Recently in Business Category

Now this is depressing - plastics

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From National Public Radio:

Waste Land
Last year, Planet Money ran a show about why it doesn't make sense economically and, heartbreakingly, even environmentally to recycle plastic. But if recycling most plastic is not working now — and if it didn't work 30 years ago when the numbers and arrows first popped up — did it ever work? And why did it take us so long to learn the truth? In this episode, NPR reporter Laura Sullivan, with the support of PBS's Frontline, sets out to find out who is responsible.

And what she finds is a paper trail — crinkled-up documents (that apparently did not get recycled) long forgotten in old boxes. And the trail leads, well, to a guy on a beach in Florida.

24 minute audio show - the plastics manufacturers lied to us saying that recycling would be guaranteed, safe and cheap. None of the above.

Under the radar - President Trump

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The stories about peace in the middle east may finally be gaining some traction but this is flying completely under the radar. From the South Florida Sun-Sentinal:

The Trump administration is committed to a safe, democratic Latin America
I recently traveled to Panama and Colombia to meet with presidents Cortizo and Duque and to announce the launch of several of President Donald J. Trump’s initiatives to enhance security, prosperity, and democracy in the Western Hemisphere.

The U.S.-Colombia Growth Initiative will unleash billions of dollars of American private sector investment in Colombia over the next three years. These investments will focus on projects that empower rural Colombians and expand economic opportunities for farmers, such as roads, land titling, and farming infrastructure. By making investments in Colombia’s legitimate agricultural economy, we can begin to move rural Colombians away from coca cultivation.

We expanded our agreement with Panama under the América Crece — Growth in the Americas — program to include infrastructure investment as well as energy projects. Beyond Panama, América Crece will help address the region’s shortfall of over $150 billion in annual private sector infrastructure and energy investment. Almost a dozen of our neighboring countries have already signed framework deals, and we have unleashed over $1 billion in regional investment through the U.S Development Finance Corporation (DFC).

A rising tide floats all boats. This will bring peace and stability to the world. Present an alternative to cocaine as a cash crop and get the farmers educated and the crime cartels will lose traction.

Dealing with China - Sweden gets it

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From the South China Morning Post:

H&M cuts ties with Chinese supplier over Xinjiang forced labour accusations
Swedish clothing giant H&M said on Tuesday it was ending its relationship with a Chinese yarn producer over accusations of “forced labour” involving ethnic and religious minorities from China’s Xinjiang province.

The fashion retailer specified that it did not work with any garment factories in the region and that it would no longer source cotton from Xinjiang, which is China’s largest cotton growing area.

A bit more and some other good news:

Rights groups say over a million Uygurs languish in political re-education camps, which Beijing describes as vocational training centres where education is given to lift the population out of poverty and to chisel away at Islamic radicalism.

China says criticism of its handling of Xinjiang is politically motivated, and based on lies about what happens in the vast facilities it has built.

On Monday US customs said it would bar a raft of Chinese products including cotton, garments and hair products, from Xinjiang over fears they were made using forced labour.

China on Tuesday slammed the US move as “bullying” and dismissed accusations of forced labour as “a complete fabrication”.

Nice to see that the US Customs is doing the same thing. As for this being "a complete fabrication" - the communist Chinese government doth protest too much. We know. They know that we know. They just want to save face.

Commercial sports - get woke, go broke

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From Hot Air:

Super Bust: New Gallup Poll Shows Sports Industry As Popular As … Big Pharma And The Feds
Is this outcome from Gallup’s latest longitudinal poll fair? After all, big pharma and the feds might be having a better season than the sports industry. Nonetheless, those are the only three industries that find themselves in negative territory, with sports taking the biggest dive:

The biggest slide, however, has been for the sports industry, with its positive score falling 15 points — from 45% to 30%.

The sports industry now has a negative image, on balance, among Americans as a whole, with 30% viewing it positively and 40% negatively, for a -10 net-positive score. This contrasts with the +20 net positive image it enjoyed in 2019, when 45% viewed it positively and 25% negatively. …

While it’s not clear how much the various challenges and controversies swirling around the industry are each responsible for its slide in popularity, it is notable that sports has lost more support from Republicans and independents than from Democrats. In fact, Democrats’ view of the sports industry has not changed significantly in the past year, while Republicans’ has slipped from a +11 net-positive score in 2019 to a net -35 today, and independents’ from +26 to -10.

The sports industry’s image has also deteriorated more among women than men, and among older adults than those younger than 35. Sports has also lost more support from non-White than White Americans, but given the extraordinarily high ratings from non-White adults a year ago, this group continues to view the sports industry positively on balance today. That is not the case with White adults, who now view the sports industry more negatively than positively, and by a 22-point margin.

Not a follower of commercial sports so this does not impact me. Still, that was a huge industry until they started pandering to the extreme minority of activists.

Dropping the gauntlet - New York City

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A strong dose of coffee from the Wall Street Journal:

Business Leaders Urge Mayor de Blasio to Stop New York City’s Decline
More than 160 business leaders, including executives at Citigroup Inc., Mastercard Inc. and Nasdaq Inc., have signed a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio warning of New York City’s deteriorating condition in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and growing anxiety over public safety, cleanliness and other quality-of-life issues.

In a letter sent Thursday, the leaders said the pandemic has devastated the city’s economy, causing high levels of unemployment. They urged the Democratic mayor to restore essential services that have been cut from the budget that he and the New York City Council recently approved.

The budget reduced or eliminated services like garbage pickups and graffiti removal, as well as shifted nearly $1 billion in funding away from the New York Police Department. The city still faces a $9 billion deficit over the next two years and may have to lay off 22,000 government workers in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the city has seen a surge in violent crimes and thefts over the summer as officials loosened restrictions to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

For the four-week period that ended Sunday, the city recorded 55 homicides, up 49% from 37 in the same period last year, according to NYPD data. The city also had 222 shooting incidents during those four weeks, more than double the 90 shootings a year earlier.

