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In the search for unvarnished truth, sometimes you have to look to unconventional sources. My personal favorite cutter of financial flim flam is the historical price of a Big Mac in the United States. Two all-beef patties on a sesame seed bun are a much more constant measure of value than the US dollar. Considering the USD has lost 98 percent of its purchasing power in the past 100 years, and the Big Mac is one of the most constant and unchanging products on earth, I'd say we have a winner, certainly between the two.

I've analyzed the stock market using cheeseburger prices before, as the market crossed the 14000 mark, breaking the 2007 record, and to disappointing results. Now that the market is reaching new highs in the 18000 region, I thought I'd try it again and see if the stock market had finally made a positive return.

So, since 1999, how has the stock market been doing in terms of largely inedible hamburgers? Well, on January 14, 2000, the purchasing power of the Dow reached its zenith at 4668 Big Macs. On March 9, 2009, the Dow only purchased 1833 of the famed double cheeseburgers. 

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And today, as the Dow reaches fabulous numerical heights in terms of dollars, its hamburger purchasing power is still only at 3708 sandwiches, which is just under December 1998 valuations. Not the best return. 

This is why buying and holding, or diversifying across a broad swath of stocks isn't a formula for big returns. In fact, it might not be a formula for any real returns at all. Yes, numerically you will end up with more dollars buying and holding than if you had stuffed money in your mattress. However, in terms of actually building wealth, hoary old investment strategies don't stack up as so often advertised.

If you bought at the bottom in 2009, and sold today, you would have doubled your real purchasing power, which is obviously great. If you were in at any of the previous peaks in 2000 or 2007, you would have lost money or stayed even. 

This highlights the importance of buying assets specifically, with a plan and purpose. If you just buy everything all the time, and spread yourself out all over the market without rhyme or reason, history shows that the stock market at large stays pretty darn flat in terms of real purchasing power. If you look for deals, and don't just buy to buy, you have a shot at making real returns.

Furthermore, there is a world outside the stock market, and the returns out there are frequently better. For instance, Mosin-Nagant rifles are up 300 percent over the past 5 years, and they are surprisingly liquid. Renting out equipment can have a 100% annual return on investment. Even renting out sections of chain link fence can make a person very rich. 

There are an infinite number of investment strategies, but remember, since everyone can't get rich you can't do what everyone else is doing.

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Shades of Thomas Paine is about the unbiased search for truth, typically truth regarding the lies spread by the powerful for their own benefit, but occasionally truth regarding dogs or brownies. 

Pit bulls have become a flashpoint of debate, with supporters saying pit bulls are as gentle as a beagle and detractors saying any pit bull can and will snap at any time. As the author of SOTP, I wanted to know the truth. Not opinion, but fact.

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I found a treasure trove of information at dogsbite.org, in an exhaustive study of dog attack fatalities from 1982 to 2014. It separated the dog attack fatalities by breed, and in an enormously valuable decision, also noted what fraction of the total dog population each breed represented for many of the dogs. This data is admittedly incomplete, since not all dogs that had killed people had population data as well, the most notable of which was the wolf hybrid which would probably place very highly on the list below if it were actually a domestic dog.

Total deaths doesn't tell me enough to know how likely an individual dog is to attack based on its breed. So, I divided the total deaths by the popularity of the dog. To make the method clear, imagine beagles made up 50% of the dog population and the fictional Uzbek Death Hound made up .001% of the population. Also imagine that beagles killed two people in the study and the Uzbek Death Hound also killed two. 2 divided by 0.5 gives the beagle a Kill Factor of 4. The Uzbek Death Hound gets a Kill Factor of 200,000. This means if you were near an Uzbek Death Hound you would be 50,000 times more likely to be killed than if you were near a beagle, but at the same time, you are 50,000 times more likely to run across a beagle. Your likelihood of being killed by either dog at random is actually the same, since they ended up killing the same number of people, but the Kill Factor gives you helpful information as to how dangerous any individual dog is likely to be.

I did this operation for all the available data, and the results were somewhat surprising.

  1. Bullmastiff- Kill Factor 90,000
  2. Chow Chow- Kill Factor 80,000
  3. Akita - Kill Factor 11,428
  4. Airedale - Kill Factor 10,000
  5. Malamute - Kill Factor 7500
  6. Catahoula/Coonhound - Kill Factor 5000
  7. Pitbull - Kill Factor 4409
  8. Italian Mastiff - Kill Factor 4000
  9. Rottweiler - Kill Factor 3079
  10. Husky - Kill Factor 2500

The Coonhounds/Catahoula and the Airedale Terrier each killed only two individuals in the past 30 years but are also extremely rare, so they appear somewhat anomalously on this list. I decided to see who was the most dangerous with more than 2 fatalities since it was too easy to top the list simply by being rare and having a single instance of a fatal attack. This is the gently massaged data, removing breeds with one and two-off fatalities.

