Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Growing Fear Of Speaking Out

Governments Are Adding To The Fear

There is a growing trend where people are feeling compelled to deny their opinions and remain silent. This is because we are seeing a blatant disregard for the opinions of others by both those on the left and the right. Democracy as a form of government is far from perfect. Its greatest weakness is rooted in the ability of a vocal minority to force their opinions on others.

This growing fear of speaking out is not limited to America, we are seeing it in countries that claim to be free across the world. The tech giants, governments, and extremist groups are all throwing fuel on the fire and adding to the feeling retaliation is a fair response to speaking our mind. The tech giants' effort to closely watch, silence, and censor those not marching in line with their desired narrative is a dagger in the heart of free speech. This effort is also apparent when we hear about groups threatening to block highways, shut down ports, and occupy state capitols if things fail to go their way. It even extends to harassing elected officials, we are hearing more threats from groups vowing to hound and badger members of Congress at their own homes. Another sign of intolerance is seen in the mass arrest of nonviolent protesters by governments. 

Vandalism Like This Is A Sign Of The Times

Consider what we are witnessing as a sign of the times. To the left is a picture showing a sign that vandals wrote curse words on, they also egged the house where it was displayed. This started several years ago and ramped up when the term "politically correct" moved front and center. In the minds of some individuals if you say anything that they consider "incorrect" it justifies a harsh response.  

In such an environment it is little wonder that many people have become less vocal and afraid to speak their mind. This could help explain why so many people doubt the recent political polls showing Joe Biden leading President Trump by a large margin. Ironically, it is the Democrats that continue to demand the President disavow violence and those associated with it. The cornerstones of democracy are  freedom of assembly and speech, inclusiveness and equality, membership, consent, voting, right to life, and minority rights. When these are trampled upon for any reason, the system is in danger of being cast aside.

Boy In Picture Assaulted Over MAGA Hat

In one of the most disgusting acts occurring in an election year, Some Joe Biden supporters shoved and stole the hat of a young boy. The reason they assaulted Riley was that he was wearing a MAGA hat. His mother, Abbey Wigton, 27. Said “We were standing outside peacefully minding our own business,” she continued. “Suddenly, two Joe Biden supporters began to yell political epithets at my child. They ripped the sign from my arms and assaulted my seven-year-old son. “The Joe Biden supporters laid hands on my child and ripped his “Make America Great Again” hat from his head while cursing at him and pushing him over."

She went on to say, "The two Joe Biden supporters verbally and physically assaulted my child. My 7-year-old child was sobbing and screaming.” Riley, was distraught following the incident because learning how absolutely hideous people can be at an early age can be difficult to handle. The boy wanted to call the police. He wanted his hat back. He wanted the evil people who attacked him to apologize. While the police can do little and the chance of getting an apology very slim, at least one of his wishes is coming true as he has a replacement hat on the way. He found this out when the  White House called to tell him. 

But this article is not about a small boy being assaulted, it is about how most people are now thinking twice before saying what they think. This article is about the ability of a vocal minority to make people so uncomfortable they become silent. It is about how we should be appalled by those that justify violence, aggression, and force towards those that simply disagree with them. It is about how the threat you may be demonized if you say what you feel tends to breed silence. Watching this unfold is leaving a sickening feeling in those valuing free speech.

A recent survey of 2,000 Americans by Cato Institute/YouGov found most Americans say "the political climate these days prevents them from saying things they believe because others might find them offensive". The survey indicated 52% of Democrats, 59% of independents, and 77% of Republicans now say they have political opinions they are afraid to share. Most people do not enjoy confrontations or being harassed and as a result, are self-censoring themselves. With the free exchange of opinions and ideas being the foundation of a free and healthy democracy the sign public discourse is being destroyed does not bode well for our continued freedom.


Footnote; For more on the Riley Wigton story go to;

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Our Bizarre Economy 2.0 Is A Spending Based Illusion

To say the economy we are seeing during 2020 is a bit bizarre is an understatement. Nobody predicted anything like we are seeing today. As money continues to be created out of thin air we are witnessing bailouts and crony capitalism on full display. Another factor playing into this circus is both Presidential candidates are engaged in a full-court press to buy the votes of Americans. This has resulted in a stock market rally based on the idea that more stimulus is just around the corner. Those interested in getting a handle on what is really happening should keep front and center a few facts that might help them better understand just how whacked out and bizarre things have become.

Every trillion dollars the Federal Reserve and American Government injects into the economy adds a massive $3,333 per man woman and child in America. Recently aid packages from Washington alone have put about three times that into the mix. The whopping ten thousand dollar bang dished out for each of us was bound to move the economic needle. Adding to this distortion is how it has enabled countries throughout the world to enact similar stimulus packages without lowering the value of their currencies in relation to the dollar. 