“We need to send a strong, consistent message that our employees, customers, clients and visitors will be coming back to a safe and healthy work environment,” the business leaders’ letter said. “People will be slow to return unless their concerns about security and the livability of our communities are addressed quickly and with respect and fairness for our city’s diverse populations.”

I love it.  Show some leadership, turn the city around, kick out the bums or we are outta here.

The New York Post also writes about the letter:

NYC CEOs plead with de Blasio to crack down on crime, quality-of-life issues
The heads of over 160 major corporations, from Macy’s to MasterCard, are pleading with Mayor Bill de Blasio to finally crack down on crime and address quality-of-life concerns so New Yorkers can return to work after the coronavirus shut down the city.

Some bits:

Shootings have skyrocketed in the last few months with a 50 percent increase over Labor Day weekend alone compared to last year, while arrests for gunplay are down by about 13 percent.

Garbage is overflowing on city streets as budget cuts reduced the number of weekly pickups, and homeless encampments have proliferated around the five boroughs.

Less than 10 percent of the city’s office workers had returned to their desks by last month.

 And this:

The effort was organized by the Partnership for New York City, a business group whose members employ over 1.5 million New Yorkers.

That is a lot of jobs. A big chunk of the tax base too. I do hope he listens or that the voters get their collective heads out of their butts and elect someone good this time around.

Heh - some legal challenges for Google

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From the New York Times:

Justice Dept. Plans to File Antitrust Charges Against Google in Coming Weeks
The Justice Department plans to bring an antitrust case against Google as soon as this month, after Attorney General William P. Barr overruled career lawyers who said they needed more time to build a strong case against one of the world’s wealthiest, most formidable technology companies, according to five people briefed on internal department conversations.

And a bit more - a very political case given their manipulation of search results:

A coalition of 50 states and territories support antitrust action against Google, a reflection of the broad bipartisan support that a Justice Department case might have. But state attorneys general conducting their own investigations into the company are split on how to move forward, with Democrats perceived by Republicans as slow-walking the work so that cases can be brought under a potential Biden administration, and Democrats accusing Republicans of rushing it out under Mr. Trump. That disagreement could limit the number of states that join a Justice Department lawsuit and imperil the bipartisan nature of the investigation.

This will be fun to watch from the sidelines. AT&T was broken up into the Baby Bells with little or no service interruption. Same thing should be able to happen to Google.

Heh - from Salon Magazine (hint: Salon is very liberal):

"Friday Night Massacre" at US Postal Service: Postmaster General boots top brass ahead of election
Government watchdogs, Democratic lawmakers, and pro-democracy advocates declared it a "Friday Night Massacre" for the U.S. Postal Service after news broke in a classic end-of-the-week dump that Louis DeJoy—a major GOP donor to President Donald Trump and the recently appointed Postmaster General—had issued a sweeping overhaul of the agency, including the ouster of top executives from key posts and the reshuffling of more than two dozen other officials and operational managers.

"Trump is actively sabotaging the election under our noses—this isn't theoretical, it's happening RIGHT NOW." —Brian Tyler Cohen, political commentator. According to the Washington Post:

The shake-up came as congressional Democrats called for an investigation of DeJoy and the cost-cutting measures that have slowed mail delivery and ensnared ballots in recent primary elections.

Twenty-three postal executives were reassigned or displaced, the new organizational chart shows. Analysts say the structure centralizes power around DeJoy, a former logistics executive and major ally of President Trump, and de-emphasizes decades of institutional postal knowledge. All told, 33 staffers included in the old postal hierarchy either kept their jobs or were reassigned in the restructuring, with five more staffers joining the leadership from other roles.

Already under fire for recent policy changes at the USPS that mail carriers from within and outside critics have denounced as a sabotage effort to undermine the Postal Service broadly as well as disrupt efforts to carry out mail-in voting for November's election amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the moves unveiled late Friday were viewed as an overt assault on democracy and a calculated opportunity to boost Republicans' long-held dream of undercutting or privatizing the government-run mail service while also boosting their election prospects in the process.

Where to begin... The most obvious point is that if the Republicans were carrying out a long-held dream of privatizing the post office, why would they be spending so much time and effort streamlining it and making it efficient and cost effective again. If they were going to privatize it, they would just sit back and let it collapse under its own weight.

As for cries such as: "Trump is actively sabotaging the election under our noses" - this is nothing but pure Psychological Projection.

Looking forward to a fresh batch of liberal tears to drink this evening. There is nothing sweeter or more satisfying.

The H-1B program allows people to come in to America to work if there is nobody here that can do the job. A good idea but this program has been seriously misused. People are being hired at significantly lower wages and domestic workers are being fired - Disney did this a while ago and there was a big uproar as outgoing DIsney employees were forced to train their replacements (here, here and here) From Just the News:

Trump bans U.S agencies from firing citizens to replace them with foreigners, fires TVA chief
President Trump on Monday signed an executive order banning federal agencies — with particular attention on the technology sector — from firing U.S. citizens or green card holders only to replace them with foreigners.

The order, which the White House is calling the Executive Order on Hiring American, challenges federal contractors' use of H-1B visas to bring in temporary foreign labor for high-skilled jobs rather than relying on American workers

"This Executive Order follows his Buy American, Hire American Executive Order from April 2017 and takes further action to prevent Americans from being displaced by foreign workers," the White House said in a statement released Monday. "Under President Trump’s leadership, the firing of hardworking Americans in the pursuit of cheap foreign labor will not be tolerated."

And the connection with the TVA?

At the White House signing ceremony Monday, Trump said he's pushing for the removal of authority CEO Jeff Lyash and called on its board to make sure Lyash "does not receive a lavish compensation package upon his departure too."

"He gets $8 million a year, so that was just a succession of deep swamp things happening, and it's a disgrace," Trump said. "So let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board. If you betray American workers, then you will hear two simple words, 'You're fired.'"

Good - he is not worth that much money. Gaming the system not adding value. Door. Ass. Bang.

