how their private information is managed, businesses post privacy policies that provide specifically how their information is handled.

So what in the hell was Lady Grey Jewelry thinking?

And the comments they’re receiving show largely a negative feedback to this move. Tactless. Unethical. Unprofessional. Classless. Disrespectful. And I wholly agree.

And I’d say the same thing if a business owner did this same thing with regard to Chelsea Clinton. Even if the business agrees politically with the customer, it is unprofessional to post something like this publicly, whether positive or negative, without the customer’s explicit consent.

Business 101: don’t disparage a customer. Any customer. Regardless of your reasoning.

It’s simple common sense: you don’t do anything that puts your customers or your business in a negative light. You treat your customers with respect, since your customers are the life blood of your business. And word of mouth is the most effective marketing tool around. And that word of mouth can work against your business just as much as it can work in its favor.

You’ll notice, for example, that in the build log for Desert Sapphire, which is a computer I built for a friend, I never identify the person for whom I built the system. Because that’s bad business practice if I don’t have his/her explicit permission to do so. And if I were approached by a high class buyer to build them a system, absolutely I would keep their name private. I’d still post a build log, and they’d know in advance of my intentions to do so, but I wouldn’t reveal the name of the buyer or post a picture of them without their explicit permission.

Contrary to what many have said on the Instagram post and in other venues, it’s not just the content of the note that’s the problem, however you choose to interpret it. Posting it publicly is what’s got people up in arms.

They could’ve been as demeaning to Ivanka as they wanted in private — and likely have. They could’ve canceled the order and sent a demeaning e-mail in response — which likely would’ve been posted to social media. They could’ve just made the donation and not revealed it to Ivanka. They could’ve canceled the order outright and manufactured some excuse to avoid taking her money. There are so many other ways they could’ve handled this tactfully if they really didn’t want the money or Ivanka’s business.

For some reason, they couldn’t just make the donation. They had to make a political statement out of it.

And the note itself wasn’t entirely tactful, in my opinion. It shouldn’t have been written for the simple fact you don’t do anything that could be interpreted as disparaging a customer. So that’s bad enough. But they made it worse posting the note to social media.

 

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Flirting while married

I’m a flirt. I’ll readily admit that. I’ve been one for as long as I can remember. And it’s something my wife has known about me since we met. After all, I’ve flirted with other women in front of her.

And a lot of people likely assume that my wife and I are headed for divorce because of it. And an observation I recently encountered seems to summarize the point of view regarding married men and women flirting quite succinctly. In an article called “Why Married People Flirt“, author Gray Miller says this:

Some people wonder why married people flirt. They make the false assumption that the taking of vows suddenly turns off any playfulness or sexual attraction with anyone but a spouse.

Or to quote “Married Jake” over at Glamour Smitten in his article “Why Married Men Flirt“:

There are two kinds of married guys: married guys who flirt and married guys who don’t. Married guys who never flirt are a freaking mystery to me. They’re like monks or something. They’re wired differently from me. I respect them tremendously, but I do not envy them. On the other hand, guys who are died-in-the-wool flirts will always flirt, even when they’re married. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to act on that flirtation. It just means they like it. And if they’ve sworn off flirting, it means they’re subverting their flirt impulse. And they’re miserable.

I’m a flirt. I have always been a flirt. Maybe if I had more self-esteem or something I wouldn’t need to do it, but the fact is I love it. Nothing racy. No physical contact. I just like having flirty conversations—playful ones, not overtly sexual or anything. My wife knows about it, and at first she really hated it. But now she just knows it’s who I am. And she remembered that’s why she liked me in the first place and that I will never change, and that she’s the person I like flirting with the most and am committed to entirely. She trusts me that I won’t go over the line, and I trust me that I won’t go over the line. I’ve been with her on-and-off for something like four years, and I’ve never gone over the line.

Indeed, I’ve observed similar:

“Checking out” others is natural. He’s going to look. She’s going to look. Don’t deny it. Don’t treat it as a problem. Showing any kind of attractiveness toward another is not a sign that he or she will stray.

Here’s the ready thing to understand about being a flirt: like “Married Jake”, I’m not trying to score. (Is that something still said today? I guess I’m getting old.) That’s right: flirting is not entirely or exclusively about sex. And that has to be the most common misrepresentation of flirting. Most recently I saw this misrepresentation with Ashley Willis in her article “5 Things Married Women Need to Stop Doing“:

This one probably seems like a no-brainer to most of you, and yet it is a BIG problem in many marriages.  It may start innocently…you share laughs with a co-worker.  Then, you go to lunch…just the two of you.  Before you know it, the emails start coming.  Then, texts and phone calls.  And, then, that man is all you can think about.  You start hiding any communication with this person from your husband.  Before you know it, you find yourself in a sexual affair.