The true state of the economy has been papered over by the injection of trillions of dollars of freshly created money being injected into the mix. This has resulted in a liquidity bubble that masks reality and perpetuated several myths that are destined to come back and bite us. The assumption that unlimited monetization is sustainable and cost-free has never been proven to be the case. Today those promoting it as a solution to our problems claim are assuming that soaring public debt is no problem so long as interest rates are ultra-low and have been assured by central banks across the world this will be the case going forward. 

Adding to the bizarre nature of this economy is that this is the first recession where incomes have gone up rather than down and we have even seen the net worth of many individuals take a huge leap. this has added to the idea that the current situation is sustainable or will lead to a real recovery. The data we are fed each day is very skewed. An example can be seen in the GDP which in the third quarter is expected to increase by as much as 30% from the previous quarter. This is of course due to the stock market and economy directly responded to the fiscal and monetary stimulus we have seen. To clarify, GDP growth in the second quarter was the worst ever recorded at -31.4%. Assuming we are getting back most of that loss by spending trillions of dollars is not a victory.

Around 29% Of New York's Hotels Remain Closed

When you consider how abnormal things are and how many sectors of the economy lay in ruin it is crazy to say all is well. Many people have already factored in a second CARES Act in the range of $2 trillion will be passed sometime in the fourth quarter, this would represent about a 25% increase in Government spending over the third quarter. History shows that as Government spending grows sequentially larger, each additional round of spending will have less impact.

This is where we get into the area of diminishing returns and how many dollars are required to generate $1 of economic growth. More debt is not the key to stronger rates of economic growth or prosperity and this is why debt-supported fiscal and monetary programs fail. In the last four decades debt has soared and governments have diverted tax dollars away from productive investments into the service of debt and social welfare. Factor in all the money squandered on unending wars and you see a large number of wasted opportunities to set our financial house in order. 

Trade is another area where we have masked our pain, for years we have had a rocketing trade deficit and seen jobs off-shored in an effort to lower corporate cost. While this has kept inflation in check by reducing the cost of many consumer goods, it has also resulted in much of America's wealth being squandered while strengthening our rivals. This dovetails with the growth of "crony capitalism" an economic system in which businesses thrive not as a result of risk, but rather as a return on money amassed through a nexus between a business class and the political class.

Total Hours Worked

The weakness in our economy is evident when we look at the total hours worked. It is clear we have not bounced back but even this does not give a clear picture of how far much productivity has recently fallen. Covid-19 has made many workplaces far less efficient as employees placed behind plastic shields dink around with masks, sanitizing, and constantly washing their hands. The chart to the right recently appeared in a piece by David Stockman in which he states, the Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker shows that nearly 25% of small businesses in operation last January have still not re-opened and there has been little improvement in the trend since July 4th.

It appears that sales gains will be harder to come by in the upcoming months, especially after the end of generous federal aid for the unemployed and businesses struggling to survive. Retail sales are a big part of consumer spending and typically increase when the economy improves. What people buy, where they get the money, and how they pay for their purchases is a big deal and a big issue when it comes to measuring the health of the economy. 

This all means that how strong the economy appears is often based on how you value its different facets. It is hard to deny that traditional book value makes sense in an economy composed of factories, farms, and shopping malls. What we must question is the value of things like intangibles like patents, licensing agreements, proprietary data, brand value, and network effects. We have seen the total value of corporate intangibles has risen to over $20 trillion from just 17% in 1975, these assets now represent a record 84% of all S&P assets.

It Can Be Argued Intangible Assets Are Massively Overvalued

It is easy to argue the Federal Reserve is now caught in a "liquidity trap." If interest rates do not remain low debt can not continue to grow but will implode as defaults soar causing the economy to stall out. One of the most striking aspects of our current situation is the Central Banks’ only remaining policy tool is more liquidity and claiming there is little risk of inflation. This is evident as day after day countries step up to the plate and reveal new stimulus plans. The problem is, cheap money tends to increase speculation and leverage as people discount risk, this also has the effect of elevating prices. This does not mean we have reached the end of this madness but it cannot go on without consequences. 

A big issue is the CBO’s prediction long-term economic growth is set to fall below 2%. This compares to an inflation-adjusted economic linear growth trend of 3.2% from 1947 to 2008. Following the 2008 recession, the growth rate dropped to roughly 2.2%.  This is problematic because instead of reducing outstanding debt problems, the Federal Reserve is providing policies that foster even greater levels of unproductive debt and leverage. These policies are also widening the wealth gap, increasing dependency of individuals on the government, and moving society towards socialism.