Helping out small businesses

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Small businesses are the lifeblod of a community. They have helped us. Now, it is time to give back:

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President Trump is quietly doing his job. From The Daily Caller:

Trump Recovers Taxpayer Cash On A $1 Billion Obama-Backed Solar Plant That Was Obsolete Before Ever Going Online
The Department of Energy reached a settlement Thursday to recover $200 million in taxpayer funds from a loan the Obama administration distributed in 2011 to finance a $1 billion solar power plant that was deemed obsolete before it could officially go online.

The settlement between DOE and Tonopah Solar Energy must now be approved by a bankruptcy court, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported.

The DOE provided a $737 million loan to Tonopah in September 2011 for the purposes of financing the $1.1 billion Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project in Nevada. The agency disbursed funds for the plant in 2011 and 2013 before the project experienced problems requiring improvements, rendering the Crescent Dunes obsolete by 2015, Bloomberg reported in January.

Yeah - he does stuff like this every day and the mainstream media? Crickets...

Leaving Seattle

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Just did a U Haul index for leaving Seattle and the numbers are pretty spectacular.

First off, I did Seattle to Bellingham. I was not expecting a big difference as there is probably about $80+ basic administrative costs for a rental that will not be affected by the "desirability" of the route. But, there is a difference:

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It is when we look out of state at a conservative part of the Nation that the numbers really show themselves - I chose Coeur D'alene, Idaho. Let's look at the two:

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Holy crap - a 367% difference between the two routes. So many more people want to move from Seattle to Coeur D'alene that U Haul can charge a premium. They need 10' trucks in Seattle so bad that they offer a huge discount to people driving the other way.

Poor leadership to our North

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The Canadian Premier is throwing a tantrum - from the UK Guardian:

Justin Trudeau snubs Nafta meeting with Trump in Washington
The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has declined an invitation to visit the White House this week to celebrate a new North American free trade deal, amid worsening coronavirus figures in the US and lingering tensions with Donald Trump.

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is due to meet Trump in Washington on Wednesday, and had urged Trudeau to attend the meeting.

But in a statement on Monday, Trudeau’s office said: “We wish the United States and Mexico well at Wednesday’s meeting. While there were recent discussions about the possible participation of Canada, the prime minister will be in Ottawa this week for scheduled cabinet meetings and the long-planned sitting of parliament.”

Sheesh - the ink is not even dry on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and already, Canada is trying to weasel. They sat down and negotiated this thing, they need to honor their side of the bargain. Going to be fun to see what President Trump will do in retaliation - he will not let this pass unnoticed...

Some nice numbers - our economy

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This is leadership - with all that the liberals are throwing at us, we are doing just fine. From FOX News:

Trump touts 'historic' June jobs report: 'Our economy is roaring back'
President Trump, during a pre-holiday press briefing at the White House, touted the June jobs report that indicated the economy is beginning to rebound from the depths of its crash during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Our economy is roaring back," Trump declared Thursday, saying the response to the coronavirus pandemic, coordinated with governors, is "working out very well."

He added: "These are historic numbers."

"The United States economy added almost 5 million jobs in the month of June, shattering all expectations," Trump said. "The stock market is doing extremely well ... this is the largest monthly jobs gain in the history of our country."

Yeah - the chattering classes might see doom and gloom. The rest of us are doing quite well thank you.

From Zero Hedge:

83 Tons Of Fake Gold Bars: Gold Market Rocked By Massive China Counterfeiting Scandal
Over the years, we have periodically - reported of the occasional gold bar discovered as counterfeit in Manhattan's Diamond District which instead of containing the yellow precious metal would be filled with gold-plated tungsten or in some cases copper. The news would spark a brief wave of outrage, prompting physical gold holders to run ultrasound spot checks of their inventory, at which point interest would wane and why not: buyer, after all, beware in gold as in every other market, and if someone is spending thousands to buy fake gold, well that's Darwinism in action.

Yet one market which seemed stubbornly immune to any counterfeiting was that of physical gold in China, which was odd considering that over the past decade China had emerged as the world's biggest counterfeiter of various, mostly industrial metals used to secure bank loans, better known as "ghost collateral", and which adding insult to injury, would frequently  be rehypothecated meaning often several banks would have claims to the same (fake) asset.

All that is about to change with the discovery of what may be one of the biggest gold counterfeiting scandal in recent history. And yes, not only does it involve China, but it emerges from a city that has become synonymous for all that is scandalous about China: Wuhan itself.

With that preamble in mind, we introduce readers to Wuhan Kingold Jewelry Inc., a company which as the name implies was founded and operates out of Wuhan, and which describes itself on its website as "A Company with a Golden future."

Heh - much much more at the story. This reaches into the top of the Chinese government. What with the rains, the possible troubles with the Three Gorges Dam and the Wuhan flu, this is not a good year for China.

I wrote about this back in 2012 here: Gold counterfeiting -- ten bars found in New York City

I also linked to this company: ChinaTungsten Online - still online and still in business.
You can buy your own "gold" bar. From the website:

How to Make Tungsten Gold plated Bar?
Start with a tungsten alloy about 1/8-inch smaller in each dimension than the tungsten alloy gold bar you want, then cast a 1/16-inch layer of real pure gold all around it. This product would feel right in the hand, and tungsten alloy gold bar would have a dead ring when knocked as gold should. tungsten Gold plated bar would test right chemically, weigh exactly the right amount, and also pass an x-ray fluorescence scan, the 1/16" layer of pure gold being enough to stop the x-rays from reaching any tungsten.

Tungsten alloy gold bar and tungsten gold plated bar as a gold substitution could be regarded as the special present for some fields. If you are a broker in stock, manager in a big bank or insurance company, you can use Chinatungsten tungsten alloy gold plated bar engraved with your company's name as souvenirs to your VIP customers. It is a very decent present without costing too much, and also could attract more customers for your business.

And from their ABOUT US page, we see that they have been in business since 1997 - 23 years.

Turns out that Quaker Oats is owned by Pepsico. Pepsico may be pandering to the woke crowd but in so doing, they are memory-holing a cultural icon. From Breitbart:

Nancy Green, Freed Slave and Trailblazing Corporate Model, Was 1st Aunt Jemima
Pepsico, the corporation that owns the Aunt Jemima brand, is erasing the name and the logo portrait of a black woman “to make progress toward racial equality” and in doing so is also erasing the legacy of Nancy Green, a freed slave who had a long career with the Quaker Oats company as a storyteller, actress, and singer.