If I had reproduced the above paragraph in an article where I wasn’t talking about flirting, would you have guessed this paragraph was immediately under the header “We need to stop flirting with other men”? Probably not. Because this doesn’t sound like flirting in the least. Instead it sounds exactly like it ends: an affair with a coworker that didn’t start as an affair. A more apt title of the section with that paragraph would be “We need to stop sleeping with other men”.

While flirting can be driven by a desire for sex or a relationship, those aren’t the only reasons. They’re not even the primary ones. They are, however, the only reasons getting all the focus. This leads to the misrepresentation that it’s only about sex, especially if you commit the egregious sin of flirting while married or in a committed relationship.

David Henningsen, PhD, of Northern Illinois University, actually studied why people flirt. And sex, he says, is actually the least-likely reason for people to flirt. Imagine that! Chances are a person who is flirting isn’t trying to woo a potential sex partner.

In other words, ladies, if you see your husband or boyfriend flirting with another woman, chances are he’s not trying to seduce her into sex. “You can’t assume that all or even most flirtations have underlying sexual motivations. People often use the allure of the possibility of sexual interest to help achieve other goals.”

Again, sex is actually the least-likely reason why someone flirts. So what is the top reason? Fun!

Psychology Today published an article in August 2012 called “Why Do We Flirt?” by Sean Horan, PhD, also citing research by Dr Henningsen. Of note is that people flirt with multiple goals in mind.

And I’d agree. Even with how flirtatious I am, it’s infrequent that I do it exclusively for fun. But I also don’t do it with a desire to engage in sex (since I’m married, happily) or form a new relationship (again, married). Instead much of how I’ve flirted has led to more favorable service at restaurants and other venues, and I’ve typically been remembered as a regular after fewer visits by female service staff for that reason, along with the fact that I’m a good tipper. And because my flirting tends to be light and non-obvious, it’s worked pretty well.

And in the fun category, flirting with someone other than your spouse or significant other can actually bring positive energy within your relationship. Provided your spouse/significant other doesn’t get defensive. In an earlier article I wrote this:

If his flirting with another woman offends you, then you are the one with the problem. And if you confront him on it, you will demonstrate that you have the problem.

And I’m not the only person who feels this way. In responding to a woman named “Candace” with a flirtatious husband of 15 years, Evan Marc Katz said this:

First of all, how is your marriage? It may seem like a silly question, given how upset you are, but apart from his interest in looking at/dancing with pretty women, what does the rest of your relationship look like? Is he a good provider? Does he spend a lot of time with you? Is he a solid communicator? Is he an available father? Does he have anger issues? Has he ever actually cheated on you or talked about a divorce?

All of this stuff matters, in my humble opinion.

Because while infidelity itself may be an absolute deal-breaker for your relationship, flirting itself may not be – especially within the context of an otherwise good marriage. And yes, I say this as a flirt and a good husband as well.

It’s also mentioned that her husband is a salsa dancer, which Katz calls “an inherently sexy dance” — flirting just comes with the territory.

Indeed he even points out her insecurity directly, “Should he pretend not to enjoy himself with them because you feel insecure?” I think the better question would be “should he not enjoy himself at all simply because she feels insecure?”

And that insecurity can manifest itself in deeper ways. Raise your hand, ladies, if you’ve ever said or thought, “If he loves me, he won’t look at other women.” Emma McGowan in her article “5 Reasons to be Excited About Your Significant Other Flirting with Other People“:

As for the “looking at other girls means he doesn’t love me,” one, well, it’s time to leave that back in high school, where it belongs. Ask anyone who has been together for decades if they’ve ever looked at or flirted with someone else while they were in a relationship.

Then ask them if they think that means they love their partner any less. If they’re honest with themselves and with you, the answers to those questions will be “yes” and “no, of course not!” respectively. That’s because anyone in a healthy long-term relationship understands that flirting is not only going to happen but that it’s important part of keeping things healthy.

So what about that positive energy, then? For that, let’s turn to Rose Maura Lorre on the site “Scary Mommy” and her article “7 Reasons Flirting is Good for Your Marriage“:

When you’re in a long-term relationship, the belief that “this is the one person I will sleep with” can easily (and unhealthfully) translate into “this is the only person who will sleep with me.” Call me insecure, but I’ve always believed that sexiness is a collective effort. That is, it’s about how you interact with people, not just your one special person.

It can be good to flirt with others who aren’t your spouse just to get some kind of positive indicator that you’re still attractive from someone who didn’t take a vow to keep telling you that you’re sexy even if you’re stuck in bed with a heavy bout of the flu. “Our SOs might tell us we’re great but there’s nothing like getting that verification from a new person to give a little ego boost,” Emma said in her article.