Many seasoned investors see we have entered the area of  “peak insanity” and are in the kind of market that only emerges during credit bubbles. Thinking economic strength will flow from giving more money to small businesses that might otherwise lay-off redundant employees is just ridiculous and does little to keep these companies strong. We should not assume that “moral hazard” is simply an old fashioned theory that has outlived its usefulness. The potential to enter a self-fueling doom loop still exists. Confusing the economic stimulus and humanitarian social safety nets aimed at helping needy workers is not the same thing and as bailing out reckless companies and allowing them to muddle along. One lesson we have learned this year is we should not expect things to revert to normal anytime soon.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Free Press Has A Responsibility To Be Fair

The So-called Free Press Includes Many Parts

Surging Media Bias has blown away the notion the free press will be fair and this year it seems these players that shape our opinions are  doubling down. This was demonstrated when allegations regarding Hunter Biden and a laptop with damning E-mails surfaced. Rather than letting people see and decide what to think about this information the response of Twitter and Facebook, was to shut it down and block it from getting out. This is where the power of tech companies flexing their muscles allows us to see they have become a major force in the media. Other news outlets also imposed a virtual blackout on the allegations. It didn’t matter that thousands of emails were available for review or that the Bidens did not directly address the material. It was all declared to be fake news.  

The idea of having a press that is free to cover the news is generally linked to the idea they will be fair because the freedom of free speech generally comes with a degree of responsibility and the obligation to seek the truth. A common example is how freedom of speech should give someone the right to speak their mind but not scream fire in a crowded theater. This is where discussions concerning the press and President Trump get sticky. Somewhere in what often slips into an argument is the role of the media in presenting an unbiased view of events. This is complicated by the fact many news outlets have moved more towards an entertainment format. Rather than presenting the cold hard facts, they have found it is sensationalism that draws viewers.

Stahl Told The President He Is Lying

The White House, in an unprecedented decision to disregard their agreement with CBS News, recently released their footage of an interview between President Trump and Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes. The President claimed in a Facebook post that a full video revealed "bias, hatred and rudeness" on Stahl's part. Interestingly, no matter how rude or contentious Stahl became an overwhelming majority of those in the media say the footage revealed no such thing. CBS said it only shows Stahl asking firm questions about the coronavirus and other topics.

It is during such interviews that we get an opportunity to witness examples of just how badly you can treat a guest invited to answer questions. This includes over the top efforts to put words in someone's mouth and take statements out of context. When the guest represents views differing from the interviewer or media outlet doing the interview what we often see is an ambush. If a guest is favored or their views are endorsed it is often as though they had written the softball questions asked of them or as if he/she had seen the questions in advance or controlled the interview. This can be backed up by a series of scripted statements that all loop back around to support a hard or subliminal message. With such coverage being very common it is little wonder that Americans question the honesty of the media whose ranks appear to have become filled with opportunists and bums dressed as journalists.

Today many people get the majority of their news over the internet. This has made a huge difference in how news is distributed allowing people more choice in how they receive their news, however, much of the content remains controlled by some rather strong players that often are driven by an agenda of self-interest. This proved to be very apparent during the presidential election where many in the media put their strong bias towards candidates front and center. It became clear to many of us that a greater force was comprised of those insiders currently in control and yearning to extend their power. Another name for this group is the establishment which now includes the high-tech social media and those collecting data on all of us.   

It is clear that over the years how we get our news has changed but it seems this is not the chief reason the public’s trust in the media had fallen. Most of the problem is people no longer view many of these outlets as fair and balanced. Gallup began asking respondents about their trust in the media back in 1972. Only forty-one percent of the respondents in Gallup’s recent national poll said that they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the mass media. Surprisingly this is well above the record low of 32% in 2016. Since then, the trust of Republicans has dropped the most. Republicans' trust sits at a very low level. Of Democrats, 69% say they have trust and confidence in the media, while 15% of Republicans and 36% of independents agree. While some 84% of those polled say news media is "critical" or "very important" to democracy, 86% think there is at least a fair amount of political bias in news coverage.

A Classic Example Of Subtle Bias

In many ways, the media has become viewed more as a tool of the establishment than the protector of the people and defender of our rights. This could explain why the press is often held in such low esteem by the very public that relies on them for information. Coverage filled with subtle digs or comments and even subliminal messages taint the premise media is fair.  In reaction to Trump dressing down certain news agencies or groups for bias coverage, we immediately see the fear card thrown down on the table and warnings about how dictatorships are formed. I'm a bit tired already of this charade rolled out by the press, however, a bigger concern is the cultural damage this is causing by widening the social divide in our heavily polarized country.

A fair amount of attention has been spent on "fake news" but just as important is the amount of media coverage that falls into the category of hype. Highlighted by a banner proclaiming "Breaking News" that stays on the screen for hours as we watch the same news clips and footage we have already seen several times. This is generally accompanied by rampant speculation geared to tantalize the viewer. The Sunday morning talk shows that claim to focus on the nation and the news that affects all of us have also suffered. Rather than addressing important issues, they continue dishing out a heavy dose of Trump-bashing. Taking comments out of context, straight-out misstating a person's positions, or putting them in an unpleasant light are all tricks used by a bias media. The blatantly bias coverage we are seeing is enough to force the question, is the so-called "free press" working for us or under the directive of greater forces seeking to control events?

