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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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20200523-business.jpg

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.

Heh - Costco returns

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I was at Costco this morning as part of my errand run. Saw a sign saying that they will not allow returns on Toilet Paper, wipes, clorox, dried beans and rice.

Look for really cheap tp for your bunghole at garage sales next summer.

Really nice move - Uber Eats

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Great move from a good company - from their website: UBER Newsroom

Supporting the restaurant industry through an uncertain season
It’s Uber Eats’ mission to deliver food experiences that fuel everyday life. But today the world feels anything but business as usual. As we face the uncertainty of this health crisis together with our restaurant partners, we are thinking about how best to support independent restaurants in the U.S. & Canada that have been most significantly affected.

Supporting local business with no Delivery Fee
Uber Eats US Eat LocalWe know the success of every restaurant depends on customer demand. That’s why we’re working urgently to drive orders towards independent restaurants on Eats, to help make up for the significant slowdown of in-restaurant dining.

As more customers are choosing to stay indoors, we’ve waived the Delivery Fee for the more than 100,000 independent restaurants across US & Canada on Uber Eats. We will also launch daily dedicated, targeted marketing campaigns—both in-app and via email—to promote delivery from local restaurants, especially those that are new to the app.

Really nice touch - they did not have to do this. Yes, this will work out well for them in terms of future sales and growth but there is nothing wrong with that. A nice altruistic move and they were the first so any other companies that try this will be seen as copycats. Well done UBER

Not good for Boeing - more 737MAX woes

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From local newspaper The Everett Herald:

Boeing finds debris in wing fuel tanks of several 737 Maxs
In the latest of a string of quality control issues, Boeing discovered debris that mechanics left inside the wing fuel tanks of several undelivered 737 Maxs during the aircraft assembly process.

Boeing has ordered inspections of all the undelivered Maxs, about 400 of which are stored at various locations.

Regarding the additional 385 Maxs that were delivered to customers but have been grounded for almost a year and are parked at airfields around the world, company spokesman Bernard Choi said Boeing is recommending inspections for those airplanes that have been in storage for more than a year. “It’s still undecided if we will inspect the rest” of the delivered Max fleet, he added. “Obviously, we’ll do what’s right for safety.”

Not good. This stems from a defective corporate culture. The workers need to take pride in their work. A good corporate culture has to come from the top and percolate down through the corporation. It is not something that can be mandated by middle-management. Boeing needs to get their mojo back again.

The Japanese economy

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It goes through the usual boom and bust cycles - people never learn. It was doing great and then some politicians decided to tap some of that business energy for their own pet projects. They raised taxes. From CNN:

Japan's economy is shrinking and a recession looks 'all but inevitable'
Japan's economy is flirting with recession, and the novel coronavirus could push it over the edge.

The world's third-largest economy shrank 1.6% in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to a government estimate released Monday. The decline from the third quarter is the biggest contraction since 2014.

The drop was even more severe — a 6.3% plunge — when measured as an annualized rate.

The fact that growth slowed in the three months to December wasn't a surprise. Analysts had been expecting as much as the country absorbed a sales tax hike and grappled with the aftermath of Typhoon Hagibis, a powerful storm that hit the country last fall.

Want my 2¢ - get rid of the sales tax, cut corporate taxes by 10% and stand back. Watch what happens. Taxes are not a source of free money - there are always economic consequences to imposing them.

The joys of single-sourcing

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You never want to have only one source for critical components. Witness this with Apple:

Investor update on quarterly guidance
As the public health response to COVID-19 continues, our thoughts remain with the communities and individuals most deeply affected by the disease, and with those working around the clock to contain its spread and to treat the ill. Apple is more than doubling our previously announced donation to support this historic public health effort. 

yadda yadda yadda and then:

As a result, we do not expect to meet the revenue guidance we provided for the March quarter due to two main factors.

The first is that worldwide iPhone supply will be temporarily constrained. While our iPhone manufacturing partner sites are located outside the Hubei province — and while all of these facilities have reopened — they are ramping up more slowly than we had anticipated.

And to make matters more interesting:

The second is that demand for our products within China has been affected. All of our stores in China and many of our partner stores have been closed. Additionally, stores that are open have been operating at reduced hours and with very low customer traffic.

