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Gee, am I supposed to be surprised by this?  smiley

Several states have recently implemented laws requiring the collection of sales tax on online purchases. In practice, however, only has been affected. We find that households living in these states reduce Amazon expenditures by 9.5%, implying an elasticity of –1.3. We find the effect to be more pronounced for large purchases, for which we estimate an elasticity of –3.2.

So essentially 10% of Amazon's business disappears where they have to collect sales tax, and large purchases are close to three times as negatively-impacted as smaller items!

Now who has been talking about this is going to be massively material to them as it rolls out nationally?  Uh, yep.


Source: Copyrighted NBER Working Paper Series, #20052

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An interesting case is being heard in the Supreme Court regarding the start-up "Aereo."

For those who are unaware of them they put up thousands of dime-sized antennas that can receive broadcast television stations.  You rent one of the antennas and the electronics necessary to turn the signal it receives into a digital stream that you can watch from anywhere.

Broadcasters and content providers sued them, arguing copyright infringement.

Uh, not so fast Kemosabe which is why this is at the US Supreme Court.

A broadcaster uses public airwaves and in exchange for their license to use a limited and public resource they are required to broadcast using specific standards and methods.  Note that this does not necessarily preclude using encryption; that depends on the specifics of the license.  For example, on HAM Radio bands (I'm a licensed HAM) it is illegal to use any form of code; your transmissions must not only meet certain technical requirements so as to avoid interference with other users on different frequencies but you must also use plain language with the only exception being for commonly-known shorthands (e.g. "CQ", "73", etc.)  On parts of the band where "digital" emissions are permitted you have to use a documented and publicly-known encoding so anyone who cares to can decode and understand your transmission (you can find me, W3KSD, lurking around on PSK31 once in a while; it's an interesting technology.)  But over-the-air encrypted signals are not new; when I was growing up we had a TV station that during the daytime broadcast an open and clear signal but at night it shifted to an encrypted one that required a box to decode and view.  In addition there are a number of other commercial bands for various radio services (think WiFi for just one example) where encryption is perfectly legal.

The problem the broadcasters have is that there is not "copying and redistribution" happening in the traditional sense.  It's legal to use a DVR on an over-the-air signal you receive as well as to use something like a Slingbox to watch the signal somewhere other than at your house; what the broadcasters are effectively trying to argue is that these devices are unlawful!

IMHO they should fail in that argument and thus their complaint against Aereo fails.  If I can do a thing legally then I can by extension pay an agent to assist me in doing the same thing; that's one of the fundamental realities of freedom and commerce whether the broadcasters like it or not.

It will be interesting to see how this case is decided and the logical path taken to that resolution; I'm especially interested in whether the Supremes torture the English language once again in trying to craft a contrived response.

IMHO the decision on this case is simple -- the underlying conduct, that of receiving an unencrypted broadcast in a given market -- is lawful and in fact exactly what was contemplated by both the broadcaster and the terms of their license to use the spectrum they occupy.

The fact that I pay an agent to install an antenna for me (by leasing same) for my singular, exclusive use during a given period of time doesn't change the essence of the underlying and lawful act.

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(CNN) -- The first sign something was off was when the ground crew at Kahului Airport in Maui noticed a boy wandering the tarmac, dazed and confused. The story he told officials was even more incredible.

He's lucky to be alive.  Besides the -50 temperatures there's damn little oxygen at 30,000' and there's no pressurization in the wheel well.

But -- he lived.

The real bottom line, however, is that if he had been a terrorist with a bomb on him the plane would be in pieces, everyone on board would be dead, and we'd be wringing our hands.


So why hasn't it happened since 9/11?

It's really simple and it has nothing to do with "security" or, rather, the lack thereof.

It's this: There simply aren't that many people willing to kill themselves in pursuit of terrorism.

Yes, there are a few.  But not very many.  We know this because security factually sucks; indeed you have a better set of odds of having the contents of your baggage stolen by TSA agents (some 400 have been fired for doing so in the last decade) than being blown up while on a plane.

So what was the TSA really about if it's not security?