Nancy Green’s story is told in a number of places, including in a YouTube video about her life and career. She is also featured on the African American Registry website:

On this date we celebrate the birth of Nancy Green in 1834. She was a Black storyteller and one of the first black corporate models in the United States.

The world knew her as “Aunt Jemima,” but her given name was Nancy Green. The famous Aunt Jemima recipe was not her recipe but she became the advertising world’s first living trademark.

Miss Green was born a slave in Montgomery County, Kentucky. Chris Rutt, a newspaperman, and Charles Underwood bought the Pearl Milling Company and had the original idea of developing and packaging a ready-mixed, self-rising pancake flour. To survive in a highly competitive business, the men needed an image for their product.

But Nancy Green, at 56, was hired to help the company sell their product at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Green, as Aunt Jimema, cooked and served thousands of pancakes while telling stories and even singing songs.

“Her warm and appealing personality made her the ideal ‘Aunt Jemima,’ a living trademark. Her exhibition booth drew so many people that special policemen were assigned to keep the crowds moving. The Davis Milling Company received over 50,000 orders, and Fair officials awarded Nancy Green a medal and certificate for her showmanship.”

After the fair, Green was signed to a lifelong contract and worked until she died in an car accident in 1923, according to the African American Registry.

The Women of Every Complexion and Complexity website described Green as a “talented entrepreneur” and “transitional symbol.”

The people acting out today have zeero sense of history and zero sense of the future. All they are aware of is the immediate NOW and satisfying their wants NOW. Just like a 6-year old.

And, of course, other corporations have to follow suit to show that they can be just as progressive and WOKE! as everyone else:

Mrs. Butterworth’s to Undergo ‘Complete Brand and Packaging Review’

Uncle Ben’s Plans to Change Its ‘Brand Identity’ to ‘End Racial Biases’

The only race that I can see is a race to the bottom. Who can out-pander the other in the hopes that they will be cancelled last. Show some stones people. I bet your shareholders would back you up on this. These are some historic and famous brands you are tossing out with the bathwater.

A three letter word - JOBS

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President Trump on today's numbers:

More here

Title of this post? Joe Biden's gaffe from 2008

Oh, That Joe! (No. 29 in a Series) -- Obama & Biden's Three-Letter Word: J-O-B-S
With the economy floundering, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., told Ohio voters today that he and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., would focus on one specific issue that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has neglected.

"Look, John's last-minute economic plan does nothing to tackle the number one job facing the middle class, and it happens to be, as Barack says, a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S," the Democratic veep nominee said at a morning rally in Athens.

Famous even then - was this a symptom of the onset?

Jim Cramer is a journalist, lawyer and investment guru - quite the interesting character. About as smart as they come.

He writes at CNBC and is looking at who benefits from the COVID lockdown. Hint: it is not We The People

Jim Cramer: The pandemic led to ‘one of the greatest wealth transfers in history’
The coronavirus pandemic and corresponding lockdown made way for “one of the greatest wealth transfers in history,” CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Thursday.

The stock market is rising as big business rebounds from state-ordered stoppage of nonessential activity, while small businesses drop like flies, the “Mad Money” host said.

“The bigger the business, the more it moves the major averages, and that matters because this is the first recession where big business … is coming through virtually unscathed, if not going for the gold,” he added.

Of course - Walmart and the other big box stores come out on top while the local hardware stores and retailers have to close their doors and some close for good. Hertz is the sole failure and they were on the glide-path to crashing regardless of what happened.

Perfect - from Canada's Global News:

‘Path to citizenship’: U.K. may extend visa rights to nearly 3 million in Hong Kong
Britain is prepared to offer extended visa rights and a pathway to citizenship for almost three million Hong Kong residents in response to China’s push to impose national security legislation in the former British colony.

China’s parliament has approved a decision to go forward with national security legislation for Hong Kong that democracy activists, diplomats and some in the business world fear will jeopardize its semi-autonomous status and its role as a global financial hub.

Sure you can take over the land. It is a decent port and centrally located. The people and the businesses? Sorry but they are now all English and will not be Chinese subjects. China gets a hollow shell - fitting as that is what the rest of China is anyway.

President Trump put his money where his mouth is this morning - from FOX News:

Trump signs social media executive order that calls for removal of liability protections over 'censoring'
Flanked by Attorney General Bill Barr, President Trump signed an executive order in the Oval Office on Thursday that interprets Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) as not providing statutory liability protections for tech companies that engage in censorship and political conduct.

The president's order, which also cuts federal funding for social media platforms that censor users' political views, came just two days after Twitter took the unprecedented step of slapping a "misleading" warning label on two of Trump's tweets concerning the fraud risks of nationwide mail-in balloting. The move immediately backfired: Experts disputed that Trump's tweet was actually misleading, in part because mail-in balloting has been linked to ongoing fraud; Twitter's fact-check itself contained false statements; and Twitter failed to apply the standard of review to other users.

At Thursday's signing ceremony, Trump called the fact-check "egregious," and held up a photo of Twitter executive Yoel Roth, who heads up the site's fact-checking and rules-making operation. Fox News reported on Wednesday that Roth has mocked Trump supporters, called Trump's team "ACTUAL NAZIS," slammed "scary trannies" in New York City, and called GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a "bag of farts." (In a statement, Twitter did not dispute Fox News' reporting, but called it "unfortunate.")

Good - they are getting all sorts of tax breaks and incentives to grow their business. They need to play nice with everyone, not just their bubble buddies.

A very good call - stock market

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In spite of all the lockdown foolishness, our government is actually doing some good work - from Money and Markets:

Why the Threat of Delisting Chinese Stocks Is Great News for Investors
The U.S. Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would require companies listed on stock exchanges to certify they aren’t under the control of a foreign government.

It specifically takes aim at companies based in China that could be working under the influence of the Communist government in Beijing.

And this had quite an effect:

The news sent shares of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE: BABA) tumbling Wednesday. Shares were down another 3% through afternoon trading Thursday.

