Monday, July 16, 2018

Amazon Exploits Break From USPS - Very Unfair!

An article published on MarketWatch in the latter part of May stated that President Trump personally pressured Postmaster General Megan Brennan to raise the charges Amazon and other firms pay to ship packages. This is a debate America must have! Brennan resisted Trump’s demand pointing out that the rates are set in contracts and that the Amazon relationship was beneficial for the Postal Service and noted that many other companies also partner with the service for deliveries. How Brennan defines "beneficial" and whether the deliveries are profitable are two different animals. Also, even if they are beneficial to the USPS using Brennan's definition we should consider they are coming at a great cost to both brick and mortar stores as well as to other shippers using the system. 

In mid- April President Donald Trump signed an executive order creating a task force to study the United States Postal Service. Trump said that USPS is on "an unsustainable financial path" and "must be restructured to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout." The task force will be assigned to study factors including USPS's pricing in the package delivery market and will have 120 days to submit a report with recommendations. Trump's claim the service could be charging more may not be entirely far-fetched. A 2017 analysis by Citigroup supports his claim by concluding that the postal service was charging below-market rates as a whole on parcels. Hopefully, the study will also bring into the light the fact the USPS provides companies shipping from China and many other places with super low rates while outgoing packages from Americans get slammed.

This May Become The Face Of Amazon's Delivery Venture!
Back in February The Wall Street Journal reported Amazon was ready to launch a delivery service for businesses that would compete toe to toe with United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. Amazon's plan which they claim will save them money may prove easier said than done. Many companies have tried over the years to break into this difficult market and failed because they underestimated the difficulties of building out and operating a complex delivery network. Customers depending on receiving an important order have little tolerance on damaged or misdelivered packages and the cost of cleaning up these problems far outweigh the benefit of a less expensive delivery.

Without a bit of transparency and hearing the opinions of a few learned souls with nothing to gain I have a difficult time thinking we are getting the whole unvarnished truth. Rather than presenting facts, the MarketWatch story sighted other Marketwatch articles and an article in the Washington Post that is owned by Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos. The articles appear to circle around giving each other substance and collaborating that there was nothing to see here. One of the articles centered around comments from an analyst that was bullish the stock and had a buy rating on the stock who defended his position by saying that comments made by President Trump concerning the USPS losing money on packages they deliver for Amazon were motivated by hope it would damage Bezos

Package Delivery Is Often Very Challenging
In another one of these pieces, the author validates their position that complaints of shipping rates being too low is a "nothing burger" by treating the opinion of former Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe as a bonified fact. In the past, Donahoe has “unequivocally stated” to UBS analysts that Amazon is profitable for the USPS. Donahoe retired on February 1, 2015, after a 39-year career at the service. Donahoe said that Amazon’s business would fall under the “competitive products” category, which has rules guiding pricing. “By law, competitive products must cover their costs, including both operating costs associated with the service provided (sorting, loading, etc.) and an allocation of 5.5% of the USPS’s institutional/fixed costs (which has a fairly broad definition).

Still, numbers can be manipulated to mislead and even before claiming this has happened it is important to recognize some deliveries are far more expensive to make than others. The contract between Amazon and the USPS is said to expire in October and in light of this President Trump has issued an executive order for an analysis of the U.S. Postal Service’s financial situation which should clarify what Amazon and others should be paying. As it continues to struggle with losses year after year the United States Postal Service is an example that something as basic as delivering a package can be costly and no easy task. This is especially true when you are responsible for taking it the last mile or to the doorstep located down the road, up the hill and through the woods in sparsely populated areas. Amazon started taking most of its packages directly to the Postal Service in 2013, a way of avoiding the expensive last leg of the delivery in high-density metro areas as well as on America's backroads.

The fact the USPS goes to these locations on a regular basis doesn't mean Amazon "deserves" the right to be able to tag along at the same rate they would pay for a package delivered across the street. The true or real cost of putting Amazon packages in the hands of consumers is not easy and forces us to circle back to another big issue and that centers around the cost to society and other American retailers. Any benefit to or claimed by the USPS is quickly negated by the cost of businesses and retailers forced to close all across America from unfair competition created by taxpayers subsidizing cheap deliveries for Amazon packages. It must be noted that the toll on communities is massive when local stores and businesses close and jobs are lost. While online sales have their place in the area of commerce local retailers and distributors of goods should not be put at a disadvantage.