At the same time, seeing your significant other doing the flirting can be a reminder of why you’re together. Again, Emma McGowan:

On the flip side, seeing your S.O. flirt is a great reminder to you that they’re awesome! Have you ever not even thought about someone like that until you found out they were seeing someone? A similar thing happens when you see your SO flirting. For example, my boyfriend and I recently went to a party where I spent most of the time chatting with a new friend and watching him dance from afar. He’s a handsome guy and the ladies were loving it. I soaked up their attentions to him and thought, “Damn! He is so hot!” Seeing him through their eyes reinvigorated something I already knew about him — that he’s the greatest.

Back to Rose, she says later in her article:

I’ve never understood relationships where the two people set “rules” about not being “allowed” to flirt with others. First of all, what I do (i.e., flirting) has nothing to do with who I do (i.e., some rando). I have no interest in ruining my marriage, and even if I did, there are less messy ways to go about it than to go out and start up a raging flirtation. Being free to flirt is exhilarating; it reintroduces the thrill of the unknown into everyday life—which, let’s face it, is a thrill that’s hard to come by once you’re married with children.

Largely, though, these rules are unspoken and unwritten, and enforced through expressions or insinuations of jealousy, wherein someone becomes jealous at their significant other or spouse showing any interest in someone who is not them. Going back to Psychology Today, and the article “What to do when someone flirts with your partner” by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD:

No one can deny that it’s ego-boosting when someone treats you as if you’re funny, sexy, and intelligent. However, when your partner is the recipient of this attention, and it’s not from you, the effect can be jarring. You never thought of yourself as a jealous person, and you know you can trust your partner, so why should this upset you? Are you really that insecure? Or is your partner really so bored or unhappy with you that anyone else seems like a better companion?

One might argue that sometimes it’s good to challenge your assumptions about your partner. Taking each other for granted can be the first in a series of steps toward dissatisfaction if not dissolution. When you see your partner in the reflected admiration of a stranger, perhaps it’s a wake-up call that you need to stop being so complacent. The jealousy you feel might even inspire you to do some of your own counter-flirting, as it were, to “win” your partner back.

Seeing someone else flirting with your spouse or significant other can certainly be jarring, but only if you let it be. If your response to the display is to get territorial or thinking that he or she is a cheater just looking for an opportunity, that actually says more about you. It says you don’t have a high level of trust in your relationship, or you’re projecting your own faults onto your significant other.

And if you don’t have a high level of trust with your significant other, or if you feel you can’t trust your significant other, you need to re-evaluate your relationship.

Unfortunately, jumping to the conclusion that flirting means he/she will cheat is all too common. In searching with the terms (without quotes) “flirting while married”, most of the search results on the first few pages, boiled down, basically said flirting (while married or in a relationship) absolutely is cheating, or heavily imply or outright says it’s a recipe for “disaster” and/or will lead to cheating. Any idea that flirting could still be fun and exciting, even if married or in a relationship, is entirely lost on the idea I’ve seen reproduced countless times that it’s disrespectful to your significant other and should never happen.

Well, fuck that!

Not only is flirting fun, as Dr Henningsen noted, that’s the main reason people do it! And I don’t recall anywhere in my vows that I wouldn’t have fun. Sure boundaries need to be respected, but I’m not out there flirting with women with the intent of hooking up with any of them. Again, Emma McGowan:

“Flirting” does not mean getting a bunch of numbers, because that kind of activity has intent to hook up behind it. If a couple has an arrangement that allows for that kind of outside contact, that’s fine, but if they don’t? It’s definitely not. However, a little bit of arm touching and laughing at party does not cheating make. And also, there are ways to flirt that are cool within a relationship (i.e. mentioning early that you have a S.O.) and ways that are not (i.e. acting like you’re going to go home with them and then ghosting or, even worse, not ghosting and making out in the bathroom).

And one way to keep things in check is to make sure you’re not consuming alcohol to a significant degree, as that has a demonstrable ability to lessen a person’s inhibitions.

And if both of you are out and flirting with other people, chances are both of you will be building up a pretty high level of sexual energy that needs to go… well… somewhere.

It’s the ultimate positive energy you can get out of flirting with other people. It’s one thing for your significant other to tell you you’re sexy, and it’s a whole other thing when someone else is showing you that you are. But you want to make sure all that sexual energy goes to your significant other or spouse and not into the last person with whom you were flirting.

Meaning both of you come home to each other and have a night of sex — on the couch or in a chair since you’ll probably not even make it to the bed unless you live in a studio — that leaves both of you exhaustively satisfied, possibly waking up in the morning a little sore because you ended up overdoing it.