The bottom-line is that we out here beyond the beltway in the backwaters and wilds of America should remember the media has a casual relationship with the truth. Just because the media or a politician says something does not make it true. It is interesting to note that many of the major media websites do not offer a comment area, or if they do they are restrictive in the comments they accept. This could be considered a form of censorship because it appears they would rather not show the views of those who disagree. It is becoming more obvious each day that the mainstream media controlled by those with an agenda have taken upon themselves the job of controlling our discourse and shaping public opinion. Another name for what they are dishing out as news is propaganda. This does little to inform us, bring us together, or create calm between Nations. With such coverage, the media risk a growing backlash and losing the little credibility they have. 

Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed towards influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position by presenting only one side of an argument. Propaganda is usually repeated and dispersed over a wide variety of media in order to create the chosen result in audience attitudes. In April of 2013, I wrote a piece that explored how the White House during Obama's time in office was taking to a whole new level the ability the President had to create a message by spinning, scrubbing, molding, and shaping it before sending it out to the public. While most Americans associate propaganda and the idea of news being censored with countries like China, sadly it is also happening here.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Hunter Biden Is Not The Problem, The Problem Is His Dad

Former Prosecutor Harris, We Have A Problem
It seems in our complicated world many murky relationships develop that come across as inappropriate. Over the years, growing crony capitalism has become the bane of modern society and added greatly to inequality. This is why, when we look at Hunter Biden and how he benefited from his father's role as Vice President an investigation is in order. Even before we get to what happened in Ukraine, the ties between China and the Biden family are too many and too large to ignore. President Trump has received a lot of criticism related to how he gained his wealth, however, almost all of what Trump has done he did as an outsider and not as part of the ruling political class.

Before going deeper into this subject it is very important to look at how the "Biden revelations" are being handled by the media. The way media has handled these allegations reveal a flaw or bias in both mainstream media and social media to the point where even censorship is being deployed. A good example of the spin being put on this red flag of corruption can be seen in an article that appeared under trending stories on my city's main news outlet. Here in the conservation heartland of America, the media published a piece titled; "Biden email episode illustrates risk to Trump from Giuliani"

The Associated Press piece written by Eric Tucker shines the spotlight on Rudy Giuliani portraying him as the messenger of Russian contrived information aimed at damaging Biden and influencing the election. It starts off referring to "a New York tabloid’s puzzling account about how it acquired emails purportedly from Joe Biden’s son has raised some red flags." Then claims that during Giuliani's travels abroad looking for dirt on the Bidens he developed relationships with some rather questionable figures. These include a Ukrainian lawmaker who U.S. officials have described as a Russian agent and part of a broader Russian effort to denigrate the Democratic presidential nominee.

The piece then moves on to the area of how the FBI seems more interested in the emails as part of a foreign influence operation than wrongdoing by Hunter or his father. The people reading this article are informed how this is just another latest episode involving Giuliani that "underscores the risk he poses to the White House" which has spent years dealing with a federal investigation into whether Trump associates had coordinated with Russia.

The part of the article that got my goat was when it referred to how " The Washington Post reported Thursday that intelligence agencies had warned the White House last year that Giuliani was the target of a Russian influence operation." Sighting the Washington Post as an authority and bastion of truth is a common tactic used by journalists to add validity to their bias and lazy reporting. Tucker forgot to mention The Washington Post is the propaganda mouthpiece of Amazon and owned by its CEO Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world which has had several run-ins with the President.   

The effort to denigrate Giuliani rather than focus on Biden wrongdoings cites both "former officials' and statements made by a person "who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity to AP," and of course, the exact scope of what was being investigated was not clear. Claiming that many people in the West Wing have been concerned about Giuliani's actions or saying the president has expressed private dismay at Giuliani’s scattershot style does not make it true.

Thinking a case can be made that Hunter enriched himself by selling access to his father but claiming Giuliani’s lack of credibility will cause the allegations to implode is a bit of a reach. This fact much of what appears to be bribe-taking at the highest levels of government has been overlooked for so long is in its self is a problem.  The appointment of an unqualified Hunter Biden to the board of a Ukrainian energy company with a reported compensation package worth some $50,000 per month led the Wall Street Journal, to publish a scathing article, on May 13, 2014. bringing the issue before the public.

At, FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors detail what constitutes bribery. It is offering or accepting anything of value in exchange to influence a government/public official or employee. Bribes can take many forms of gifts or payments of money in exchange for favorable treatment, such as awards of government contracts. Other forms of bribes may include property, various goods, privileges, services, and favors. Bribes are always intended to influence or alter the action of various individuals and are linked to both political and public corruption. In most situations, both the person offering the bribe and the person accepting can be charged. 