This Is Not Right! The USPS Should Not Discriminate'
When you consider that the USPS has had to purchase special equipment such as larger trucks to deliver packages for Amazon it is not difficult to reach the conclusion the USPS is simply in cahoots with Amazon or willing to sell out rest of American businesses for a few dollars in revenue. It should be noted that Sunday deliveries also hurt small businesses especially those which can't afford to expand the hours to seven days a week. Package deliveries should at a minimal be both profitable and not discriminate. This means they should be done for every other company at exactly the same price and terms. While Jeff Bezos would like the USPS to be a subsidiary of Amazon ready to do his bidding and calling it is not. To give a company special breaks that funded by taxpayers is in many ways simply un-American. This is especially true when the company is hellbent on exploiting the brick and mortar stores that add so much to our communities.

USPS Has Worlds Largest Civilian Vehicle Fleet
The USPS has morphed over the years into something far different than originally planned. For example, in 1917 it outlawed the mailing of people, this was several years after a young child was mailed from her parents to her grandparents in Idaho. In 2015 it had 617,254 active employees and today it is the operator of the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world. It should be pointed out that rather than expanding to delivering to Sunday most USPS watchers have for over a decade advocated dropping Saturday deliveries as its importance declined with the fall of first class mail.  Also, a case can be made that any shift of business away from UPS, FedX or any other delivery company will not add jobs but merely shift them from one company to another. The bottom-line here is that far more goes into deciding the optimum shipping rate than simply whether the USPS makes money.

In January, Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer wrote an op-ed in The Hill pushing back against calls for it to raise package rates saying,“Some of our competitors in the package delivery space would dearly love for the Postal Service to aggressively raise our rates higher than the marketplace can bear so they could either charge more themselves or siphon away postal customers,”  however, this totally misses the point and confuses the real mission or mandate of the USPS and muddles American values. It is not the job of government subsidized entities to compete with free enterprise. While this highlights the difficulty of determining what is fair it does little to blur the fact some policies simply are not good for America.

The idea Amazon is entering the delivery business world should force any logical investor to question why their stock is trading at a PE 300 time future earnings. It is insane to think any "delivery company" can ever be worth such a high multiple. I almost have to laugh when people say the stock market has not disconnected from the economy and reflects the health of the American economy. Some investors remain oblivious to the fact much of the market gain has been in just a few stocks known as the FAANG stocks. These few stocks have far outpaced the rest of the market when it comes to gains in value. Both UPS and FedEx have over the years honed their delivery systems for maximum efficiency and cut cost to the bone. The packages these companies deliver are often far too valuable to trust to low paid employees that come and go through a revolving door. It is understandable that Amazon wants to mitigate shipping cost but to think they are going to do it on the cheap is a reach.  

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Footnote; The articles below looks at Amazon's plans to enter the delivery business and why President Trump is so concerned about Amazon.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Mr. Trump Goes To Europe As The Whole World Watchs

It seems President Trump has learned little in the way of humility during his time in office and he is busy proving that during his recent visit to the Euro-zone where he has stepped on quite a few toes. Too clever by half is an old British saying, it refers to someone who is too confident of their own intelligence in a way that annoys other people. Often the reason a person gets labeled this way is because they come across as arrogant. The word braggadocios has been used to describe Donald Trump, synonyms for this word according to are blowhard, boaster, bragger, show-off, and windbag. None of these are very flattering and over time such behavior has a way of wearing on people which often results in a backlash accommodated with negative consequences.

Anti-Trump Protesters Made Him Feel Unwelcome
Following a meeting with NATO where he may have stirred up some rather bad feelings, he has moved onto the UK. In a visit that has been described as contentious by many mainstream media outlets Trump's tendency towards arrogant behavior has him coming across like a bull in a china shop. This only adds fuel to the fire within the thousands of people who are taking part in a series of protests during his stay in the UK. Trump’s lack of decorum, dignity, and statesmanship emerged in an interview with The Sun timed to coincide with his UK visit. After Theresa May rolled out the red carpet for President Trump and wife Melania during their first night in Britain, Trump came out swinging and bashed her by mounting an extraordinary attack on the PM’s exit negotiation. Trump also revealed she had ignored his advice on how to toughen up the troubled talks and said he believes Mrs. May has gone “the opposite way.”