Lawmakers have expressed concern that American money is funding Chinese efforts to dominate fields from artificial intelligence to internet data collection.

“I do not want to get into a new Cold War,” Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said on the Senate floor, adding that he wants “China to play by the rules.”

We are already in a cold war. China's imbalance of trade with us has been draining our economy and benefiting China for the last 20 years. Sure, the cheap toys are a lot of fun but there is a price to pay for them. Time to get this relationship back to an even footing.

What to do today

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Nice work if you can get it - PPP

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From the United States Attorney's Office -  Southern District of New York:

Chinese National Arrested For $20 Million Scheme To Fraudulently Obtain Loans Intended To Help Small Businesses During COVID-19 Pandemic
... ... ... announced today the arrest of MUGE MA, a/k/a “Hummer Mars,” a Chinese national residing in Manhattan, for a fraudulent scheme to obtain over $20 million in Government-guaranteed loans designed to provide relief to small businesses during the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. In connection with loan applications for relief available from the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (“EIDL”) Program, MA falsely represented to the SBA and five financial institutions that his companies, New York International Capital LLC (“NYIC”) and Hurley Human Resources LLC (“Hurley”), had hundreds of employees and paid millions of dollars in wages to those employees, when, in fact, MA appears to have been the only employee of his companies. MA’s company NYIC also fraudulently represented that it was representing New York State in procuring COVID-19 test kits and personal protective equipment to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. MA was arrested this morning and will be presented later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Muge Ma, a/k/a ‘Hummer Mars,’ allegedly attempted to secure over $20 million in Government-guaranteed loans intended for businesses devastated by the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. In furtherance of the scheme, Ma allegedly falsely represented in his applications to banks and the SBA to own two companies with hundreds of employees to whom he paid millions in wages. As alleged, Ma described one of the companies as a ‘patriotic American’ firm, and said of the other company that it would ‘help the country reduce the high unemployment rate caused by the pandemic by helping unemployed American workers and unemployed American fresh graduates find jobs as quickly as possible.’ In truth, Ma appears to be the only employee of either company and had no legitimate claim to the funds for which he applied. Ma’s alleged attempts to secure funds earmarked for legitimate small businesses in dire financial straits are as audacious as they are callous, and now he now faces federal prosecution. Small businesses are facing uncertainty and unprecedented challenges, the least of which should be opportunists attempting to loot the federal funds meant to assist them. This Office, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to vigilantly protect the integrity of those critical loan programs.”

You have to admit that he has big brass ones - takes a lot of chutzpah to try to pull off something that large and ill thought out.

My concern is that the New York State Small Business Administration is so behind the times that Ma thought that they would fall for his scam. Wonder how many other scams are being run right now  akin to the Seattle / Nigerian one that just came to light. If these scams are being run, it will be interesting to correlate their operation with the political party running the state. So far, we are two-for-two - Scam and Democrat. Any Republican states with scams of this magnitude running? Educate me.

I cannot find a direct link but this sounds authentic - from a local list. Burlington is a smallish city North of me about halfway from the island to Bellingham. Lots of malls and businesses - my favorite steel place is there, so are a couple of other vendors (welding supply, Costco, Harbor Freight, etc...) Their Mayor wrote this letter to the WA State Governor Jay Inslee:

Mayor of Burlington letter to Inslee
May 15, 2020
Governor Jay Inslee
P.O. Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504-0002

Governor Inslee:
As the Mayor of the City of Burlington, I have supported your Stay home…Stay safe order from the beginning. As difficult as it has been, it was in the beginning a necessary move. I had trust in your reasons for implementing the order.

But, after watching the interview you did with Bernie Sanders on May 13th, my trust in your motives is gone. Frankly, I was appalled that the Governor of the state would in, a brief moment of unfettered honesty, express your willingness to use this “crisis to peddle a solution to climate change” that will “allow us to rebuild our economy and jump start it” in a more green manner. Your willingness to politically weaponize this terrible disease to further your climate change agenda shows a fundamental lack of leadership. True leaders do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons and let the political chips fall where they may.

The citizens of Washington deserve as much….our businesses deserve as much…and the elected leaders that have supported you thus far also deserve as much. You have just called into question every decision you have made during this pandemic up to this point, and future decisions as our economy clings to life. The ability to “rebuild our economy” would require tearing it down first. Many will now question if that is, at this point, your true motive?

I am often asked by business owners, “Why can I not open”, and I am many times at a loss for an explanation. You sir, just provided the answer for the next time I am asked that.

As the Mayor of a Washington State city that is heavily dependent upon sales tax (#1 per capita in the state), facing the sharp reduction in these revenues, I am fighting to keep our city solvent. Your interview suggests that your agenda and mine diverge at this point.

So while you use your power to further your climate change agenda, using this pandemic as a tool to do so…I will use my powers apolitically to do what is right by the citizens and businesses in Burlington. That is what our shared constituents deserve.

I am always available for discussion,
Steve Sexton

Mayor
City of Burlington

The interview in question can be viewed at this twitter

Inslee is innumerate and out of touch. He is the Governor for Microsoft and Amazon.
His daughter-in-law is an employee of the Gates Foundation.

A giant topples - J.C. Penney

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Chalk it up to the Wuhan Flu as being the last straw. From The Hill:

J.C. Penney files for bankruptcy amid pandemic
J.C. Penney announced Friday it has filed for bankruptcy, marking the largest retail industry casualty thus far during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 118-year-old department store had already racked up a substantial amount of debt in recent years, a situation that was exacerbated by the sharp economic fallout of COVID-19.

“The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for our families, our loved ones, our communities, and our country. As a result, the American retail industry has experienced a profoundly different new reality, requiring JCPenney to make difficult decisions in running our business to protect the safety of our associates and customers and the future of our company,” said CEO Jill Soltau.

One of the big ones. Failed to adapt to the changing landscape.