Which is the major benefit of flirting while married or in a committed relationship. Not only are you building up sexual energy, probably higher than you’d be able to with just your significant other, you’re almost guaranteed to have an outlet that you can trust and know is safe. Again back to Emma McGowan:

And you know what my boyfriend did after a night of flirting with beautiful women at a pool party? Walked over, gave me a huge kiss, and took me home with him. Yup; it’s always good to get the guy (or girl) in the end.

But you need to have self control. And you need to trust yourself enough that you will keep things in check.

And self control is what many presume is non-existent when it comes to those of us who flirt while married or in a committed relationship. Looking at a number of articles regarding flirting while married, many of the authors assume that flirting will lead to cheating. That we’ll just jump in the sack (or back seat of a car) with anyone showing enough interest, whether it’s a coworker or some random person in the checkout line at the grocery store.

Interesting how many are willing to jump right to a bad outcome, if not the worst outcome, with regard to an interaction. This is known as “worst first” thinking. While Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids, who arguably conjured the concept, talks about it with regard to children, that mentality has invaded our society in so many more ways.

When you recognize the “worst first” mentality for the fallacy it absolutely is, you can recognize that often the worst outcome in a scenario is the least likely outcome and not really worth your energy or attention. So too it is with flirting while married. It doesn’t mean infidelity is around the corner, and no one should jump to that conclusion.

Indeed the research behind why we flirt shows that we do it predominantly for fun. Not for sex, not to try to “hook up”. Infidelity likely isn’t around the corner if you or your significant other flirts while married.

So just have fun with it and stop making it out to be more than it is.

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Books and Glocks

So the President made yet another inflammatory statement recently regarding the ease of getting guns in the United States: “We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.” Even Politifact declared that statement to be “Mostly False“.

And I agree with that conclusion.

In terms of legal ability, it is certainly easier to buy a book than a Glock. Right now I can go online and purchase a Glock pistol and a copy of Barack Obama’s book. The difference, though, is I can have Obama’s book shipped right to my door. I can’t do that with a Glock pistol. Books you can have shipped anywhere. Guns? Not legally, at least.

But there’s an underlying question to the President’s blanket statement: are there places in our society where a teenager can more easily get their hands on a gun than a book? Unfortunately yes. It’d be naive to say otherwise.

And we’re talking about places where lawlessness prevails, where standing laws are not only ignored by the community, but sparsely enforced by the police and local governments. We’re talking about places where crimes are largely not investigated and arrests are infrequent. Where crime is rampant. Where young black men especially are at highest risk of dying young.

It is already against Federal law for a person under 21 to possess a pistol, and for a person under 18 to possess a long gun — you’re not seeing much of those on the streets though. And it’s against the law for someone without a tax stamp to possess an NFA firearm, and against the law for any member of a “prohibited class” to possess any firearm.

But when the laws either are not being enforced or cannot be enforced, lawlessness will prevail. So yes there are areas of the country where guns are easier to find than books, easier to get than books. At the same time, though, these are likely places where the people would rather have guns than books. And that is what needs to be addressed.

And there are organizations trying to address that concern.

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No, you won’t face Federal charges for sharing your Netflix password

I really wish that people would read an appellate decision along with the applied statutes before making asinine statements. In this instance the decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in US v. Nosal is the one being misrepresented to mean that sharing your Netflix password is a Federal crime.

The problem is the case in question dealt with corporate espionage, in which a former employee “borrowed” the login credentials of a current employee with the intent of mining confidential customer data. David Nosal, the appellant in this instance (meaning not the one appealing a lower court decision), also mined customer data while still employed with the intent of using it to compete against his employer in complete violation of standing agreements.

And because “password sharing” was somewhat involved here — despite the fact the case involved accessing internal company resources to which Nosal had lost authorized access — everyone is blowing out of proportion the implications. And I do mean blowing out of proportion. Way out of proportion.

To the point where they’re making it sound like sharing your Netflix password with a family member or friend is somehow worth 5000 USD.

The relevant statute that was applied is 18 USC § 1030(a)(4) — emphasis mine:

[Whoever] knowingly and with intent to defraud, accesses a protected computer without authorization, or exceeds authorized access, and by means of such conduct furthers the intended fraud and obtains anything of value, unless the object of the fraud and the thing obtained consists only of the use of the computer and the value of such use is not more than $5,000 in any 1-year period.

And there’s a reason the bar is set that high.

When the law was passed in 1986, password sharing was likely common. But there comes a point where sharing a password can be problematic. For example, I worked in health care for over 10 years. I’ve had access to patient information, as well as confidential information that was gathered and organized with regard to competitors. If I shared my passwords with anyone, you’d bet I’d fall under the jurisdiction of the above-quoted statute. And the same with where I currently work, which is in Electronic Discovery.