  1. Bullmastiff - Kill Factor 90,000
  2. Chow Chow - Kill Factor 80,000
  3. Akita - Kill Factor 11,428
  4. Malamute - Kill Factor 7500
  5. Pitbull - Kill Factor 4409
  6. Rottweiler - Kill Factor 3079
  7. Husky - Kill Factor 2500
  8. Boxer - Kill Factor 560
  9. Doberman - Kill Factor 470
  10. Mastiff - Kill Factor 434
  11. German Shepherd - Kill Factor 403
  12. Great Dane - Kill Factor 277
  13. Labrador - Kill Factor 121
  14. Golden Retriever - Kill Factor 97

I was very surprised to see the Bullmastiff at the #1 spot, over 20 times deadlier than the notorious pit bull. I was also surprised to see the Akitas, Malamutes and Huskies, all sled dogs, at the #3, 4 and 7 spots. The Chow was unsurprising, as they are very rare, and all of the Chows I have heard of have also attacked someone at some point. By the #6 spot, the Boxer only has a kill factor of 560, a little over one half of one percent of the kill factor of the Bullmastiff, and only five times deadlier than the Golden Retriever (a dog rarely purchased for its intimidation factor).

If I were to write my own list, it would look like this:

  1. Bullmastiff
  2. Chow
  3. Sled Dogs (Akitas, Malamutes, Huskies)
  4. Pit Bulls
  5. Rottweilers

Past Rottweilers, dog danger drops dramatically. 

In conclusion, Bullmastiffs and Chows are preposterously dangerous, and are far and away the most dangerous dogs commonly owned, with the Chow over seven times as dangerous as the next most dangerous dogs on the list.

 

 

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In 1915, the mainstream view of black Americans was about as poor as it ever was. The KKK was wildly popular, and millions of publicly respected men joined up. And, around this time, courageous men and women set about to change the culture. Over the next 50 years it became harder and harder to say blatantly racist things in public, and this change came at tremendous cost to the changers. Some were killed. Some were beaten, others were jailed.

Likewise, gay rights blossomed in this country somewhat later. Immensely courageous men risked death to be "out". 

Lately though, my generation of 20-40 year olds, steeped in a culture of tolerance, seems to be subscribing to the same dangerous type of cultural facism that Strom Thurmond and George Wallace indulged in in the 1940's and 1950's. Unpopular opinions are to be stifled, those that hold them are to be personally attacked and destroyed, and only the cultural orthodoxy may remain.

Whenever anyone calls something "dangerous" it is essential to answer the question, "dangerous to whom?". Often politicians will call something "dangerous" when it is only dangerous to their political success, and it would be generally beneficial to everyone else. Not so with stifling unpopular opinion. This kind of cultural facism is a dangerous weapon to both the victim and those that wield it. Opinions change, cultures shift, and an entire generation found itself on the wrong side of a cultural divide after the Civil Rights Movement. There is no reason the young people gleefully performing character assassinations today won't be the victim of the same tactics a few years down the road.

Creating a vicious monoculture is a great way to get ground up and spat out yourself. For this reason it is in everyone's best interest to make sure the holders of unpopular opinions are safe from having their lives destroyed by an angry mob.

Unfortunately, the legacy of truly courageous souls like Martin Luther King is being bastardized and misused to enforce cultural conformity at the expense of, ironically, other people's freedoms. Believing themselves to be latter day civil rights warriors, they have more in common with the people on the other ends of the fire hoses and dog leashes than they do with the courageous people marching on Montgomery. It requires no courage whatsoever in the popular press to support any kind of historically oppressed minority; the song of tolerance has no cost anymore.

And so, we see the unfortunate spectacle of a single fundamentalist Christian bakery in Oregon standing against the wind of millions of furious cultural warriors. Death is wished upon them publicly, people argue for laws to prevent them from expressing their unpopular views, many argue to shut them down forcibly, and civil suits were eagerly taken up by courts. Ultimately, they had to shut down. And, all the while, the modern-day Bull Connors blast anyone that might support this tiny minority of two bakers, patting themselves on the back for establishing their brand of tolerance.

So what's the litmus test? How do you know who's being abusive, and who is being oppressed? The immediate answer is to look at whose opinion in less popular. Who would face retribution from the cultural orthodoxy for expressing their opinion? If bashing gays requires no courage, the gays need protection from the angry mob. If bashing gay-bashers requires no courage, then it is the gay bashers who need protection.