Going even further Trump warning Mrs. May might have killed off and made a lucrative US trade deal very unlikely. Trump said: “If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal.” Trump then suggested former foreign minister Boris Johnson, who quit May's cabinet on Monday, would be a better leader than May, and criticized London Mayor Sadiq Khan as "terrible" and unwelcoming. Donald Trump’s damaging comment that could severely damage Prime Minister May, highlight what many of his detractors see as a total lack of decorum. During the interview, it is said Trump also;
  • Accused EU leaders of destroying its culture and identity by allowing in millions of migrants
  • Tore into London Mayor Sadiq Khan for not standing up to terrorists
  • Blamed Khan for spiralling crime in the capital
  • Insisted former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson would make “a great Prime Minister”
  • Denied once branding Theresa May a “bossy schoolteacher”
  • Maintained he would keep ties with Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin despite the Salisbury Novichok poisonings
  • Demanded Britain and other Nato countries spend more on defense
  • Spoke of his sadness at feeling unwelcome in the capital by anti-Trump protesters
  • Claimed millions of Brits backed his policies
The day after the interview Trump made an effort to roll back some of his harshest comment using the fig leaf of "fake news" for misleading people of his true feelings. While it is true that the media seems to revel in "Trump bashing," it could be argued he brings about much of this problem himself. Back in mid-April of 2017 in an article, I opined on how Trump often came across as a bit too clever for his own good. At the time the polls showed Trump lacked broad support and his favorability ratings couldn't seem to get out of the cellar.

Trump Often Comes Across As Too Clever By Half
Ironically his bombing of a Syrian air base in reaction to a chemical attack that killed children did receive kudos, however, it was from never Trump people, neocons, and liberals who believe in intervention. In fact, many of the supporters that constitute his base were a bit down in the mouth about getting involved. One way to gauge how President Trump's base is reacting to his moods is how they react to the tweets he sends out at any time of the day or night. When he twitters the President is able to bypass the mainstream media but it often gets their attention and a fair amount of negative coverage. Still more important is the reactions to the messages he twitters can vary greatly among those who voted him into office.

One thing many people find troubling is that after just a short time in office Trump has brought America to the brink of war, and I don't mean with just one country or foe. You can flip a coin as to whether it is the Korean peninsula that will light up with a nuclear glow, Europe erupting into conflict with Russia, or we will awaken to find thousands of American troops being dispatched to the Middle East. Years ago an attorney cautioned me that when negotiating a deal I sometimes came across as a little coy, I have always questioned his terminology, however, admit that when I was young and leaning far into the wind I might have gone a little too far. My point is when you play fast and loose the potential that you may lose control of events increases dramatically.

Some Trump Supporters Remain Concerned
Also feeding into his credibility is the issue of Trumps "flip-flops," needless to say they do not bode well for those seeking stability and wishing to go to bed at night wishing or thinking they will awaken to a world where little has changed. And let me be clear, we are not talking about what might be labeled as minor issues. We are focused on some of the key issues of the day leaving many of us a bit puzzled.

The mainstream media is quick to point out Trump's shortcomings and makes a big deal over ever falling out he has with his staff he remains brash and bold and supremely confident. While he claims he's running a well-oiled machine others give the impression that a revolving door needs to be installed to accommodate those rapidly becoming disenchanted with the way things are being run. Inside the White House, a bubbling cauldron of different ideas are competing for power and the President's ear. With this in mind, everyone should remember it was a populist message of draining the swamp that resulted in his election and while often discounted as "common folk" these voters are not necessarily as simple-minded as the pundits might lead you to believe. 

For many Americans supporting Trump was not easy or did not come naturally, however, they saw Hillary Clinton as even less acceptable. A series of recent flip-flops on positions are beginning to irritate and concern parts of his base. If this continues they will begin to doubt what he is really about. If voters who supported Trump become convinced he is playing them for fools it is likely they will loudly voice their discontent. In some way we are looking at a choice of style, Trump has repeatedly said he likes to play cards that are unexpected to keep the opposition off balance, however, when you unsettle those who support you it has a way to come back and haunt you.

Trumps failure to move healthcare reform forward in any real way coupled with Republicans pathetic excuse for an answer to improve healthcare has raised doubt about those currently in power to deliver on other issues. Trump's prediction that Democrats will own ObamaCare if it falls apart is no longer valid. A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows a majority of voters, 61 percent said they now blame Trump and Republicans for “future problems” with the healthcare law. Since the GOP is in control of the government “they are responsible for any problems with it moving forward.” The same situation exists as far the implications to the economy and national debt in coming years following his so-called reforms in how corporations are taxed.

While some of this can be explained away as a strategy change or that he is evolving it has and should raise concern. Part of the problem is we were promised better than this, and not only better but quickly, we were promised we would win so much we would get tired of winning. To hear Trump talk at times you get the idea he thinks it is all about him. For example, Trump has both praised and blamed himself for the strong dollar. “I think our dollar is getting too strong, and partially that’s my fault because people have confidence in me,” said Trump. This means whether he realizes it or not, by taking credit for things not directly flowing from his position he also opens and creates the situation where he may also be blamed and have criticism heaped upon him for things out of his control.