Not surprised - online shopping

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From Tech Crunch:

US e-commerce sales jump 49% in April, led by online grocery
Online retailers are seeing Black Friday-like sales due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their business. According to new data from Adobe’s Digital Economy Index, U.S. e-commerce jumped 49% in April, compared to the baseline period in early March before shelter-in-place restrictions went into effect. Online grocery helped drive the increase in sales, with a 110% boost in daily sales between March and April. Meanwhile, electronic sales were up 58% and book sales have doubled.

The data comes from Adobe’s index of the digital economy, which analyzes more than one trillion online transactions across 100 million different SKUs. The company works with 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers to gather its data.

This is going to really suck for the small retail businesses that have had to close. Places like the box stores have enough financial inertia to withstand a downturn but the mom & pop places do not. Now, the customer base is getting used to shopping online so less impetus to visit the real stores when they reopen.

The economy - payroll

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A sobering metric - the final numbers are going to be bad. From CNBC:

US private payrolls drop by 20.2 million in April, the worst job loss in the history of ADP report
Private payrolls hemorrhaged more than 20 million jobs in April as companies sliced workers amid a coronavirus-induced shutdown that took most of the U.S. economy offline, according to a report Wednesday from ADP.

In all, the decline totaled 20,236,000 — easily the worst loss in the survey’s history going back to 2002 but not as bad as the 22 million that economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been expecting. The previous record was 834,665 in February 2009 amid the financial crisis and accompanying Great Recession.

We will recover - these things happen every so often and it did not help that the Democrats used this crisis to try to acquire more power and to crash the system.

Now would actually be a great time to invest in a simple index fund - Vanguard 500 or some such...

Hit them where it hurts - the source of their hard currency. From Bloomberg:

India Pledges Easy Access to Land for Factories Leaving China
India is developing a land pool nearly double the size of Luxembourg to lure businesses moving out of China, according to people with the knowledge of the matter.

A total area of 461,589 hectares has been identified across the country for the purpose, the people said, asking not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak to the media. That includes 115,131 hectares of existing industrial land in states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, they said. Luxembourg is spread across 243,000 hectares, according to the World Bank.

Land has been one of the biggest impediments for companies looking to invest in India, with the plans of Saudi Aramco to Posco frustrated by delays in acquisition. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration is working with state governments to change that as investors seek to reduce reliance on China as a manufacturing base in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak and the resultant supply disruption.

Perfect move - want to build a factory? Here - here are the keys to your new industrial site. India is being very very smart. I love that they are taking over the pharmaceutical business from China.

From Walmart:

Walmart Hires 200,000 Associates and Pays $180 Million in Early Associate Bonuses
By Donna Morris, Chief People Officer
We’ve seen firsthand our associates’ unwavering focus to take care of customers and members while providing a vital service to communities during this time. In this unprecedented period of time, we have made several commitments focused on our associates and wanted to provide an update on our progress.

Recognizing the hard work ahead of our associates as COVID-19 spreads and to help provide more cash in hand for them sooner, we shared plans to accelerate the payout for our quarterly incentive, which store, club and supply chain associates received today. With this, we paid nearly $180 million in cash bonuses to hourly associates, with more to come next month on our originally scheduled quarterly bonus payout date. This is in addition to the special cash bonus for all U.S. hourly associates earlier this month, which was $300 for full-time hourly and $150 for part-time hourly, a total of more than $365 million paid to our associates.

In addition, we’ve fulfilled our commitment to hire 200,000 associates in our stores, clubs, distribution centers and fulfillment centers, since March 19. We are humbled to be able to give an opportunity to so many Americans to work, often serving as a bridge for employment, while helping Walmart better serve customers during this time of increased demand.

I love Donna's title: Chief People Officer - none of this Human Resources bullshit. Real people putting other people to work. This will cost them money up front but they will gain a completely faithful worker base. This is how you run a large company.

Keep in mind - Costco

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From their website:

Face Mask Requirements
To protect our members and employees, effective May 4, all Costco members and guests must wear a mask or face covering that covers the mouth and nose at all times while at Costco. This requirement does not apply to children under the age of 2 or to individuals who are unable to wear a mask or face covering due to a medical condition.

The use of a mask or face covering should not be seen as a substitute for social distancing. Please continue to observe rules regarding appropriate distancing while on Costco premises. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

I carry some in the car - might be time to start actually using them. They are called for if you have the disease. If you do not, they do not do squat. The viruses are so much smaller than what the masks are rated for, it is like using a chain-link fence to stop a handful of sand.

Not so fast there guys... free pork

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There were some funds set aside to help small businesses through the Chinese Flu and some not-so-small businesses managed to sneak in their applications. They just got their wee-wee's slapped. From One America News Network:

Treasury Dept.: Publicly Traded Companies Must Return Small Business Loans By May 7th
Treasury Department officials are warning publicly traded companies to return any funds they have received under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or face consequences. In a new round of guidelines that were issued Thursday, the administration announced public companies have until May 7th to repay their loans.

Otherwise, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated there will be repercussions.

“Certain people on the PPP may have not been clear in understanding the certification. So, we will give people the benefit of the doubt. We’re going put out a FAQ, explain the certification. If you pay back the loan right away, you won’t have liability to the SBA and to Treasury. But there are severe consequences for people who don’t test properly the certification.”
– Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury Department

He went on to say the reason behind the overhaul is to make sure the money is available to small businesses that need it, including those that have invested their entire life savings.

And the businesses who should not have gotten the money?

This comes as a growing number of companies have begun returning their loans, including Ruth Chris Steak House, which received $20 million under the program, Harvard University, which received $8.6 million, and Kura Sushi, which received $6 million. Mom-and-pop shops across the country claimed they have been shut out.

Just a few from an unfortunately large list - now I know where not to spend my money. Zero issue with capitalism, I am a capitalist myself. Crony capitalism is a totally different animal and reeks of corruption, inefficiency and waste.

That is where this was intended to go - not large corporations. From Breitbart:

Donald Trump: Harvard Must Pay Back $8.7 Million in Federal Aid Money
Donald Trump vowed that Harvard would be expected to pay back their $8.7 million in federal aid received from coronavirus rescue funds.

“Harvard’s going to pay back the money,” Trump said bluntly during the White House press briefing.