Was Influence Peddled Or Bribes Taken?
Both giving and receiving bribes is usually a felony with significant legal ramifications. Influence peddling, the illegal practice of using one's influence in government or connections with persons in authority to obtain favors or preferential treatment falls into this category. One thing is clear, whenever we are talking about the involvement of huge sums of money, foreign players, officials holding high public office, or family members of politicians a few eyebrows should get raised. With this in mind, the Biden problem extends well past Hunter but also into how other family members have profited from Joe's time as Vice President such as his brother's involvement in a huge government contract in Iraq.

The issue of Hunter Biden receiving money from Russia, Ukraine, and China surfaced during the first Presidential debate and Biden claimed it was a story already discredited by authorities. This narrative was destroyed when the Washington Times acknowledged the Treasury Department records confirm Hunter Biden received a wire transfer for $3.5 million from the Mayor of Moscow’s wife. It is difficult to find anyone that holds Hunter in high esteem and the fact the United States suspects the woman sending him this money built much of her wealth through corruption does little to improve his standing. For those of us cynical of all the so-called public servants that seem to line their pockets and hold the attitude they are above the law this is a big red flag. 

If the veil of secrecy surrounding Hunter's career is lifted we will most likely find Hunter's dad did share in the spoils bestowed upon not only his son but others in the Biden family. I contend Joe Biden's cozy relationship with corruption is why former President Obama did not rush to endorse Biden when he announced he planned to run. To be clear, we are talking about, millions, and hundreds of millions of dollars or more. For us cynics, we see this as what may be only the tip of the spear when it comes to public officials throwing the American people under the bus for fun and profit. As a voter, this dovetails with my concern about Biden's relationship and attitude towards China which I consider a major issue. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Of Amazon We Should Be Afraid, Very Afraid!

Amazon is a monster that with the help of our government exploits America and continues to engulf and devour its competitors. Of Amazon, we should be afraid, very afraid! Amazon is a job-killing exploiter. The fact is that many of the options Bezos employs to expand Amazon are available to him only because of the many areas his various companies engage in, this is the crux of growing antitrust talk. Jeff Bezos did not purchase the Washington Post in 2013 because he expected newspapers to make a lucrative resurgence. He purchased the long-trusted U.S. newspaper for the power it would ensure him in Washington and because it could be wielded as a propaganda mouthpiece to extend his ability to both shape and control public opinion. 

The ownership of the Post dovetails with Amazon's role working with the CIA. The Washington Post is without a doubt the most pro-establishment among all large mainstream publications, not only do they defend the narratives of the Deep State but actively attacks anyone who challenges them. This includes both President Trump and Bernie Sanders, both are on the record for having criticized Amazon. This is also part of the reason the USPS continues to be allowed to grant Amazon special treatment by delivering its packages on Sunday and even on major holidays, the USPS has sold out the rest of American businesses for a few dollars in revenue. Ironically, the thing many people on both the far-right and far-left can agree upon is Amazon is not our friend.

The company has over the last year been forced to undertake a massive public relations campaign and increase its advertising to offset growing consumer anger. CEO Jeff Bezos is gifted with the ability to re-frame an issue and this can be seen in its effort to paint a positive image of Amazon as a good neighbor and job creator. Ripping apart this illusion is the sad truth that when Amazon creates a job one or more are lost in another part of the economy. As for being a "good neighbor," an article recently appeared on Viable Opposition detailing how Amazon exploited and price gouged customers during the bulk of the lock-down.

An All Too common Sight All Across America

Hopefully on Amazon's Prime Day shopping event  consumers will just say no to the company that weasels its way into our lives. It is difficult to quantify all the damage Amazon has done to America as it has burrowed its way into the fabric of society. This company has exploited communities by continually telling consumers it is the answer to a "better America" while it feeds at the government teat. Only after it has wrecked communities leaving many Americans jobless and retail stores sitting as giant empty shells might short-sighted consumers finally see the airs of their way. Amazon is bad for America - it is that simple!

An example of this surfaced a while back when it was reported that Amazon would be allowed a two year trial in New York state to ship food to customers and be paid with their EBT cards. This is going to hammer Amazon's competitors located in these areas. While nobody seemed to care this translates into grocery stores willing to locate in poorer areas losing business to a company unwilling to locate in these less desirable markets. This is a rather self-defeating in that it rewards those unwilling to commit to making the community better and damages the brick and mortar stores that will. Not only do these stores pay local real estate taxes and provide jobs for those in the community they also are forced to deal with a huge number of shoplifters.

Small Business Has Continued To Fall

Amazon is not the answer to creating a better America and is a company I simply cannot embrace. I strongly urge people to consider what kind of community and society they want in the future before jumping on the Amazon bandwagon. While in the past many politicians fell over themselves to be in its shadow that trend is stalling. Because of its massive advertising budget and other ties to Amazon, we find the media often seems to be in bed with Amazon and portrays the company as both the flavor of the day and the future of commerce.  This means you seldom hear anything bad about the retail behemoth in these stories put before us that are in effect free advertising. These so-called news articles are often spun to place Amazon in the most flattering light. 