It should be noted this trip includes the President's all important with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and he may be engaging in a bit of pre-meeting posturing. Still, considering just how polarized America is any event playing out poorly or a few bad news cycles can put Trump in a precarious position. A little humility on the part of Trump would go a long way towards defusing the anger that is beginning to smolder as his supporters witness a flip-flop here and a flip there. With Trump detractors eagerly awaiting the day when he fails and receives his comeuppance Trump best remember who his friends are and that in Washington he has very few of them. There will be bad days, there always are, and before they erupt Trump would be wise to remember the message he put before the people if not the populist most likely unleash their wrath upon him.
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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Putin Holds The Key To Peace In Both Syria And Ukraine

With the upcoming meeting between President Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin it should be noted that peace might be in the offing. When America was busy considering whether to elect Trump as President I originally published a piece that indicating Putin's influence. The less war oriented Trump was seen at the time by many voters as someone who might be able to throttle back the carnage in Syria and Ukraine. One of my readers commented that both conflicts in Syria and Ukraine represent pro-USA rebels attempting to take control of non-USA aligned nations. Since the election, the influential Washington Post that is very supportive of the military-industrial complex has on many occasions thwarted and squelched the idea of this meeting painting it as a capitulation to Russia. Below is the article mentioned earlier.

published September 12, 2016 
            Syria And Ukraine Have Putin In Common
Syria Bombing Has Destroyed Whole Cities
Last Saturday top Russian and American diplomats cheered the details of the potential breakthrough deal resulting from weeks of negotiations. The talks between the U.S. and Russia have reportedly produced a sweeping new agreement which includes a nationwide ceasefire and coordinated strikes against ISIS as well as al Qaeda-affiliated militants. Also, it will result in and allow increased humanitarian aid to areas of Syria badly besieged by the country’s long, bloody civil war. Most people understand that Syria can no longer be viewed as a stable country with a bad leader, it has become a humanitarian disaster.

The pictures being broadcast across television screens throughout the world of city streets bombed and blown to smithereens, dead women and little children killed by cluster bomb attacks show Syria to be a country far different from what we were facing when we decided to go into Iraq. The proof many Americans have chosen to ignore the situation was shockingly revealed when Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson drew a blank during a live interview on MSNBC when he was asked what he would do to address the situation in Aleppo, perhaps the most devastated city in the five-year civil war in Syria. "What is Aleppo?" Johnson replied when asked how he would address the crisis there. "You're kidding," journalist Mike Barnicle said. "No," was Johnson's response. 

Secretary of State John Kerry said in Geneva, "Today, Sergei Lavrov and I, on behalf of our presidents and our countries, call on every Syrian stakeholder to support the plan that the United States and Russia have reached, to ... bring this catastrophic conflict to the quickest possible end through a political process." Kerry also expressed hope the peace deal, worked out through their marathon peace talks, “has the ability to provide a turning point,” this will, of course, depend on whether all sides honor a cessation of hostilities set to begin at sundown Monday. I'm afraid those who have used and subscribed to the highly scripted talking point that Putin is a "thug and a bully" must be cringing because Russia is instrumental in this agreement.

For a moment let us be optimistic and pray we are moving in the right direction to ending Syria's civil war. Several years ago I began to advocate the best solution will ultimately be to push towards a breakup of Syria with Assad or one of his people in control of the Alawite area in exchange for freeing the remaining part of the country to rule itself, and I suggest we should not be surprised if things move in that direction. Many reasons exist as to why the deep wounds the Syrian people have suffered will not heal and why they can no longer live as one big happy family. This brings me to the crux of this post and far-fetched idea based on what both Syria and Ukraine both have in common, and that is Putin. Because of this, we are now in the unique situation to resolve two major conflicts at once if the desire to do so outweighs the egos of the players as well as their petty differences and the lust for making money from producing weapons of war.

Picture Ukraine Front Lines-War Is Hell
It is simple to see a similar agreement that eastern Ukraine would also become a sovereign nation this would go a long way in getting Putin to put Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's feet to the fire and move him towards agreeing to surrender part of his country. It is clear that Syria is to broken to be fixed and if Assad remains in power those who have suffered and been displaced will never forgive him and live under his rule, however, a change in ruling factions is also not a viable solution in that it would unleash a wave of killings and reprisals. Remember the Shiite-related Alawites rightly fear an Al Qaeda led triumph as the worst possible outcome, they would make the mass killing of Alawites their first priority. The secular leaders of the Syrian rebels, clustered in the exile group known as the Syrian National Council, also must worry about the extremist threat they themselves would face if the Assad government fell. 