Harvard received a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program passed as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, even though it already has a $41 billion endowment fund. The PPP loans are ultimately forgiven by the federal government, provided they keep their employees.

That prompted criticism of the program, which was rushed forward in Congress to help support small businesses.

But publicly traded companies received loans from the bill, which was not the intent of the law.

Shake Shack returned their $10 million loan after backlash, but other chains such as Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Potbelly sandwiches also received over $10 million in funds.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin criticized the businesses for taking advantage of a program that was intended for small business.

Good on Shake Shack for volunteering to give the money back. They have a Seattle location so next time I am down there, I will have to stop and give them a try. Vote with my dollars.

And this is why businesses in America will fail unless we change our way of thinking.
From Karl Denninger writing at Market Ticker:

This Is EXACTLY Why America Deserves To Fail
You'd think this company would be having a boom year, and many to come.

When the history of the coronavirus epoch is written, The Watchdog hopes historians don’t neglect to mention Prestige Ameritech and its owner, Mike Bowen. The North Richland Hills company is America’s No. 1 maker of hospital surgical masks.

During this crisis, you’d think the company would be pushing forward on all cylinders, working 24/7 to manufacture the one commodity that Americans and the rest of the world want so badly.

Nope.

When there's an outbreak -- like last time, with Swine Flu -- he gets orders.  He ramps up to fill them.

Then the outbreak passes, and guess where the hospitals go?  Back to China.

This leaves him with capital equipment leases and people. If he doesn't lay them off he goes out of business.  If he does lay them off he get's hammered with much higher unemployment insurance premiums, the leases on the equipment he has no use for, and he goes out of business.

The last time he nearly did.

This time, he's demanding long-term contracts.  Good for him.

Guess how many he's gotten?

I'll bet you can figure that out.

We deserve what's coming folks.  Oh sure, there's much bluster now about moving production back to the US and the risk China -- and non-US supply chains -- pose to us.  How many minutes do you think after this is over will pass before everyone goes back to the turd-world nations that incubate and expel these viruses for all their supplies because they use effective slave labor and poison the land, air and water?

Maybe five.

Minutes, that is.

That's why I won't bother standing up another company.  Good luck competing with a bunch of slaves for a labor base.

This virus isn't really all that bad, when you go down the list of nasty bugs.

The next one might be.

But you don't really care, other than being a scolding Karen, do you?

I am posting this rant in full as it deserves the widest possible audience. This sort of short-sighted thinking is why business in America is so fscked. Focusing on the short-term gains - eyesight on the next quarter and not the overall growth of the corporation. Looking at the stock prices and not the net worth.

Hell of a way to run a business...

Not just me - big box stores

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Been a Home Depot customer for a couple of years. Used to shop at Lowe's and then switched as HD seemed to have a bit more on the ball for commercial buyers. Not into "lifestyle shopping".

Been seeing Lowe's come up from behind. The ChiCom Virus is really showing the difference. Home Depot has put a ton of money into a wide-ranging web and in-store computer system which, if it worked, would be fantastic. 90% of it is there but the other 10% is really annoying. I have their "Pro" membership. If I check out at a cashier, I will have the option of a printed receipt, an emailed receipt or both. If I check out at one of their automated kiosks, it spits out a paper receipt without asking for my choice (I want emailed). Simple crap like that which could have been discovered in a few rounds of software testing.

Cue the ChiCom Virus. Home Depot makes everyone line up to get in the store. The line area is partitioned off. One morning, I was the 5th or so person in the line so I ducked under the rope and was immediately shouted down by one of their employees. I wanted to special order a specific kind of plywood (MDO - not common but not uncommon either), they could only get siding or OSB in that size. Bunch of silly crap like that.

Lowe's on the other hand has been really responsive and their queue to get into the store is well managed and the people at the store are friendly. Their inventory is not as bare and picked over as HD's. Been shopping there more and more. This morning, it was packed. Swung by Home Depot and the lot was only about 20% full - the Lowe's lot was 90% - had to drive around to get a space.

Looks like a lot of other people are getting the same message. Good - capitalism at work.

Interesting to see - a two-fer from gCaptain:

First - Europe:

Tankers Pile Up Off Europe as Onshore Storage Hits Limit
Dozens of tankers holding jet fuel and gasoline are at anchor in sea lanes around Europe’s main storage hubs, unable to discharge their cargoes as onshore tanks are full to capacity following the collapse in demand linked to the coronavirus crisis.

Nearly 1 million tonnes of refined products are parked on around 30 tankers off Europe’s coast, Reuters calculations found.

According to shipping data and trade sources, tankers have dropped anchor near to the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp (ARA) refining and storage hub and across parts of the Mediterranean as their cargo owners struggle to find buyers or storage tanks.

How's that "Just-In-Time" management strategy working for you now? Sure, very trendy in the 70's and 80's, cheap to implement, the company saves a bundle, share earnings go up, everybody is happy. UNTIL - something like this happens and then everything goes pear-shaped, the shit hits the fan and you are left with a dog's breakfast to sort out.

Second - the United States:

U.S. Crude Stocks Jump By a Record 19 Million Barrels – EIA
U.S. crude oil stockpiles rose by 19 million barrels last week, the biggest one-week increase in history, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said, as refiners throttled back activity due to slumping demand as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The build for the week ended April 10 was much larger than the Reuters poll calling for a 11.7 million-barrel rise and offsets some of the optimism that had bloomed as a result of a worldwide pact between oil producers to cut output sharply. Crude futures slumped on the news.

“Even though we knew it was going to be bad, it’s worse than people thought,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. “You look at gasoline demand and it’s pathetic. If you were going to write a nightmare report about petroleum, this is it.”

Sure, consumption is down for now but the USA is now a net exporter of oil (thank you DJT) and we have the capacity to store our reserves for when the economy comes booming back. Any process will have its natural cycles of boom and bust. Prepare for them and you can come out smelling like roses.

I love the smell of capitalism in the morning...