The question is the potential loss to the company owning the system being accessed in an unauthorized manner. Federal power is not something to be exercised willy-nilly, and the Federal government — whether via statute, regulation, or policy (such as the “Petite” policy) — ensures that prosecutorial power is not exercised unless there is a very clear reason. Mining confidential company information, whether about customers or trade secrets, can easily exceed the 5000 USD minimum statutory limit.

Sharing your Netflix password, thereby depriving Netflix of 10 USD up to 25 USD per month through a lost household subscription? Not even close.

To get to that point, you’d have to share your password with a significant number of people. And Netflix (or Hulu, Amazon Prime or what have you) would probably not even allow that many people to access the account anyway, and would probably even terminate it long before it got to that point.

And what about the other provisions of 18 USC § 1030? Do any of them apply to Netflix, or other similar media service, and sharing your password? No. Read the statute if you don’t believe me.

So don’t start thinking that the Ninth Circuit just declared it illegal to share your Netflix password. They didn’t do any such thing.

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Building a PC isn’t that difficult

It’s rather odd how a site named “Motherboard” would write an article called “PC Gaming is Still Way Too Hard“. To quote Total Biscuit:

I bought my first computer in 1998. Let me tell you that things today are a HELL of a lot simpler than they were back then. You have many things so much easier today trying to build a system. In part this is due to the number of parts manufacturers being only a handful. You don’t have many different manufacturers all vying for your money.

And the value you get for your dollar today? Don’t even get me started.

Here’s Motherboard’s super simple guide to building your first gaming PC:

  • Step 1: Have an unreasonable amount of disposable income.
  • Step 2: Have an unreasonable amount of time to research, shop around, and assemble parts for your computer.
  • Step 3: Get used to the idea that this is something you’re going to have to keep investing time and money in as long as you want to stay at the cutting edge or recommended specifications range for new PC games.

This is only if you do things wrong. You can build a decent gaming system for under 1000 USD. It all depends on your expectations. If you’re wanting top notch performance, a system that will scream and keep screaming for years to come, then yes, you need a huge amount of disposable income and you need to keep upgrading.

Most people who build a gaming system aren’t going to do that. They want a system that will perform comfortably for several years before they need to worry about upgrading. And for that you don’t need a hellacious amount of money. Again, 1000 USD is a good target, but you can get away with building a decent system for less.

I’d say that the minimum you need to consider spending for a decent gaming system is 750 USD for what goes in the chassis. The introduction of the AMD RX 480 certainly makes this possible while being able to get good performance.

If it sounds like a bad deal, I agree, which is why the majority of people are better off with an Xbox One or PlayStation 4, despite why the awfully self-titled “PC Master Race” might tell you.

It’s called the “PC Master Race” because PCs have almost always had specifications far out-performing any console on the market. If you’re willing to spend the cash, you can build a system that will play any game on the shelf at Ultra HD 4K, with varying levels of frame rates. And for slightly less, you can at least get a system that’ll perform very well at 1440p.

But at the same time, technology is always moving, so you need to decide how well you’re willing to keep up.

And it starts with the processor. Invest in a good processor today and it’ll carry you for at least 5 years, and then all you’re upgrading is the graphics card, perhaps adding memory.

PC hardware companies like Intel and Nvidia are always in the process of introducing new chips while phasing out older ones, and doing enough research to say with authority that I got the right CPU at the right time is a full time job.

There really isn’t a such thing as “the right CPU at the right time”. There’s the CPU you have, and there’s ones that are better. They are always introducing new and better chips simply because that is what the market not only wants, but needs.

Remember what I said earlier about how you don’t need to spend a hellacious amount of money to build a good gaming system? The author of the Motherboard piece apparently never go that memo:

Let’s take for example the manual for my—brace yourself—”ASUS Republic of Gamers Maximus VIII Hero” motherboard. As you can tell by its ridiculous name, this thing is being marketed specifically to people who are building PCs to play games, but there’s no easy-to-find “quick setup guide.”

The ASUS RoG isn’t built for gamers. It’s built for enthusiast gamers. The people who not only build a system for gaming, but also for overclocking, for trying to squeeze every last bit of performance out of their hardware as possible. And it carries a price tag reflecting this.

If you’re not going to delve into the advanced features a motherboard has to offer, save your money and go with something a little lower-end. The RoG mainboards are expensive, and not for the faint-at-heart. And as he discovered with the manual, the board is intended for experienced enthusiast builders, not beginners.