As I pointed out some time ago the ramifications of Ukraine becoming a major battlefield are also very ugly. They would include Russia cutting off the flow of natural gas to the west and this would devastate an already troubled Europe. The idea of America getting involved or jumping into a war in Ukraine would have been hard to imagine a few years ago and has little upside while the potential for it to escalate into a major shooting war is real. Allowing events to deteriorate into a major war or possibly into what some see as World War III is very real. The location of such a military confrontation right in Putin's backyard would be a strong advantage for Russia and it is silly to think Putin and Russia would back down. This means poking the bear is not a smart move.

Even after all the American blood and treasure spent in the Middle East, we find Putin holding most of the cards. His motivation for supporting and pushing Assad towards peace lies in the fact we live in a complex world and Putin would tie such a deal to a solution in Ukraine. If inclined such a deal could be negotiated and it would constitute a big win-win for the people living in two troubled areas. Like children trading baseball cards both parties want something, for America, it is the end of strife in this war-torn area and the halt of millions of refugees flowing into other countries and upsetting world order, for Russia, it is allowing eastern Ukraine to also go its own way. This would mean America would end encouraging and financing a war on the Russian border for little reason other than to spite the Russian leader.

With Americans tired of war and frustrated after years of spending a fortune in the Middle East with little to show for our efforts, we are facing a debate as to which is the "best worst choice" in how to proceed. The media has been fast to point out the complexity of the situation and how muddy the politics will be going forward, This includes the formation of an often talked about no-fly zone in Syria which could cost about $1 billion a month and that risks the loss of U.S. aircraft and pilots. Again I say, it has become clear no easy answer or silver bullet exist for the problem plaguing Syria and the whole region, it is also clear America's military-industrial complex does not hold the key to a peaceful resolution. This means it may be time to cut a deal.

Footnote; I do not see Putin as a leader with saint-like qualities, he is tough and hardcore. at the same time, I see Obama's so-called reset with Russia has been a dismal failure. America's policy towards Russia seems to have become an ego match between the two leaders and time again Obama has come up short, this has driven Russia closer to China and constitutes a major mistake in foreign policy. The large joint naval exercise currently underway highlights this view. More on this in the article below.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Immigrants Right To Enter The Land Of Plenty

The idea immigrants should prove they are worthy of entering America or shall we call it "The Land Of Plenty" seems odd to many, however, the concept is not new. Immigrants rushing or coming to America or any land can in some ways be compared to those prospectors seeking gold during what is known as the Klondike Gold Rush. During the few short years between 1896 through 1899, a great many people headed to the Yukon and Klondike region of Canada and Alaska. It is said as many as 100,000 people arrived in the region at the time but only around 35,000 or so prospectors that set out for the Klondike actually made it there and of those approximately 4,000 actually found gold.

Trail Over White Pass - Picture By E. A. Hegg
Years ago when I was in Skagway, Alaska and ventured up into the Yukon I heard the story about the deadly trial to the goldfields. In addition to the boat passage up the Yukon, there were several trails being touted as the best route to the goldfields but three of those were so long and hazardous that a great many men and their animals died on the trial. The most popular of those was the 550 mile Skagway Trail over White Pass but it was far from easy and became known as‘Dead Horse Trail’ after the many carcasses that littered it.

The point I'm attempting to make is that unless you are extremely lucky and fortunate to be born into a place of wealth and luxury to enter such a place usually comes at a price. American in its infancy with vast empty lands to fill bantered about the slogan "give me your tired and your poor" but those coming to America often did not find a rose garden free of thorns. Things have changed and the situation evolved as the country matured and life today is far easier than the struggles faced by the pioneers. The reality of today is that we live in a world where the total population has soared making quality rather than quantity very important. One issue that muddies the water when it comes to immigration is the claims many of those seeking a new home make that they are refugees fleeing from prosecution or hardships. This immediately brings up calls for compassion but that is a far different issue and even then to be fair we are forced to ask what is the intention and expectations of those wishing to cross our borders.

Refugees Risk It All In Overloaded Leaky Boats
The trip to a better life is often not easy, for those going to the gold fields. Writer Jack London described the journey along a trail that in some places was only a scant two feet wide with a five hundred foot drop in graphic terms. He wrote, ‘The horses died like mosquitoes in the first frost and from Skagway to Bennett they rotted in heaps.‘ Such situations tend to create desperate men and those who feed on the weak. The situation was so harrowing that prospectors were required to have at least enough food to last a year by Canadian authorities so they wouldn’t starve. We see a similar state of affairs today as people are willing to pay a great deal of money to risk not only their life but the lives of their loved ones to get on an overloaded leaky boat in hopes it will get them to the promises land.

