Ronco Is Going Public. Stay Away From This One.

We intend to use the net proceeds for the following purposes in the following order: (a) first towards credit card fees of up to approximately $600,000 (2% of the gross proceeds from the Offering);

Ronco is going public.  Before I get into the details, I have to issue this warning: this article is for entertainment purposes only. After scanning the prospectus, I honestly cannot recommend this stock. Most of the proceeds will go to paying off debt. One interesting item in the “Use of Proceeds” (p. 29 of the Preliminary Offering Circular) is this →

If you insist on looking further, visit the INVEST page on the company’s website. Download the Preliminary Offering Circular and spent a quality hour reading it in detail. Then do a search on “William M. Moore.” When you get to the multiple signature pages at the end, go back to the top. This time search for “Moore.” You’ll see an interesting difference in the search result on the (unnumbered) third page of the document.  For some reason the company doesn’t want to make it easy for you to find this information.

The Ronco IPO

Ronco is going public with an IPO of 5 million shares. Actually, this is a “Tier 2 Offering” under Regulation A+. The offering price is $6 per share with a minimum “investment” of 20 shares ($120 for the math challenged). This offering is aimed squarely at Ronco’s target demographic for retail sales. If you need another reason to avoid this offering, there’s the fact that the current CEO, William M. Moore, declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy. That bankruptcy was discharged in November, 2007. And, even if the IPO is 100 percent subscribed, Mr. Moore will still control 96.67 percent of the voting power.

Ronco Innovations Ronco Is Going Public. Stay Away From This One.

Ronco Innovations (click for larger image)

Ronco is, of course, the company famous for late-night TV commercials and off-the-wall products. Remember Ron Popeil at midnight on your TV? “But wait – there’s more!” Ronco also invented the infomercial. Anyone who was around in the 1960s and 70s must have encountered Mr. Popeil at least once.

But Wait – There’s More!

Consistent with Ronco’s long history, investors may receive additional gifts depending on how much they lay out. The table below shows the full list of prizes and how much you’ll have to pay for them. Personally, I recommend the $10,000 level which gets you a one-time 20 percent discount at, a free Ronco Rotisserie and a free Ronco Ready Grill with accessories. Oh, wait, I actually recommend an investment of $0.00. Never mind.

Ronco IPO gifts Ronco Is Going Public. Stay Away From This One.

Ronco IPO gifts (click for larger image)

Ron Popeil

Ron PopeilFrom the company’s website:

Ronco was founded by Ron Popeil in 1964, and commercials for the company’s products quickly made Ronco a household name. The names “Ronco” and “Popeil” and the suffix “-O-Matic” (used in many early product names) became icons of American pop culture and were often referred to by comedians introducing fictional gadgets. Popeil became known as the “father of the infomercial” and coined the phrase “Set it and forget it!”

Ron is a native of Chicago and has become a legend in the Windy City. Fifty years and 2 billion dollars later, Ron has walked down Chicago’s Maxwell Street reminiscing over where it all began. After a troubled youth, being shuffled from foster home to foster home, Ron remembers a turning point in his life. “Maxwell Street was a Chicago tourist attraction as well as a place to sell all sorts of goods. The first time I went there, the proverbial light bulb went on in my head. I saw all these people selling products, making sales, pocketing money, and my mind went racing. I can do what they’re doing, I thought, but I think I can do it better” said Popeil.

And “did it” he has. The self-made millionaire is the consummate American entrepreneurial success story. Ron “Ronco” Popeil is no doubt one of America’s most unique inventors. Over the past fifty years, his products have pulled in more than $2 billion in sales. Today Popeil is still going strong, even after selling Ronco in 2004. The iconic Ronco brand and its innovative products continue under the ownership of Austin-based Ronco Holdings, Inc. Ron resides in California where he continues to invent and enjoys spending time with his family!

Even Mr. Popeil is probably embarassed by what’s happened to his former company.  Oh, wait — he’s a billionaire.  Never mind.

Thanks Anyway, Petco, I’ll Pass On This Offer

My lovely wife was browsing the ads that arrived with our daily newspaper.  While studying an insert from Petco she found two offers for BLUE Wilderness dog and cat food. Here are the ads.  (Click for a larger image):

Cat Food Dog Food


In case you don’t see it, here are closeups. (Again, click for a larger image):

Cat Food Zoom Dog Food Zoom


As if our cat doesn’t scare us enough already.  Thanks anyway, Petco, I’ll pass on this offer

Oakland Public Library Fights Fake News by Giving Customers Access to Major Fake News Site

The Oakland Public Library announced today that they were taking a major step to fight the spread of fake news. They will give all their patrons free online access to the New York Times. To fight fake news they are giving their patrons access to a major source of fake news. Irony is now truly dead.