Events like the Kung Flu have repercussions that ripple through everything. If Apple also manufactured in the Phillipenes or Viet Nam, there would not be this problem. Always keep options for sourcing your materials.

From the United States Department of Education:

U.S. Department of Education Launches Investigation into Foreign Gifts Reporting at Ivy League Universities
The U.S. Department of Education announced today it is launching investigations into both Harvard and Yale Universities after it appears both Ivy League higher education institutions potentially failed to report hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign gifts and contracts.

In recent weeks, the Department discovered Yale University may have failed to report at least $375 million in foreign gifts and contracts, choosing not to report any gifts and contracts over the last four years.

The Department is also concerned Harvard University may lack appropriate institutional controls over foreign money and has failed to report fully all foreign gifts and contracts as required by law. This comes after Dr. Charles Lieber, chair of Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department, was indicted for lying about his involvement with the Chinese government’s Thousand Talents Plan and admitting that Harvard lacks adequate institutional controls for effective oversight and tracking of very large donations.

“This is about transparency,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “If colleges and universities are accepting foreign money and gifts, their students, donors, and taxpayers deserve to know how much and from whom. Moreover, it’s what the law requires. Unfortunately, the more we dig, the more we find that too many are underreporting or not reporting at all. We will continue to hold colleges and universities accountable and work with them to ensure their reporting is full, accurate, and transparent, as required by the law.”

Section 117 of the Higher Education Act requires American Title IV-eligible colleges and universities to report gifts from, and contracts with, any foreign source that exceed $250,000 in value and to disclose any foreign ownership or control, twice each year.

There is a reason the liberals cried when she was appointed. She is going to take away their slush funds and kick over their rice bowls. They might actually have to start relying on their tuition income to make ends meet. And, obeying the law.

The title of the post? Mos Eisley of course.

I could have told them that. What you get when an ont-of-state developer puts up a luxury building.
From The Seattle Times:

A tower of luxury condos with almost no parking? This experiment seems to be failing
Seattleites want to live more like Manhattanites.

Or at least, that was the gamble made by developers of The Emerald, a 40-story luxury condominium near Pike Place Market, when they decided to include fewer parking stalls than any comparable new residential tower in the city.

But it looks like even Teslas on demand and the thrill of sharing an address with the priciest listing on the waterfront aren’t enough to prompt potential buyers of Seattle’s luxury condominiums to give up their cars.

The relative dearth of parking at The Emerald has been jeopardizing sales there, local condo brokers say.

A mere 62 parking stalls will serve the 40-story building’s 262 residences, the lowest stalls-per-unit ratio of any new residential tower downtown. Coincidentally or not, The Emerald has attracted fewer preopening buyers than Seattle’s average under-construction condo.

One of the draws of Seattle is that there is so much to do within an hour or two drive from the city. Most of these sites are not served by public transportation. Manhattan does not have the glorious outdoors on its doorstep so people moving there are more into the immersive urban-only experience. Not so with Seattle as this local boy says:

“Any developer in the last two years who bought into the idea that parking wasn’t important missed the mark,” said Windermere broker Jeff Reynolds, who focuses on the Seattle condo market. 

Yeah - anyone who comes in from the outside (the developer in this case is based in Hong Kong - another Manhattan). One of the primary factors for success in business is the ability to "read" your customer base and understand THEIR needs and desires. Just because your ideas have worked in other large cities does not mean that they will work here.

Got to love Capitalism and Adam Smith's idea of the invisible hand. Works every time. Can not say the same for top-down decision making, centralized planning and the other accouterments of socialized government.

Free and Open Markets

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This is a big thing. Excellent analysis at the Foundation for Economic Education:

Why First World Countries Have Third World Cities
As I avoided the potholes, ignored the sounds of guns, and walked past beggars throughout the streets of New Orleans, I could not help but be reminded of my travels in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. With their mass poverty and crumbling infrastructure, the two cities differ in one key area: Phnom Penh is in a developing country and New Orleans is in a developed country.

Throughout the United States, I frequently come across what I call "third world cities in first world countries" - whether it is Detroit, Baltimore, or even my beloved New Orleans. These third world cities all have one thing in common: an absence of free and open markets.

The unifying traits to those cities? Burdensome tax rates, they are unfriendly to business and are Democrat ruled.