Over the years Amazon has employed a strategy that takes no prisoners. It even crushes merchants working on its platform by stealing their product ideas and undercutting them on prices. This is done by giving their own Amazon-branded products premium real estate on their website. Amazon has also been stepping up efforts to recruit Chinese suppliers and manufacturers directly which cuts small American merchants out of the picture. As these new Chinese players have entered the picture "an explosion" of counterfeit products and fake reviews have hit the site. This is an issue prominent in Chinese e-commerce. 

Killing Jobs, Small Business, And Communities

For all the praise many people and politicians heap upon small business they are often quick to cut the very throat of the creator of much of our wealth and jobs. The sale of goods over the internet has a great deal of merit, but how it is carried out can have a profound effect on society. Only as local stores continue to close, our children cannot find jobs, and property values begin to wither it will become apparent we have made a deal with the devil. Amazon excels in creating illusions that fail to hold up under scrutiny. Its vision of drone delivery is an example of the kind of pop it can garner with its news blips. Because of its influence, you can count on the media to turn any news about Amazon turned into a promotional ad.  

Current tax laws at the local, state, and federal level have changed little over the decades and lag far behind how business is conducted in our modern age. This feeds directly into creating an unfair advantage for Amazon which has used them as a foundation to fuel its growth. Still, even more troubling is how the company has created an environment that draws in other sellers of goods then in a predatory manner undercuts their ability to compete. When you add these actions to Amazon's growing influence in Washington due to its strong relationship with the CIA and deep state with its CEO's ability to drive public opinion through the Washington Post we have every reason for grave concern. Remember the proverbial saying 'power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. In short, this is why Amazon has become a threat to our democracy and capitalism in America.

Fred's valuable tip was a "Hallmark moment"

People often claim to expound old-time values such as cherishing personal relationships with the people in their neighborhoods that they do business with. Still, it seems some consumers become almost giddy at the thought of receiving a package from an online seller mistaking it for a gift. The truth is these packages are not free. Even if they are paying the same price such goods come with a hidden cost levied against their community. That cost is lost jobs, local sales, and a lower tax base. This is why if prices are anywhere near the same it is wise to "do the right thing" and support your local merchants.   

 People should consider what kind of community and society they want in the coming years before jumping on the Amazon bandwagon. For all the praise many people and politicians heap upon small business they are often quick to cut the throat and turn their backs to those that create much of our wealth and jobs. India recently made an effort to tighten the noose on E-retailers and we should too. America also needs to investigate ways to level the playing field and protect the brick and mortar retailers that provide jobs and are so important to the fabric of communities. Washington has become tangled up in its own feet that it is unable to get anything done, so it is time we the people take action, that is why I urge you to "boycott" anything Amazon.


Footnote To read the important Viable Opposition piece about Amazon's price gouging go to;

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Many American's No Longer Care If Trump "Dunn It?"

  We Have Two Starkly Different Paths Forward
Many Americans no longer care what Trump has done or not done. When it comes to choosing between him and Joe Biden as our President, far greater issues loom before us than Trump's past. As for the thought of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election or whether Trump colluded with the Russians, by now most people seem to have made up their mind. People are either outraged, simply concerned, or taken the attitude this is all a big nothing burger and lies promoted by is enemies. 
Today few Americans are concerned as to whether President Trump had a closer relationship with Russia at any point before his election than he leads on. This runs directly up against the question of how much it matters, does it impact national security, as the deep state claims, and does the average American even care? Things are much different than in mid-December of 2018 when there was a huge dust-up as new statements and "allegations" surfaced having to do with Trump's sexual adventures. These "misdoings of a personal nature" took front and center. Of course, at the time those attempting to impeach and ouster the Donald latched on to these claims thinking they would be the final nail in his coffin.

Back then the story surrounded Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen and the parent company of the National Enquirer, American Media Inc. (AMI), admitting responsibility for its role in a $150,000 "catch-and-kill" hush money payment to a former Playboy Playmate. The Playmate, Karen McDougal, alleged that she had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006. Under a non-prosecution agreement, AMI admitted that it refused to publish Karen McDougal's claim to prevent it from influencing the election by damaging Trump.

Do Voters Care If Trump Was A Womanizer?
The "womanizer" episode of the "dump Trump" saga lasted a short time with the never-ending Washington sideshow ramping up as the mainstream media kept us a "breast" of every salacious detail. They even provided us with eye-candy suggestive photos of all lewd, crude, and improper conduct our current Pervert and Chief may have touched on. With everyone all a tither with speculation, this gave lobbyists even more time to go about their task of writing legislation giving those they represent an edge. For taxpayers who send representatives to Washington at great expense, this only added to America's dysfunctional political culture. 