The debate of what people "deserve" and whether those who have it should share is not new. Whether a person has landed in a place of plenty by luck or worked their way in by cunning or toil it is something to be valued. Borders are a creation of man and men set the rules as to who crosses them and on what terms. While it may seem unfair to exclude or deny individuals this right we must remember that life is unfair and this is a reality of life. What is mine is mine and it won't be mine for long if I allow others to simply take it for the asking. Quality countries and their citizens have something very special and it is understandable that they might want to protect it, That is a lifestyle many people can only hope to obtain. As for those busy promoting the myth that more people equals growth the fact is that not all growth is good and size does not always translate into strength.

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Footnote; A solid GDP number can result in a feel-good moment that builds consumer confidence can also mask growing weakness in various parts of the economy. Quantity simply does not make up for poor quality, we are talking about two totally different animals. The false narrative that simply growing the size of an economy even by using deficit spending undercuts the importance of a solid economic and the long-term stability of the financial system. The article below delves into poor investments.
 http://Economic Growth Does Not Equal Economic Strength.html

Politicians Shy Away From Dreadful "C" Word - Conserve!

Why Are Politicians Afraid Of Conserving?
One thing this election has in common with those in prior years is that few politicians broach the subject of conserving our resources and creating intelligent policies to reduce waste and reuse what we have. An article I wrote years ago remains as relevant today as when I wrote it. The subject delved into how candidates shy away from the dreaded "C" word, conserve! It pointed out how the  Presidential candidates at the time did not even bother to mention pursuing an innovative initiative to conserve our resources. While there are many new and exciting ways to recycle and cut energy waste it seems public officials are almost afraid to talk about conservation. It is as if they will offend someone or that big business and their lobbyist have made this subject taboo. Maybe they just don't care about America or the planet on which we live.

Generally, Americans are a spoiled breed. The fact is a lot could be done at little cost. For example, it seems almost absurd that some Americans think the thermostat should be set at 68 degrees during the summer and 76 degrees during the winter, this is completely backward to what logic would dictate. By simply mandating lower heating and higher cooling settings in government offices and buildings would give the private sector the cover they need to adjust their thermostats accordingly in both offices and stores. Also, when it comes to transportation, a simple yearly fee on inefficient vehicles paid to the states when licenses are renewed would accomplish much in getting Americans to shed their gas guzzlers which would move America to a more fuel-efficient fleet. Halting the manufacturing of the low-end furnaces that are still being installed in many new homes, upgrading thermostats and phasing out the sale of light fixtures and appliances that fail to make good use of our remaining resources are just a few ideas.

We Should Pay Far More For Dumb Choices
Each school day millions of buses hit the road across America transporting children to schools across town and past the schools near their home. Every Saturday a massive fleet of vehicles leave post offices across the land to deliver mail that most Americans do not feel is important. The cost of policies like these go far beyond the cost of money being poorly spent, they take a toll on our planet. We need politicians who care about the hidden cost of short-term policy and have the courage to focus on long-term planning and sustainability. It is time voters demand politicians put this priority before their desire to serve big business and the lobbyist that shower Washington with money.

Over the last several years I have had reason to enter many large buildings and offices in the evenings or during weekends. It is truly amazing that on cold winters nights, weekends, and over holidays thermostats are not set-back. Yes all over America we heat empty buildings as though they are occupied. A fair number of computers and lights that are often left on long after everyone is gone for the day, it seems people don't care enough to make the slightest effort to turn down the heat or turn off a light. This is an awareness and an attitude problem and clearly, without a gentle nudge to conserve, Americans will continue to damage the environment and add to climate change.

Millions of homes across America still lack proper insulation or do not have programmable thermostats and these are often inhabited by those least able to pay large utility bills. Ironically public policy centers around giving these people more money to help pay their energy bills rather than helping them reduce the energy that is being wasted. We also see government mandates and rules related to the American Disability Act making buildings obsolete far before their time when the focus should be on improving their efficiency and extending their useful life. We cannot afford to continue removing and replacing buildings after only a few decades. A sensible way to create jobs and save many of these homes would be to back programs geared to making them more energy efficient.

Solid Waste & Landfill Facts

The U.S. Is The #1 Trash-Producing Country
  • About one-third of an average dump is made up of packaging material!
  • Every year, each American throws out about 1,200 pounds of organic garbage that can be composted.
  • The U.S. is the #1 trash-producing country in the world at 1,609 pounds per person per year. This means that 5% of the world's people generate 40% of the world's waste.