This from NBC News Bay Area:

With fake news grabbing international headlines, the librarians in Oakland, Calif. want to put a kabash [sic] on the lies.

So they recently negotiated a deal with the New York Times to offer library patrons at 18 of its libraries free, unlimited access to the paper of record, according to Main Library Supervisor Mana Tominaga. The program launched in late November, a couple weeks after Donald Trump was elected president and Buzzfeed, the New York Times, the Washington Post and others began reporting that fake news websites might have swayed voters.

Now, under this new scenario, patrons have full access to the Times, and can search to their hearts’ delight and read whatever they want for free. In addition the libraries have limited numbers of 72-hour passes that can be used outside of the library.

Oakland libraries negotiated a deal that will cost $5,000 a year out of an annual operating budget of $26 million – about $1.8 million of which is spent on books, videos and other materials, public records show.

And, with the competence we’ve come to expect of local public institutions, it turns out you don’t even have to own an Oakland Library card. Go to and search for “New York Times.” You’ll see this:Oakland Library Search Results

Click the link noted and, presto, you get the full New York Times. No need to log in or even have any city or county library card!

But you better be quick. I predict the Times will shut down access in a hurry once they read this.

Donald Trump and the Mexican Peso

One of the more entertaining aspects of this year’s presidential campaign has been the relationship between Donald Trump’s poll ratings and the exchange rate between the Mexican peso and the U.S. dollar. The model is straightforward. Mr. Trump doesn’t like Mexico or Mexicans. As his chances of being elected rise and fall, the Mexican peso depreciates and appreciates vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar. The null hypothesis is that there is no relationship between Mr. Trump’s polling statistics and the exchange rate. Until now, the evidence has been mostly anecdotal. This work is an effort to test this hypothesis as well as determining the overall impact (if any) of polling results on the exchange rate.  This is a brief study of Donald Trump and the Mexican peso.

The polling data was the daily Real Clear Politics (RCP) average of various presidential polls. (This data was extracted using the Real Clear Politics Data Extraction Tool from my firm, Tony Lima Associates.) The data begins on July 1, 2015 and runs through October 5, 2015. I was only able to use data through September 30 because that was the end point of the exchange rate data. I had 458 observations from RCP. I used the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’s FRED data tool for Microsoft Excel™ to obtain data for the peso-dollar exchange rate. Said data is not available for U.S. holidays and weekends. Therefore I had 316 values for the exchange rate. (Despite the disclaimer in the footnote on the FRED plugin page, I have used the plugin with Excel for OS X for quite a few years.  It still works.)

As always, my data and methods are transparent.  Click here to download an Excel workbook with the data and model.  (I used SPSS to do the actual statistical work.  The SPSS files are available on request.

A simple Pearson correlation between the two variables yielded a value of 0.377 and was significant on the order of 10-12. This is important because it indicates an increase in Mr. Trump’s poll ratings is positively related to the peso-dollar exchange rate. (The exchange rate is measured as pesos per U.S. dollar. An increase in this exchange rate means it takes more pesos to buy one dollar. Therefore a higher exchange rate means the peso has depreciated vis-à-vis the dollar.)

correlations Politics and the Mexican Peso

(click for larger image)

A quick-and-dirty linear regression of the exchange rate on Mr. Trump’s poll ratings had a coefficient of 0.144. That means for every percentage point increase in Mr. Trump’s polling, the exchange rate depreciates by 0.144 pesos per dollar. The t-statistic of that coefficient was 7.207, well above the five percent significance threshold. Not surprisingly, the adjusted R-squared was 0.139, meaning there is quite a lot of variance in the exchange rate that is not explained by this model. And that is not surprising given the myriad economic factors that affect the exchange rate. For what it’s worth, the elasticity of the exchange rate with respect to Mr. Trump’s polling numbers is +0.06. (This elasticity is calculated at the mean of each variable. Only observations with data on both variables were included.)