When Trump's past sexual exploits failed to gain traction we saw those pushing for impeachment shift to a strategy centering around a whistle-blower complaint. It claimed President Donald Trump broke the law during a phone call with the Ukrainian president when he threatened to withhold military aid in exchange for a political favor. That complaint was riddled with repeated references to what anonymous officials allegedly told the complainant. These include things such as: “I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials,” “officials have informed me,” “officials with direct knowledge of the call informed me,” “I was told by White House officials,” “the officials I spoke with,” “I was told that a State Department official,” and more.
These did not prove to be crimes significant enough to merit Trump's ouster unless expanded into the world of technicalities and lies. This is a place where speculation, who knew what, when, or who said what often rule the day. Again, this brings us back to the question of whether Trump is guilty and does America really care? We can only pray this game of, "if his enemies can't get Trump on this, they will go after him on that" may have finally run its course.  Unfortunately, this has also raised substantial questions about the intelligence community’s behavior and its growing role in politics.
Is This About His Policies Or Trump As A Man?
Politics should not be the driver as to what is "impeachable behavior." The standard for removal from office on impeachment should remain the conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. Circling back around as to how we got here, A big part of the problem is that Hilary Clinton the Democratic presidential candidate that ran against Trump in 2016 was such a tarnished figure many Americans were left feeling they were forced to chose between the least of two evils. 
When it comes to lies, and lying to the people, both political parties should hang their heads in shame. America is not alone when it comes to the rich history of politicians bending the truth, breaking pledges, or committing outright deceit. It is almost as if honesty is in the eye of the beholder and this is where terms like alternative facts come to mind. This is evident when we view the nightly news presented by the main-stream media or look into how big tech companies are manipulation information. Currently, a full-scale propaganda war rages with many Americans hellbent on convincing the rest of us what is really going on.  
Adding to the confusion is that respect for the media, politicians, institutions like the FBI and CIA has fallen to where we are left wondering who to trust. Many Americans are oblivious to the fact the militarization of police forces and government surveillance grew in leaps and bounds during the Obama years. Many of the issues stemming from these trends were not created by Trump but problems he inherited when he took office. The same could be said about trade and China, for decades the trade deficit has increased and many people have been warning of the consequences if it was not addressed. 
More overshadowing than any other factor affecting this election is that we are seeing two starkly different paths forward. If Trump is re-elected, the focus will continue to lean toward job creation, increasing our wealth, and letting the private sector, the supply side of the economy, expand as rapidly as possible. Biden’s agenda, in contrast, is more centered on addressing America’s problems with growing economic inequality. This is likely to be accomplished by redistributing more economic opportunities, including some wealth, to the lower and middle classes via government programs.
Joe Biden as a Presidential candidate is not formidable and his past dealings as a politician do not leave him squeaky clean. Looking back at the early primaries leaves many voters wondering what twist of fate reversed the waning fortunes of a campaign that had been considered dead. Another factor we must consider is that both Trump and Biden are not spring chickens and getting a bit long in the tooth. Whether you like him or not, it is difficult to deny that Vice President Pence is far more experienced than first-term Senator Kamala Harris if called upon to step into the role of President.
Whether it was the deep South or the deep State that brought Joe back from the brink we may never know. What we do know is that the economic path Biden wants to take us down will have huge negative social and cultural ramifications. Once America starts down this path the majority of people that always want more will have their way and the checks and balances that have served this country will slip away. That is why in my opinion many American's will feel they can no longer afford the luxury of caring if Trump did this or that.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Say Goodbye To Millions Of Jobs As Events Unfold

Society Needs Good Jobs 
Many jobs will not be coming back after the covid-19 crisis ends. We can say goodbye to millions of jobs as events unfold and markets evolve. Millions of small businesses being decimated by Fed policies that favor huge companies coupled with a surge in automation bodes poorly for those looking for work. Over the last three decades, robots have become far more common in factories. In many manufacturing facilities, robots do most of the work. A typical factory may contain hundreds of robots working on fully automated production lines, as it rolls by on a conveyor, a product can be welded, glued, painted, and finally assembled at a sequence of robot stations. 

Robots are rapidly replacing humans in performing repetitive and dangerous tasks that people prefer not to do or are unable to do due to size limitations. This includes working in places such as in outer space or at the bottom of the sea where humans cannot survive the extreme environments.  Industrial robots are also used extensively for placing products on pallets and packaging of manufactured goods, for example for rapidly taking drink cartons from the end of a conveyor belt and putting them into boxes, or for loading and unloading machines.

Factories Are Now Full Of Robot Workers
The rise in populism and Trump's trade war has brought front and center how globalization has often put America's self-interest behind that of corporate profits. In an article written in April of 2013, I claimed that if factories filled with mostly robot workers are the future then we should do all that we can to see that they are located in America. While they would not necessarily be a massive creator of jobs they would at least allow us to have control of our own manufacturing and reduce America's trade deficit. Fortunately, several events that have taken place since then have fed into an awareness of the vulnerabilities created in supply chains by allowing control of production to flow into foreign hands.