It is important to note that regardless of what many people think, innovation does not always involve spending huge sums of money. Innovation often means simply thinking of new ways to get the job done. While it could be argued that cutting back on waste would lower the GDP it would have many positive benefits such as improving our standing in the world community. As we conserve, pollution is reduced, America's economy will be strengthened by reducing the importation of energy, new jobs will be generated by the industries that address these needs, and damage to the climate from global warming lessened. Why are politicians so willing and eager to ask America's sons and daughters to risk life and limbs in foreign wars while unwilling to ask Americans to make such a minor sacrifice?

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Footnote; The article below explores our failure to deal with the issue of E-waste.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Putin, A Bully And A Thug Or A Great Statesman

Putin Is A Steely Statesman And Proven Leader
Russian President Vladimir Putin is in the news a great deal and the line Americans hear week after week during interviews with Washington's politicians and those entrusted with protecting our security is that Putin is a thug and a bully. This description of the former KGB officer is so ingrained in their repertoire that they seldom describe him in any other terms unless it is to add the words "dangerous or menace" into their performance in an effort to highlight the fact we should all be afraid. Clearly, the U.S. establishment loathes Putin and constantly paints him as an aggressor, a tyrant, and a killer that invaded and occupied Crimea.

Putin took power in late 1999 at a time when Russia was defenseless, bankrupt, and being carved up by a group stealing its resources in collusion with America. Putin changed that and resurrected the crumbling empire once again into a nation-state with coherence and purpose. He is credited with halting the theft of his country’s wealth by the plutocracy and restoring Russia's military strength. Putin with blunt rhetoric refused to accept for Russia a subservient role in an American-run world under a system drawn up by foreign politicians and business leaders. The fact is many Russians credit him with saving Russia and Putin’s approval rating, after 17 years in power, exceeds that of any rival Western leader. His impressive strides toward making Russia great again explain why he is revered at home but he has also gained admirers in the West, despite a press that is every bit as savage to him as they are to President Trump.

Putin Portrays A Tough Guy Image
If you see the Putin image as somewhat hyped or orchestrated you are right and a "tough guy" image is what he projects. Over the years America's deep state has unleashed attack after attack upon Russia and its leader. Painting Putin as a bully and a thug and has placed economic sanctions on Russia. Much of the hostility toward Putin stems from the fact that he not only defies the West, when standing up for Russia’s interests, he often succeeds in his defiance and goes unpunished and unrepentant. Whether you love or hate the man one thing that is difficult to deny is that Putin has played one hell of a game. He has maximized the sometimes meager tools at his disposal.

Putin is a power broker and over the years we have seen him reach out and establish relationships and bonds with many countries. We can thank Obama's misguided policies and all the anti-Russian talk flowing out of America for this. Much of what we see today grows out of Putin's mid-2012 response to Obama. Our deep state's relentless effort to destroy him has failed. Putin, when challenged, ran over Obama and showed the world who ran the show in both Syria and Ukraine. The policy Obama employed has in many ways backfired and only enhanced Putin's image. It also caused Putin to turn Eastward in an effort to expand and build economic ties with our enemies. Even today the narrative of how Russia interfered in our election also rings of  hypocrisy to all those who remember how Obama threatened the UK just before the Brexit vote that if passed America would send them to the end of the line when it came to trade.

It Will Be Interesting When Trump And Putin Meet
Simply put, Putin is a thorn in the side of America's deep state and the pro "New World Order" forces. He stands as a shield against the Western progressive vision of what mankind’s future ought to be and rejects the New World Order agenda established at the Cold War’s end by the United States. By putting "Russia first" he defies progressives and speaks for those millions of Europeans who wish to restore their national identities and recapture their lost sovereignty from the supranational European Union. When pressed Putin is non-apologetic in reminding the world Russia has a huge nuclear arsenal and will use it if necessary.

Years ago, Putin aligned himself with traditionalists, nationalists, and populists of the West, and against what they had come to despise as their countries are slowly assimilated into the New World Order by the politicians they have elected to protect their culture and civilization. Casting himself as a God and country Russian patriot Putin also stands against the progressive moral decline of a Western elite that has cut its Christian roots to embrace secularism and hedonism. His supporters tend to be dubious of the claims flowing from their own government and the mainstream media which often whitewash some rather unsavory behavior on the part of their country while at the same time fixating on stories of Putin's old KGB comrades assassinating journalists, defectors, and dissidents.