That's easy: Keeping the airlines from having to face a jury in civil court in determination of whether their security policies were reasonable post-9/11, exposing them to potential bankruptcy had they been found responsible, in whole or part.

That's all it was really about -- period.  It was simply about not being held to open account for action or inaction just as the banks were not held to account after 2008 by exactly the same sort of government rescue.

In both cases you got, and continue to get bent over the table and screwed.

For all of this you get groped, your bags are riffled and sometimes their contents are stolen, you're treated like a criminal every time you set foot in an airport and we are no more safe today than we were on 9/10.

Why doesn't this change?  Because you won't demand that it does.  You won't demand that this crap stop and airlines be held to account if they screw up just like you didn't insist on the banks being held to account after 2008.

You instead want to and do cheer on the nanny state -- a nanny state that not only factually fails to prevent people from penetrating the so-called "secure" zones around airports but in addition is directly responsible for groping you, rape-scanning you and stealing your stuff.

All of this in fact begins and ends with you.

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The nod of approval is strong with this one folks....

At a Dowling College campus on Long Island’s south shore, a fleet of unused shuttle buses sits in an otherwise empty parking lot. A dormitory is shuttered, as are a cafeteria, bookstore and some classrooms in the main academic building.

“There’s a lot of fear here,” said Steven Fournier, a senior who lived in the now-closed dorm for his first three years. “It’s not the same college I arrived at.”

And what college was that?

What's being discussed here is the deteriorating financial condition of many schools, particularly small, private colleges.  But this is a case of schools (and I include in this group small private secondary schools as well) that have developed swollen heads over the years and become drunk on their own self-assigned importance in the world.

Sorry folks, life doesn't work that way.

All educational resources have some degree of value.  But that value must be measured against objective economic outcomes, and nothing else, from the perspective of the student, and the student alone.

All other means of "measurement" are invalid.  They are nothing more than hubris, expressed as a giant sucking sound aimed at the wallets of students along with their parents and thus doomed to eventual failure.

I've had this discussion with private secondary schools before; objectively viewed there is no way to possibly justify the expense profiles many of them present.  What they are trading on and sell is emotion rather than outcome.  What's worse is that for many of them there is a path forward that works on economics, but taking that path requires finding a way to get rid of the obligations that they had acquired over the years through their arrogance, often found on their balance sheet as debt.

The boards of these institutions typically refuse to have that discussion at all, instead spending their time hiring people who are willing to try to find a "niche" they can serve that comes with the ability to charge whatever they have to pencil in as tuition, fees, room and board in order to make the book balance. 

That approach ultimately fails, however, because they are slicing the pie too thin and thus even if they succeed in their mission they starve to death.

In a time of ever-increasing leverage the worst part of this self-delusion adopted by these institutions is that it appears it can work.  It's even worse when there are financial types on the board, as there usually are, as those people either are or should be fully-aware of the insidious impact that increasing leverage has on balance sheets and the temporary nature of the so-called "successes" that it brings.

But no!  That's not how the game is played!  Instead what you have are institutions that insist that they can find a sustainable path forward predicated on outrageous cost, with some of these schools (whether post-secondary or even secondary schools) arguing for the "sustainability" of $40,000+ annual tuition, fee and expense figures!

To all of those people and institutions: You're nucking futs.

“We haven’t hit bottom yet,” said Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and author of the book, “The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education From Itself.” Students are shopping for a less expensive education as the cost of college has increased and the job market worsened, he said.

“It’s a question of return on investment,” Reynolds said.

That's right -- it's always a question of return on investment.

This is where the educational paradigm has gone in the toilet.  Cost increases of 400-600% compared against minimum wage jobs over the last 30 years have made huge swaths of fields no longer economically defensible when it comes to post-secondary education.  The number of majors for which a positive return on investment is available, when adjusted for the odds of completing on the original matriculation schedule, are dwindling toward zero!

It's even worse if the path to that college includes a private secondary education.  When you add in the discounted cost of that to four years in college, that now being 8 years @ $40,000 each, you simply find that the numbers do not pencil out for virtually everyone irrespective of their intended course of study.