The changes made in how we tax American companies has been a gift to the rich and added to inequality, however, these changes and the pandemic also have paved the way for companies to build new facilities here in America rather than abroad. This was not the chief goal of the legislation but we should celebrate this small victory. In truth, the structural issues that haunt America's competitiveness far outweigh the benefits of lower taxes. The ugly reality is American companies have little reason to bring jobs home, the logic that lowering corporate income tax will create a massive flow of jobs to our shore is flawed. The tax bill did little to level the playing field when it comes to issues such as healthcare costs and over-regulation. This means these factors continue to act as barriers to doing business in America.

Capital Buys Machines To Reduce Labor
Many people blame the decline of manufacturing jobs in America and other rich countries on outsourcing and the movement of factories to countries where labor is cheaper. That has indeed been the case but with new less expensive robots entering the game even this "cheap labor" is being replaced by machines. By manufacturers replacing workers with machines they are now replacing labor with capital. This means the manufacturing workers who remain are many times more productive than their fore-bearers 50 years ago.

Robert Lawrence of Harvard and Lawrence Edwards of the University of Cape Town argued in "Rising Tide", that factories have gotten spectacularly more efficient.  They produce more goods with fewer people, their "productivity" is rising.  Manufacturing employment is shrinking not mainly because jobs are moving "offshore", but because fewer workers are needed.  In most advanced countries, even those with strong export sectors, manufacturing's share of jobs has plummeted. This is apparent in Canada where from 1973 to 2010, manufacturing's proportion of employment fell from 22 percent to 10 percent.

As software and robots improve they will be able to expand the number of functions that they can perform.  This suggests that sooner rather than later, the only people working in factories in rich countries will be those who had the time and money to get college degrees.  In the past, much of America's middle class consisted of people who started out working in factories with only a high school degree. This path forward is being eliminated with the increased use of robots. How easily human workers can be replaced by robots is a major reason concerns about the increasing use of robots and their role in society is growing.

What has happened in the manufacturing is part of a larger paradox at the heart of America's economy, while we are creating wealth faster than ever before in history, at the same time, millions of people are being left behind. The median worker in the US is poorer now than in the mid-1990s. Not everyone is suffering, skilled workers, for example, are earning more than ever.  So are the very rich, those who own the capital that can be put to work in the world's increasingly person-free farms, mines, and factories.  But those who used to make middle-class wages are increasingly slipping into lower-paying, service-sector jobs.

Automation Is Replacing Off-shoring!
China's largest private employer, Foxconn, which manufactures the iPhone and many other consumer electronics have installed over a million manufacturing robots. This new wave of technology is leading to more and more automation and is rapidly replacing off-shoring as the least expensive way to produce products.  China has been losing jobs to countries with even lower wages. Eventually, "you run out of places to chase the (cheap) labor," says Rodney Brooks, an Australian roboticist. This is where automation and robots enter the picture. 
Years ago, thanks to some very clever engineering, a robot named Baxter cost about $22,000. Today the price is falling and Baxter is getting better. In the US, a person working full-time at what is considered a low wage would still cost an employer around $25,000 a year. The biggest difference is that robots like Baxter will work 24/7 where its human counterpart does not. Brooks indicates that, in many cases, these robots are not yet capable enough to replace a human worker. “The robot is not a one-to-one replacement,” says Brooks. “We see it as a tool for ordinary workers to do better.” His vision includes bringing manufacturing back to the US by replacing with automation some of the repetitive tasks that are currently shipped to China and other emerging markets. 
Not only are we looking at robots taking jobs from people but as robots become more advanced and sophisticated, experts and academics have increasingly explored the questions of what ethics might govern robots' behavior, and whether robots might be able to claim any kind of social, cultural, ethical or legal rights. It is possible that a robot brain will soon exist, others predict robot intelligence breakthroughs by 2050. We must also question the use of robots for military combat, especially when such robots are given some degree of autonomous functions. There are also concerns about technology which might allow some armed robots to be controlled mainly by other robots. The use of robots in military combat raises ethical concerns, the US Navy has funded a report looking into this.

The possibility of robot autonomy and potential repercussions has been addressed in fiction and is likely to become a growing issue. Even as you read this, huge companies such as Amazon are focused on moving to create robots with the goal of reducing its human workforce. Self-driving cars and delivery trucks as well as drones all have the potential to eliminate work that in the past only people could do. One thing is certain, robots are taking our jobs and learning new tricks far faster than us humans. Automation and improvements in robots is a job killer. When you consider how fast the cost of replacing often unreliable human workers is dropping one must take a dim view of the employment picture going forward.