The fact is Russian President Vladimir Putin not only remains popular in his own country where he was recently reelected by a huge margin but he also has admirers in nations whose political establishments are outright hostile to him. The fact is, Putin is viewed favorably by many people including millions who wish to see their nations secede from the EU. Many of these people see no problem and even their right to have their nation defined by a shared heritage, which usually includes a common language, a common faith or even a common ethnic ancestry. It will be most interesting to see if anything good comes from a meeting between Trump and Putin. working together the two countries could go a long way towards creating a far less dangerous world.

Footnote; This is part one of a two-part series. Part two will delve into things most Americans may or may not know about Russia. It will make an effort to bring a better understanding as to why the deep state continues to take a hardline against more normal relations.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The EU Has Few Good Options As It Enters Rough Patch

Mrekel Is Under Huge Pressure Just To Survive
Both politically and economically the EU has few good options or pathways forward. It has entered a rough patch which in many ways is the result of years of inaction. Its banks are weak and concerns over the toll millions of newly arrived refugees will take on society are reaching a breaking point. Many of the issues that Donald Trump used to propel himself into the Presidency are hammering away at the foundation of the Euro-zone. We should remember high youth unemployment and those coming into the area with no desire to assimilate and adjust to existing European social norms are fueling an already tense situation. The debate as to whether to welcome or refuse immigrates and refugees will continue for a long time but it is difficult to deny those allowed to enter the EU are drawing on the resources of EU countries.

This has created what Bloomberg describes as "an escalating crisis that threatens to unravel the bloc’s passport-free travel area and dissolve Germany’s governing coalition." Europe, often referred to as the old world, has reinvented itself many times. This term is used in the context of, and contrast with, the New World (Americas). While the Old World also includes Africa and Asia, collectively, during most of the last few centuries Western Europe was calling the shots as it developed and colonized the world. The major overhaul of Europe following World War II may have rebuilt industries and helped clean house but as everywhere else in the world, it left an army of bureaucratic clowns and politicians at the top of the power pyramid and it didn't take long for them to muck up the works.

Exports And Imports From China 2008 And 2017
Many times throughout history we have seen the only thing that brings about real change is a crisis so large that it shakes institutions to their core and that may be what is about to occur. One issue the Eurozone has still yet to face in any real way is whether free trade really works. The Eurozone like many areas has not come to terms with the fact they are running a massive trade deficit with China. So far they have sidestepped the heavy onslaught of massive amounts of government-subsidized goods flowing in from Asia. While the EU has sported a huge trade deficit with Asia, America has taken the brunt of the pain over the last few decades by throwing its doors wide open. I want to suggest that China has continued to become more competitive than Europe in manufacturing and if trade policies remain unchanged the deficit is about to explode. One thing is clear, and that is both the EU and America consumers have benefited and seen inflation muted by Chinese imports but it also means fewer jobs at home.

Emotions Are Running High In Germany
Another problem is based on the narrative developed economies need and always benefit from the growth created by simply adding more people into the mix. The Pew Research Center, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C., has concluded that immigrants are needed to continue to drive growth in the workforce, however, I content this is predicated on the flawed assumption that all growth is good. May I suggest quality is often more important than quantity when it comes to propelling a country forward and that the burden of feeding, educating, clothing, and housing those who add little to production can far outweigh the illusion of growth surrounding their arrival. When a machine can rapidly do the work of a hundred men the true value of human labor is greatly reduced. To make matters worse if those flowing into an area are resistant to adopting the mores of society and assimilating into the culture problems can develop, it is only by working in lock-step with the general population to be productive can this be avoided.

An article By Kari Paul recently published on MarketWatch claimed that economists say 30 years of data show asylum seekers are not a burden on European countries. They may, in fact, be a benefit says the  French government research organization the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Clermont-Auvergne University and Paris-Nanterre University. Researchers examined the arrival of asylum seekers in European Union countries between 1985 and 2015. This followed the Yugoslav Wars between 1991 and 1999 where they linked an increase in immigrants who become permanent residents with a series of positive effects such as an increase in GDP, a decrease in the unemployment rate, and increased tax revenues.

Again, it could be argued much of the so-called positive effect was a "sign of the times" rather than a reflection of merely adding bodies to the population and that they had more skills and better educations than many of the recent arrivals. Part of the problem currently faced is that the Euro-zone and the European Central Bank have gone out of their way to sidestep correcting the structural problems that have grown over the years and the current economy is rather weak. The time the area bought since the 2008 economic crisis by low-interest rates and easy money dubbed QE has been squandered. Today with evidence of slowing growth and few good options it is possible the union itself may be in danger of dissolving especially if the euro falls into problems creating a scenario of bank contagion and failure.

Footnote; The chart and other data can be located at the site below,