The process of physically building a PC is filled with little frustrations like this, and mistakes can be costly and time consuming. I have big, dumb, sausage fingers, so mounting the motherboard into the case, and screwing in nine (!) tiny screws to keep it in place in a cramped space, in weird angles, where dropping the screwdriver can easily break something expensive—it’s just not what I’d call “consumer-friendly.”

Yes, nine screws. And trust me, I’ve built into tighter spaces than you’ll ever realize. When I said that building PCs today is significantly easier than when I first started, I wasn’t even close to joshing.

Beginning to end, the whole process of building the computer took me almost five hours, and I had to make two emergency calls to PC Gamer’s Fenlon during the process: once when I couldn’t figure out why the case fans weren’t spinning, and again when the computer didn’t recognize an ethernet cable. I was literally bleeding from a cut on my hand by the end of it, which my YouTube guides said was common. I bled for this fucking thing.

And I’ve bled as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cut myself working on the inside of a computer. It’s one of the hazards with working in tight spaces with sharp corners and pins. But 5 hours for building a PC isn’t uncommon. It is a day-long effort, so if you expected to buy parts and sit down and get everything put together in an hour or two, it has never been like that. At least not if you want to do it right.

Also, it seems the people at the forefront of PC gaming and who spend the most money on it are totally fine with the status quo.

No we’re not fine with the status quo. Never have been.

Back when I was first building a system, finding a chassis that allowed for tool-less installation of parts was a godsend. Most good chassis today use thumbscrews for the add-in cards, but you still need a screwdriver for the mainboard screws. And depending on your chassis you may need to install the power supply first and pull the CPU cable before installing the mainboard or it’ll be hell trying to pull it through later — my Zalman Z12 Plus is like that.

18 years ago, modular power supplies didn’t exist. They weren’t even semi-modular. You couldn’t buy custom cable kits to get the exact connectors you needed. And they certainly weren’t sleeved. That’s one way things are much easier.

Cable management is also much, much easier in chassis today. I still have chassis that I bought 10+ years ago, and another chassis my father bought me while I was still in college. You had to get creative with cable management to keep your system from overheating due to lack of airflow since chassis back then also didn’t have room for several 120mm fans. The standard was only 80mm. Compare building a system in those to the latest chassis by Corsair, NZXT, and other makers today and that’ll show you how easy things really are.

The fact that chassis designs are changing constantly with new ideas coming up all the time shows that we’re not fine with the status quo. You just have no idea the current state of affairs and how they compare over the last three decades. Innovation takes time. Be glad you’re not having to hand-solder chips onto PCBs anymore to build your system. My father’s done that.

It’s hard to put all these PC parts together because they’re made by different companies, but there isn’t even pressure from consumers to come up with better, universal standards that will make the whole experience easier.

And this is what I mean by the fact you have no idea the state of affairs.

ATX is a standard. PCI-Express is a standard. PCI is a standard. SATA. USB. M.2. These are all standards. All of the power connectors inside the chassis follow particular standards. All the data cable connectors follow another standard.

Seriously, if a site named “Motherboard” allowed one of its writers to post this ignorant tripe, I’m very concerned about the rest of their content.

However, this also makes PC gaming insular. Accessibility isn’t a priority for the most enthusiastic users, so there’s no reason to make the experience of getting into PC games easier.

Since when? Sure in the early days things were like that, where you were spending two or three grand on a computer. It was exclusive and insular only because it had a large barrier to entry. But it’s a load of crap to say that accessibility isn’t a priority. It absolutely is a priority. Because when building PCs is easier on the end user, everyone wins. Trust me when I say that things have gotten a lot easier over the years as well. You just haven’t seen it because you haven’t been building and upgrading systems for 18 years.

But bear in mind as well that there are only so many ways you can make it easier.

The only reason it’s hard is because of poor design, and the design continues to be poor after all these years because they’re willing to put up with it.

The ATX standard is over 20 years old now. That standard defines numerous things that actually allow you to have choice. The other standards also allow you to have choice.

This isn’t to say that new standards aren’t possible. They absolutely are. AT was the previous mainboard/computer standard. For add-in cards, we’ve had ISA, E-ISA, VESA, PCI, PCI-64, AGP (graphics only), and now PCI-Express.

Here’s something to bear in mind: that the overall design of a computer hasn’t changed much compared to before I was born shows that we’re actually doing something right, and you’re just complaining because building your computer wasn’t what you’d consider easy. Well there are plenty of things that most don’t consider easy. I’d love to have great woodworking skills. Instead what I can do is trade an afternoon’s time building a computer for a woodworker in exchange for him spending an afternoon building me a cabinet or desk.

The design of a computer and the standards involved are with flexibility in mind. Making a design flexible means that some convenience is traded for choice. And personally I’d rather have a lot of choice and some inconvenience than being able to buy a computer with the click of a mouse but having very limited choice in the process — e.g. Apple.