Regression Coefficients Politics and the Mexican Peso

Regression Coefficients (click for larger image)

Regression R-squared Politics and the Mexican Peso

Regression R-squared (click for larger image)

However, the null hypothesis that there is no relationship between Mr. Trump’s polling and the Mexican peso exchange rate is rejected. As a footnote, ten different nonlinear models were estimated. While a few fit the data a bit better, none was good enough to report. Anyone interested in the data is welcome to contact me.

A Fun Brexit Meme

The EU Without the UK Andrea Widburg on Brexit

Tip: If you want to stay at the Omni, make your reservation through  For some reason their site gives consistently better rates than the hotel itself.

I met Andrea at James Taranto’s talk in San Francisco June 24. The event was held at the Omni Hotel in San Francisco and sponsored by the Pacific Research Institute. James was kind enough to invite several of us to continue the conversation in the hotel bar afterwards.  The group included my lovely wife, Andrea Widburg, and several staff members of the Pacific Research Institute.  Special thanks to Laura Dannerbeck and Rowena Itchon for their kind hospitality. And I was pointed to this fun Brexit meme.

Andrea and I had an amicable conversation about wine, guns, and the virtues of free markets. She is a passionate second amendment supporter.

She suggested I take a look at this blog: The Among the many entertaining articles, there was an open thread. The first few memes were about the Brexit vote. A good example is the featured image at the top of this article.

Who Is James Taranto?

For anyone unfamiliar with James Taranto, he is a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, edits Peggy Noonan’s weekly column, and writes the daily Best of the Web Today column.  I am a regular contributor.  During our chat he revealed that I send him more e-mail than anyone else.  Therefore, I claim this title:

James Taranto With Your Humble Correspondent Andrea Widburg on Brexit

James Taranto With Your Humble Correspondent


How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?

The King

The King

Governments are often chastised for lacking humor.  While searching the U.S. Copyright Office website today I ran across this.  A pretty darn good exception.

How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?
Copyright law does not protect sightings. However, copyright law will protect your photo (or other depiction) of your sighting of Elvis. File your claim to copyright online by means of the electronic Copyright Office (eCO). Pay the fee online and attach a copy of your photo. For more information on registering a copyright, see SL-35. No one can lawfully use your photo of your sighting, although someone else may file his own photo of his sighting. Copyright law protects the original photograph, not the subject of the photograph.

The Alpaca Bubble Has Burst

The alpaca bubble has burst

Alpaca (click for larger image)

A news item on NPR’s Morning Edition caught my attention. Apparently the alpaca bubble has burst. Alpacas are, of course, one of the two animals most often mistaken for llamas. (The other is the ostrich.)

According to NPR, at one point alpacas were selling for “tens of thousands of dollars” per animal. A recent ad on craigslist offered 30 of them for $3,000. Now that’s a bubble! Puts the housing bubble to shame.

This, of course, brings to mind the first documented bubble: the Dutch tulip bubble in 1630.  Wikipedia notes dryly that, “The lack of consistently recorded price data from the 1630s makes the extent of the tulip mania difficult to estimate.”  Wikipedia is also the source for this graph showing tulip prices during the bubble.

A standardized price index for tulip bulb contracts, created by Earl Thompson. [1] Thompson had no price data between February 9 and May 1, thus the shape of the decline is unknown. The tulip market is known, however, to have collapsed abruptly in February.

Tulip Prices

Tulip Prices (click for larger image)

Comparing the two bubbles, alpaca prices declined to 0.01 of the peak price.  Tulips declined to 0.05 of the peak price (approximately).  If any of these numbers can be believed, the alpaca bubbles was the real thing.

[1] Thompson, Earl (2007), “The tulipmania: Fact or artifact?” (PDF), Public Choice 130 (1–2): 99–114, doi:10.1007/s11127-006-9074-4

Mountain View in the News

Possibly entertaining events in Mountain View.

1. The manhunt for Richard Matt and David Sweat has focused on a cabin in Mountain View, NY.

Mountain View, NY Mountain View in the News

Mountain View, NY (click image for larger version)

CADYVILLE – State police confirmed today that they matched DNA in items found in a Mountain View cabin to inmates who escaped from a nearly prison more than two weeks ago.

Maj. Charles Guess, commander of the state police Troop B, said this gives authorities reason to believe the convicted murderers were in that part of Franklin County as recently as Saturday and likely are still. An intense search continues there today for Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 35, who cut their way out of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora and were discovered missing on the morning of June 6.