Replacing one rigid, violent cultural orthodoxy with another is not progress, although the cultural facists would like to believe that it is. It is the worst kind of irony to become the monster one claims to be fighting, and the primitive witch-hunts we see today where individuals are attacked in the name of tolerance tell us that this nightmare has already come to pass. Of course, the cure is simple; live and let live, in the name of liberty and tolerance. Even the racists.

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You may have heard about the world's central banks' War on Cash. The War on Cash is the promotion of a system of exclusively electronic transfers where paper money or coins not even exist. The central bank could increase or reduce people's bank balances as they see fit, central governments could tax transactions as they occur, and illegal activities (that aren't state approved) could be prevented. Furthermore, in an all-electronic system, enemies of the state could theoretically be frozen out of the entire world economy.

Fortunately for humankind, the War on Cash is a pipe dream, like the War on Drugs, the War on Terror, or any other war on a concept. Physical money cannot be killed, and just like drug cartels or terrorist groups, trying to kill cash will only make it stronger. The world's black market, it turns out, is larger than the economy of all but the richest few countries, and all those flying the black market's pirate flag will need a means of exchange. Whatever this currency ends up being, it will not be controlled by government employees, and it will likely resemble ancient means of exchange: precious metal coins.

Up until now, the US dollar was the most easily exchanged currency by criminals since it was almost universally known and circulated and could be moved electronically or physically. ATMs spat it out at the touch of a button. However, if central banks go to a total command and control model of electronic currency, the black market will have to find something besides government issued scrip. 

If the US black market, estimated at around $600 billion annually, had a velocity of money of around 3 (each dollar gets spent three times a year), it would need around 6000 tons of gold in circulation at present-day prices. The huge volume of circulating hard money would soon extend beyond classic black market activities since prostitutes and drug smugglers would inevitably use their money to buy a TV on Craigslist or pay their landscaper. Eventually, the black market money would end up everywhere, especially in the informal economy of wedding photographers, Motown cover bands and bartenders.

By forcing a large enough segment of the economy to operate outside of the central bankers' scam, a larger and larger part of the population will participate in the alternative currency. The benefits of hard money are easy to understand in a world with an obviously thieving central bank, and with maybe one in ten workers exclusively deriving their income from a black market source one could easily see a tipping point being reached and the government scrip going into crisis.

In a kind of live-by-the-sword irony, if central bankers overstep their boundaries and try to control every aspect of a person's individual finances, they may discover their power beginning to evaporate. Banks, trying to offer negative interest rates, are discovering just this. Individual depositors are finding the deal offered by the central banks is increasingly raw, and that their savings might just be safer inside a mattress or sock drawer. If government cash is eliminated entirely, an alternative will necessarily appear in wide circulation to handle the black market, and will be accepted by a large enough group of people to pose an existential threat to the purely electronic currencies.

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This single cherry. That's what it would have cost Tanzanian refugee Ahmadou Elsassian to purchase his crippled sister's freedom from Berber slave-traders. Ahmadou walked for seventeen days to Addis-Ababa through scorching desert to purchase his sister's ransom. His body was found by the side of the road, only 400 yards from the Berber camp, starved to death, clutching the above-pictured cherry in his emaciated palm.

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Tu'u Uma was separated from her pod in 2002, and has returned to this spot in the Bering Sea every year to search for her family. Researchers say the 17 year-old orca will refuse to eat for the month following her annual pilgrimage.

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This section of 8th Avenue in Harlem is where 88 year-old Jefferson Sanders' fiancée was struck the day before their wedding in 1951. He comes to this spot weekly to play his trumpet and remember. Sanders never married.

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This watercolor of a bull was the final painting of blind, paralyzed Syrian refugee Rizmi Abramovitz, who suffered from the extremely rare and painful Thompson's Syndrome. Her miraculous ability to paint, although totally blind, astonished the medical community.

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This is the last picture ever taken of a waterfall outside of Portland, Maine that was home to the only known population of Harcourt's snail. The snail had powerful curative compounds in its shell, which was believed by scientists to be the "holy grail" for simultaneously curing all cancer and heart disease. The waterfall, and the snail population, was destroyed forever in 2005 by real-estate developers.

 

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19 year-old Sadasiva Patel invested his last 4500 rupees in a Chinese oil company's stock in 2013. After gaining 9.33%, he would have been able to cover the price of life-saving emergency surgery for his cousin, were it not for a tragic scooter accident that evening. The funds have been tied up in Indian estate court ever since.

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The yellow line on this train platform shows where the Polzynewic concentration camp walls formerly stood. Each day, commuters step over, but not on, the yellow line as a sign of respect.

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