Now I'm sure there will be howls of protest on this article, arguing all sorts of intangibles.  I do not presume to claim that intangibles do not matter, or that they shouldn't matter.  They most-certainly both do matter and should. 

However, the number of people who have the luxury of being able to make such a decision without regard to the economics of the matter are statistically insignificant compared against the population as a whole.  If you wish to try to cater to the 0.1% you are of course free to do so but as larger and larger percentages of both colleges and private secondary schools wind up competing for a tiny percentage of the total population of students you are in essence attempting to eat an ever-smaller piece of pie with more and more people competing to get not the first but rather the last bite.

The solution set to this problem is to make the piece of the pie you can bite off and chew larger, not smaller.  That means finding ways to broaden your appeal and control costs rather than believe your offering is "so special" that it justifies an expense that simply never pencils out.

At the same time those board members who argued for the opposite, or who were complacent and allowed the deterioration of financial condition, especially when debt or long-term obligations were involved (and one or both nearly-always are!) need to be held to account.  Dismissing those board members and potentially even going after them for malfeasance and misfeasance (or worse) literally never happens, but it damn well should.  Instead the insular nature of these boards insures that nobody is ever held to account as these institutions spiral into the ground, desperately looking for a means to claw themselves back up from slipping over the cliff of insolvency.

I weep for some of these institutions because what they offer is, in many cases, unique -- and for many their odds of success have sadly turned deeply negative over the last years.  But I also find anger at the bottom of the well when I examine both the actions and inaction of the Boards of Directors of these institutions.  Anyone fit to sit on these boards damn well ought to be fully aware that their first duty is to the financial stability of the institution and that abuse of leverage as a means of trying to hide a cost ramp that grossly exceeds median income advancement in the population as a whole never works over the long haul.

Denying the facts of arithmetic is an act that, in an educational environment, simply has no excuse.

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Nike is allegedly ditching wearable computing.

Yeah, and?

Look folks -- for those who are kinda serious about their exercise you might buy a GPS-integrated watch that tracks things and interfaces with a computer.  

Or you might buy something else like a "fitbit" or similar.

Then there's "Google Glass" and similar.

But here's the problem, in the main: What I need isn't what you need, and the "mass market" stuff is both intrusive and trashy.

Let me explain.

I have a Garmin GPS watch.  It's great for what it is; it handles my running and bicycling, with modes for each, and a heart-rate strap that I wear for training (but not for races.)  I like it.

But -- it's totally inadequate if you do triathlons because it's both questionable in terms of being waterproof and it doesn't have a swim mode that makes sense.  Oops.

Garmin makes a triathlon-suitable model.  It's $500.  What the hell do I need that for since I don't do triathlons?

Then there's the "fitbit" and similar things.  They're fads.  Oh sure, they'll tell you how many steps you took or whatever.  So what?  How does this enhance your life?  Nevermind that for a GPS watch you can use your phone; it has a GPS in it, you know, and there are apps for that.  Oh, and did I mention that your phone also plays music, right, and you don't want to listen to music while you run, do you?  Oh, you do?  Well gee, why would you buy and wear another gadget when you already have a perfectly-suitable one?

See, this is the problem in the end -- it's the "me me me mine mine more more more more more" Madison Avenue crap, but there's no utility behind it that isn't already done at least as well if not better by what you already own.  

IMHO that means this "category" is ultimately a zero.

Now think Google Glass. Come into my office or house with that **** on and you'll be marching right back out the door.  Really?  You are going to come into my house with a little computer that can be (and might be) surreptitiously videotaping everything going on and tagging everyone there?

I think not.

So where can you use this crap?  In public?  Maybe, maybe no.  On a public street, sure.  But how many bars, restaurants, movie theaters and businesses will let you in the door?  Zero is my guess, and certainly if I'm a patron and I see you with that crap on I'm going to ask management whether they want your money or mine, because one of us is leaving.

You guys betting on this nonsense better be living in Colorado because what you're smoking is illegal pretty much everywhere else.

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