Bacon - a two-fer

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Looks like the Chinese are hitting us where it hurts. Two from Reuters:

First, from yesterday, April 12th, 2020:

Smithfield shutting U.S. pork plant indefinitely, warns of meat shortages during pandemic
Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork processor, said on Sunday it will shut a U.S. plant indefinitely due to a rash of coronavirus cases among employees and warned the country was moving “perilously close to the edge” in supplies for grocers.

Slaughterhouse shutdowns are disrupting the U.S. food supply chain, crimping availability of meat at retail stores and leaving farmers without outlets for their livestock.

Second, from November 5th, 2019:

At Smithfield Foods' slaughterhouse, China brings home U.S. bacon
Smithfield Foods’ slaughterhouse in Virginia used to carve up pork for American sandwiches and holiday dinners. But workers now box up pig carcasses to ship to China, according to employees, local officials and industry sources.

The transformation at the Smithfield, Virginia, plant shows how the global meat industry is adapting to profit from African swine fever, a fatal pig disease that has killed millions of hogs in China and turned the world’s top pork consumer into a major meat importer.

Bought by China’s WH Group Ltd (0288.HK) six years ago for $4.7 billion, Smithfield Foods has retooled U.S. processing operations to direct meat to China, which produced half the world’s pork before swine fever decimated the industry.

Emphsis mine - again: "Bought by China’s WH Group Ltd (0288.HK) six years ago for $4.7 billion"

You heard it correctly, Smithfield Foods has been wholly owned by the Chinese Communists for the last seven years. Time to get it back into US hands. Let them buy pork at our market prices.

A great start - from The Daily Wire:

Trump Admin Moves To ‘Revoke And Terminate’ China-Owned Telecom Firm From Operating In U.S.
Multiple federal executive branch agencies announced on Thursday that they have unanimously recommended to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it “revoke and terminate” a Chinese state-owned telecom service provider’s ability to operate in the United States.

The six federal agencies that made the recommendation against China Telecom Corp. were led by the Department of Justice and included the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, State, Commerce, and the United States Trade Representative.

“The Department of Justice led the review of China Telecom’s authorizations, and it based the recommendation on developments since the authorizations were last transferred in 2007, including China Telecom’s failure to comply with the terms of an existing agreement with the Department,” the DOJ said in a statement. “In its recommendation, the Executive Branch agencies identified substantial and unacceptable national security and law enforcement risks associated with China Telecom’s operations, which render the FCC authorizations inconsistent with the public interest.”

Heh - Communist China screwed up and caused the whole world a lot of pain. No reason that they should get any sweetheart deals right now. There are a lot of other nations out there with better governments that can do the same or better work. All China's fault, not ours.

From the South China Morning Post:

Japan to pay firms to leave China, relocate production elsewhere as part of coronavirus stimulus
Japan has earmarked US$2.2 billion of its record economic stimulus package to help its manufacturers shift production out of China as the coronavirus disrupts supply chains between the major trading partners.

The extra budget, compiled to try to offset the devastating effects of the pandemic, includes 220 billion yen (US$2 billion) for companies shifting production back to Japan and 23.5 billion yen for those seeking to move production to other countries, according to details of the plan posted online.

Much more (including numbers) at the site

Having a cheap source of manufacture is no good if it comes with these kind of strings attached. We do not need to be supporting a tyrannical government with our desire for the latest cheapest tech.

A wonderful idea - Autarky

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From the InfoGalactic entry:

Autarky
Autarky is the quality of being self-sufficient. Usually the term is applied to political states or their economic systems. Autarky exists whenever an entity can survive or continue its activities without external assistance or international trade. If a self-sufficient economy also refuses all trade with the outside world then it is called a closed economy.

Autarky is not necessarily an economic phenomenon; for example, a military autarky would be a state that could defend itself without help from another country, or could manufacture all of its weapons without any imports from the outside world.

Autarky can be said to be the policy of a state or other entity when it seeks to be self-sufficient as a whole, but also can be limited to a narrow field such as possession of a key raw material. For example, many countries have a policy of autarky with respect to foodstuffs and water for national security reasons.

Looking at this list makes me smile:

Opponents of autarky:

    • Proletarian internationalism, World communism, Stateless communism, World revolution, Permanent revolution
    • Trotskyism, Fourth International
    • Classical liberalism, Neoliberalism
    • Neoconservatism
    • Libertarianism, Libertarian conservatism
    • Liberal internationalism
    • Anarcho-capitalism

Does not have to be total but I would love to see our manufacturing base return to within our borders. Sure, I want fresh fruit from Chile in the winter and Taiwanese or Indian machine tools (profoundly better quality than Chinese) and Japanese ham radio electronics but this is a mercantile decision on my part. To have the US make itself open for business again would be a very good thing for everyone here.

Without a doubt - capitalism

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Captain Obvious to the white courtesy phone please - Mark Cuban from FOX News:

Mark Cuban predicts 'we are truly going to see the best of capitalism' after coronavirus 'recession'
Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban joined the "Fox News Rundown" podcast Thursday to offer guidance to small businesses struggling through the coronavirus pandemic.

"They're terrified," Cuban said. "Business has dried up from doing great last month or two months ago to almost nothing. And that's terrifying to anybody who's ever started a business.

And more:

"I truly believe in American exceptionalism," he added. "There's no other country in the world that's going to be able to figure out like we can, we'll use this opportunity, we'll use the situation."

"If the American dream was not alive and well until this point, it just truly got ignited," Cuban concluded.

Striking a rare political tone, Cuban said the outbreak will serve as an example to those who supported socialism, and predicted a newfound entrepreneurial spirit that will "bring out the best of capitalism."

"We've had a taste of socialism right now ... giving money and redistributing wealth ... that's okay," he said. "But, I think we are truly going to see the best of capitalism when we come out of the other side, because this is where people are going to be entrepreneurial."

Capitalism is the only way to go. Period. Socialism has never ever worked. Period. Glad to see Cuban speaking truth to power.

Very cool idea - Amazon

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They are busy with the panic buying. They are willing to give you a couple bucks if you can delay the shipping of your item. From their website:

20200323-amazon.jpg

Great idea - helps everyone out.

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