2. Mountain View teacher charged in sex scandal. This is Mountain View High School in Kingsley, PA.

Mountain View High School is in Kingsley, PA Mountain View in the News

Mountain View High School is in Kingsley, PA

KINGSLEY — A teacher in Susquehanna County is facing sex charges for improper contact with a student.

Megan Clough, 29, of Susquehanna was arraigned Friday on one count of institutional sexual assault. Investigators said Clough, a teacher at Mountain View High School, had sex with a male student.

3. Varsity Park burglary suspect sought in Mountain View, CA

Mountain View Burglary Suspect

Mountain View Burglary Suspect

From the Mountain View Police Department:

On Friday, June 19, at around 9:13 p.m., an unknown suspect forcibly entered a home on the 1100 block of Sladky Avenue. The suspect (pictured here) stole both U.S. and foreign currency along with a camera.

He is described as a light-skinned male in his 20s between 5’8″ and 6’0″ weighing from 180 to 220 pounds.

If you have any information about this individual, please contact Detective Andrew Wong at 650-903-6344 and refer to case number 15-3381.

4. Buffalo (NY) city council votes to vacate an alleyway in the Mountain View Addition.

The Buffalo City Council, at their last meeting, approved on third and final reading an Ordinance vacating an an alleyway in the Mountain View Addition to the city.

City Attorney Ben Kirven, at a previous city council meeting, explained that the alley was of no interest or use to the city.


5. Mountain View BBQ of Columbus, NC finished second in the “Anything but” category at the Blue Ridge BBQ & Music Festival.

The “Anything But” contest is for main dish creations. Its name derives from the requirement that the dishes submitted cannot include meat from any of the four categories required for Saturday’s judging – chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder, or beef brisket.

Local restaurateur Shane Blackwell, owner of Mountain View BBQ & Deli in Columbus, has long been a participant in the BBQ Festival both as a competitor and also as one of the BBQ Vendors—that small group of about six cook teams that also sell to the public. This year, Shane and Mountain View BBQ team member Marshall Watkins were proud to have finished in second place in the “Anything But” contest with their entry of a bacon-wrapped filet with a sweet corn and crab salsa.

6. And, of course, Mountain View, CA is the global headquarters for Google (among others).

Spam Ultimate Fail

On Thursday, February 26, 2015 I got a spam e-mail. The subject line was “My First Client.” “Swell,” I thought, “real estate, hookers, who knows.” I was about to delete it when I saw the highlighted sentence below.

Spam Ultimate Fail

(click for larger image)

Now I’ve known many strong, brave women including my lovely wife. Several (including my wife) qualify as heroines. But a heroine addiction? Does the DSM include that malady?

Not that I’m waiting for an answer. I deleted the message. Spam ultimate fail.

The Economist Made Me an Offer I Can’t Understand

Tucked inside this morning’s Wall Street Journal was an offer for a very deep discount on a subscription to The Economist.  Unfortunately, The Economist made me an offer I couldn’t understand.  Here’s the flyer (with my annotations):

The Economist subscription offer

(click image for a larger version)


The information in the top right corner seems to say my discounted subscription rate is $15 for 12 weeks (about $5 per month). That’s quite a deal compared to the regular price of $334.97. (Aside: does The Economist really charge over $1,000 for a one-year subscription? Sounds high to me.)

However, the fine print in the lower right panel says $15 per month.  That’s about $45 for 12 weeks, a far cry from $15.

Here are my guesses.  First, the initial $15 buys 12 weeks.  After that the price is $15 per month.  The $334.97 for 12 weeks is the total of all the items in the list (including $108 for “The Economist in Audio,” are they kidding?).  And do they really charge $83.88 for 12-week access to their content via mobile apps?  Seems to me it would be cheaper just to use the mobile browser and access for “only” $23.29.

But what’s really amazing is that this “deal” isn’t a deal.  Here are the regular subscription rates:

The Economist's regular rates

(click image for a larger version)

Let’s see.  $1.25 per week for 12 weeks is exactly $15!  In other words you can get the same rate through The Economist website as their “special offer.”  But the website is even better because you can get an annual subscription for $160, about $3.08 per week or $12.31 for four weeks. And if you’re a student, that one-year subscription is a mere $96.  Register for a class at a local cheap community college and save $64!

The best I can say about this is that the pricing is confusing and appears irrational. If The Economist really wants my business, they’ll have to make me an offer I can understand.