And with a lot of things in life, I think that’s true for most everyone.

Sadly, most players will never make the switch [to PC] because they rightly assume that it’s too much of a headache. I can tell you with some authority, it is.

And that’s why people like me are around, who are willing to build computers for friends and family at no cost. Hell on one of my recent projects, Desert Sapphire, I took a thousand dollar LOSS building that system, and another loss of probably close to 500 USD delivering it to him. But it was worth it because I love building computers.

Seriously was there no one you could call who’d build the system for you and save you the trouble?

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Advice and consent and…. rape?

I wish I was making this up…

Over on Facebook a group called Americans Against the Republican Party posted this image:

13620902_1223157781039418_2178108383391420741_n

And this is the comment I left:

With regard to nominations, the Senate is under no obligation to confirm any nominee, nor are they under any obligation to even grant a hearing.

I really wish Democrats would stop acting like the Senate is there just to rubber-stamp whomever the President nominates for a particular post. In case you’ve missed it, Article II says (emphasis mine) “by and with the ADVICE and CONSENT of the Senate”. Well the Senate, in exercising the “advice” part of that, has told the President that they will not entertain any Supreme Court nomination at this time. And that is entirely within their purview, entirely within their right.

Guess what, if Trump is elected President and the Democrats take over the Senate, the Democrats will have the same power to refuse to entertain any of Trump’s nominees for the Supreme Court. And if that were to happen, I GUARANTEE that not a single Democrat will complain. At the same time, though, I know the Republicans would complain.

It is, however, part of Congress’s job to oversee and investigate the actions of the Executive Branch, given that it is Congress who grants the Executive Branch any authority at all, so they have an implicit obligation to ensure that authority is not being abused.

Again, I wish I was making this up. A person named Steve Brown replied:

Actually, according to Article II, by the Senate not holding hearings, or a vote implies consent of the nominee.

There was really only one way to respond to this, unfortunately:

Actually, no it isn’t. Under no interpretation would silence imply consent. Seriously, from what dark corner of your posterior did you come up with that asinine conclusion?

I mean, for fuck’s sake, do I have to explain *rape* to you in order for you to see how fucking stupid of a statement that is?

And the screen capture of it in case he decides to remove his comment:

conversation

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And this is why gun rights activists don’t like the media

Seriously, CBS?

Due to this [“curio or relic”] status, which the SKS shares with many other models of Berettas, Colts, Remingtons, Rugers and other firearms that are at least 50 years old, gun dealers said that in some states and jurisdictions the Soviet-era rifle can be purchased online and delivered to your door without securing a permit.

To purchase the SKS online and other firearms that are at least 50 years old (excluding Title II firearms) and have it sent directly to you, you must have a Federal Firearms License. Specifically, you need a Type 3 Federal Firearms License, also called a “Curio & Relic” license, or C&R license for short, which is available to civilians instead of gun sellers.

Note: Firearms classified under Title II of the National Firearms Act of 1968 cannot be obtained with a Type 3 FFL regardless of age. Such transfers must still go through a Type 1 FFL Class III SOT dealer and follow the procedure defined by the ATF.

Obtaining a C&R license requires going through the ATF application process with a 30 USD fee that includes an FBI background check and approval by the local law enforcement authority (county sheriff or local police chief, whichever has immediate jurisdiction over you). Once that comes back as clean, the license you receive is valid for up to three years and must be renewed to continue to receive its privileges. If it expires you have to go through the application process again. Note that a person with an expired Type 3 FFL is not required to surrender any firearms obtained by that FFL when the license expires.

And one other note: your Federal Firearms License is public record. As of June 2016, there are 57,990 active Type 3 FFLs, and 56,580 Type 1 FFLs (licenses needed to be in the business of selling firearms). You can find the names and addresses for everyone who has ever been issued an FFL from January 2013 onward through the ATF website.

And if you purchase a firearm using your Type 3 FFL, you must present the FFL to the seller. If you buy it online, this means you need to send a copy of the FFL to the seller. If you’re buying it in a store face-to-face, for example you’re buying an M1911 issued during WWII in a store outside your home State, you must have the FFL with you to present when you acquire the firearm.

So it’s not “delivered to your door without securing a permit”. The FFL is the permit. A common civilian without the Type 3 FFL cannot order a Mosin Nagant online and have it delivered to their door. The FFL is required to allow that to happen.

Numerous people have pointed this out to CBS in the comments to the above-linked article. I’m not holding my breath on them posting a correction or retraction.

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Trickle-down economics, or why you have a computer or smartphone

Many on the left do not understand how “trickle-down economics” works. The more accurate name is “supply-side” economics. Colloquially it’s been called Reaganomics, though Reagan was hardly its first advocate.