Wonderful news - public-sector unions

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No need for these. Labor unions definitely had their place in the early 1900's but they failed to evolve and now do not really serve their workers, only their leadership. Private sector unions are still viable - electricians, automotive and aerospace workers, etc. but public sector unions should never have been implemented - teachers, government workers, etc...

From City Journal:

Labor’s Love Lost
Government-union membership fell again in 2019, continuing a decade-long decline. Workers in public-sector unions now number 7.066 million, representing a drop of nearly 100,000 in one year and the smallest government-organized labor membership in 20 years. Since 2009, when the ranks of government-union members peaked at 7.896 million, public-labor groups have lost more than 10 percent of their membership. The percentage of government workers belonging to unions has dropped to 33.6, the smallest proportion of the government workforce since 1978. The most recent numbers illustrate how government unions continue to suffer from the hangover of the recession of 2008-2009, in part because of a slow rebound in government employment during the economic expansion that began in 2010. The numbers may also reflect some losses that unions have suffered in the wake of the 2018 Supreme Court Janus decision, which gave public-sector workers the right to opt out of joining a union or paying fees.

The trends are particularly ominous for public unions because 2019 should have been the year that they started bouncing back. In the tenth year of an economic expansion, state tax and local collections grew robustly, increasing by 9 percent in the second quarter and 5.6 percent in the third quarter, according to government surveys. States and municipalities subsequently hired more workers. The number of local government employees, for instance, jumped by nearly 100,000 in 2019, to 14.573 million. But these gains haven’t translated into increases in union membership, particularly in municipal government, the largest segment of public-sector employment. The total government workforce in America has returned to its pre-financial crash levels, but union headcount has failed to follow suit.

Let's see now - public sector union membership peaked in 2009. What happened on January 20th of 2009
Stands to reason - the Democrats rallied behind him, put him behind the Resolute Desk with his pen and his phone and he proceeded to pay his people back. Belly up to the trough. Here is a sterling example of what happens when the teachers union gets free money to play with - from CATO Institute:

cato_education.jpg

It comes from page two of this PDF report: State Education Trends - Academic Performance and Spending over the Past 40 Years by the CATO Institute.

The teachers unions are not there for the teachers. They are not there for the kids. They are there for themselves - they have political power and they do not want to lose it.

Michigan teachers got Right To Work legislation passed six years ago. Teacher's Union membership is no longer mandatory. Guess what. From Michigan's Capital Confidential:

Dues-Paying Membership In Teachers Union Has Collapsed Since Right-To-Work
By December 2013, Michigan’s new right-to-work law had been in effect for nine months.

The Michigan Education Association was collecting dues from 113,147 active members. Its spokesman said the union’s response to the new law was to get the word out to members about what the MEA could do for them.

And the result six years down the road?

Six years later, the MEA’s active, dues-paying membership has fallen to 78,475, down 31%. That is despite the sales pitches and contract extensions.

Under right-to-work, employees in workplaces organized by a union – including people in most government and school jobs – can no longer be compelled to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

“We don’t know what to expect,” the MEA’s Doug Pratt told the Detroit Free Press when the law was enacted in December 2013. “What we can do is continue to explain to our members why membership is of value. Have we had to increase our efforts on that? Sure we have.”

They were not offering anything of perceived value so the customers stopped buying once it was no longer mandatory. Classical example of market forces.

Do not get me wrong - unions very much had their place in the American work force 100 years ago. Workers were being horribly exploited, the idea of picking up and moving to a different city was completely foreign to most people and the wages were not sustainable. The unions helped a lot but they have not kept up with the times.

What is worse is that in some cases, they have negotiated unreasonable benefits and pensions and the employers (State of Illinois - I am looking at you) are unable to fund them.

Aaaand he's out - Boeing CEO

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From Seattle station KOMO:

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg to step down immediately
Boeing's CEO is resigning amid ongoing problems at the company over the troubled Max 737 aircraft.

The Chicago manufacturer said Monday that Dennis Muilenburg is stepping down immediately. The board's current chairman David Calhoun will officially take over on January 13.

The board said a change in leadership was necessary to restore confidence in the company as it works to repair relationships with regulators and stakeholders. The Max was grounded worldwide in March after the second of two crashes of its jet, killing a combined total of 346 people.

Good - the 737 was a good airplane until they added a much larger engine and tried to adjust the flight performance in software. Never a good idea. Time for the 737-Max to be consigned to the dustbin of history.

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