To understand supply-side economics, you need to first understand how markets work, specifically the law of supply and demand. Just by that name, it should be quite apparent how supply-side economics is supposed to work. But largely we end up with misrepresentations such as this:

Trickle down economics do not work. Otherwise, all the wealth would not be hoarded by the top 1 percent. You’re welcome.

My reply to seeing this was pretty straightforward:

Welcome for what? Clearly by that statement you don’t know how to define wealth.

If you’re defining wealth only in terms of cash, then no, trickle-down economics won’t work. But it was never about cash. It’s about investments and wealth as defined in terms other than cash. And if you define wealth properly, trickle-down economics has worked.

You’re sitting in front of proof of that.

The rich aren’t hoarding cash. That’s the biggest fallacy a lot of people have about them. The net wealth of the wealthiest people in the world isn’t cash. Sure they do have a lot of cash in the bank. But Bill Gates isn’t sitting on $50+ Billion in cash.

But I don’t have time to explain the intricacies of economics and supply-side (aka “trickle-down”) economics and how it has worked. Again you’re sitting in front of proof of how it has worked and does work.

You’re welcome.

The law of supply and demand, in short, presupposes that items and services that are traded have both a supply — someone to provide the item or service — and demand — someone willing and able to buy said item or service. Suppliers have two options in the market: either chase existing demands and needs, or create something that will, hopefully, create its own demand.

A clear example of this is the iPhone. Until the iPhone hit the market, there really wasn’t much demand for smart phones outside the business and enterprise sector. The phones that did exist were “smart enough”. And most of what was offered with regard to smart phones was tailored largely for that market. Until Apple started developing the iPhone. What made the iPhone unique is the market it targeted: the common customer. It wasn’t aimed at enterprise.

When you chase after existing demands and/or needs, that is demand-side economics. The pharmaceutical companies are a clear example of this: they can only ever chase after demand (the need to treat and prevent diseases and disorders) and can never operate on the supply-side of the curve. This is one reason new drugs and treatments are so expensive at introduction: prices can only come down as supply goes up to meet demand. Until then, many will be priced out of the market for that drug, but it requires others buying those drugs to help bring prices down — it’s a rather interesting paradox of market economics.

But when you innovate with the attempt to create new products and/or services that did not previously exist, that is supply-side economics: providing supply to generate demand, as opposed to trying to provide supply for existing demand.

Much of how supply-side economics works, however, is through investment. Again, as I said above, it is never about cash. And the world’s richest aren’t sitting on billions of dollars in cash, but billions of dollars in securities representing investments in companies.

Investment is where supply-side economics happens. And most of modern life in the first world is testimony to not only how it works, but that it works. And works quite well.

But let’s tackle the wealth of the rich, and why the rich seem to only get richer. It’s simply about accounting. When a person invests their money, they are, in short, trading asset for asset when buying securities. The investment does not change the investor’s net wealth unless the value of the investment (the stocks or bonds received when the investment was made) goes down on the trading markets.

For example if you buy 1000 USD worth of stocks in Microsoft, your net worth hasn’t changed. Only the amount of cash you have changed. So if your net worth (defined as all assets less all liabilities) is 100,00 USD before buying the stock, it will still be 100,000 USD after buying the stock. But the value of the stock can change, and any changes in that stock will change your net worth.

This is why it appears the rich are getting richer. It’s all in how you define wealth. But, again, they’re not sitting on cash. Sure they have a lot of cash in the bank, and fractional reserve banking gives everyone else access to that money, but it’s a minority of their net wealth which includes real estate, ownership stakes in companies and initiatives, and securities.

So let’s go back to Apple a moment. If a rich person invests 1 Million USD in Apple to help them bring about a new product, and Apple’s stock goes up as a result, that investor’s net worth went up. That stock entitles the investor to dividends, which gives a cash return on their investment along with any change in value.

But until the investor sells the stocks, the investor is out 1 Million USD in cash. The dividends aren’t going to make that up for years. So are the rich “hoarding” wealth? Nope.

Instead their money is invested in many ways. They buy all kinds of securities, giving that cash over to companies to put to use. They put their cash into banks, thereby providing liquidity for fractional reserve banking to work. The money you were loaned to buy a house or car, and the money the builders and auto makers were loaned to build the houses and cars, is thanks to the rich making various investments in numerous different directions.

And those investments have “trickled down” to much of the middle and lower class in many ways. It’s merely the fact it hasn’t been purely in cash that has the left in an uproar.

Decades ago, even the Looney Tunes explained very succinctly — TWICE — how supply-side (“trickle-down”) economics works:

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