I Can Predict The Future

A good way to predict the future is to take a look around at the present. There are clues everywhere telling us what is about to come.

Crys

Recently, I went into a mall to buy a vacuum cleaner and looked at an array of products on the shelf. When I narrowed down my list to the two that I liked, I scanned the product’s bar code and was connected to Amazon’s site where I was able to read all of the reviews. I wanted to make sure that people who had bought the product actually liked it. Satisfied by the reviews, I then checked to see if I was buying the vacuum for the lowest price. Since the price on Amazon was lower, I ordered the item from my phone while I was still in the store! I am not sure how much longer these stores can stay in business when every product a store sells can be found for less at Amazon.

Amazon operates on a razor thin margin of less than 1%. Let that sink in for a moment. When Amazon sells an item for $100, the profit they expect to make on that item is $1.00. In addition, if you are a “prime” member, shipping is free. Unlike malls, which pay top dollar for the best locations, Amazon warehouses are located in the middle of nowhere making their rental overhead significantly less expensive that any mall.

It’s not just the cost difference of Amazon, it is the whole shopping experience. Go to any mall now and you will see that traffic is down. The main traffic at any mall now is for the Apple store and food court. Apple has a monopoly. If you need to get your Apple product fixed, you have to go to the Apple store. Apple is famous for its retail clout, beating its competitors hands down. I think we are going to come to a point where landlords are going to have to pay Apple a fee for using their location. Without an Apple retail store, mall traffic would likely grind to a slow but inevitable halt.

I believe many of the big retail mall operators like Simon Property Group will eventually encounter a severe downturn in their business. Mall operators use tons of debt to finance their operations and are dependent upon tenants to finance their cash flow. As consumers continue to pull back from the mall experience, many of these mall operators will go out of business. In addition, many people under thirty have no connection to the mall experience as they buy their products directly online. The teen that used to pester mom to “Drive me to the mall!”  now buys her clothes online. The multiplex movie experience no longer exists for this demographic either, as they consume their media directly from YouTube, Hulu, Amazon and Netflix. So, I predict in years to come, even the movie chains will have to revamp their business model to stay relevant and financially competitive.

Which leads me to the television industry.  Many cable channels have survived by having their customers pay exorbitant cable fees, having been  forced to pay through their bundled television packages which have propped up the industry. Most of these channels  don’t have enough of an audience to make money on advertising alone. The entire MSNBC brand only survives because it is living off the scam of bundled cable. If it had to stand on it’s own two feet, it would have been bankrupt long ago. The money to keep this elitist-left-wing-trash propped up comes mostly from those bundled cable and satellite fees.

Last, but not least, we come to sports broadcasting. ESPN will also come under pressure. Sure, people love sports and the N.F.L.  I get it. But everything has a price. Is the consumer ready to spend $50.00 a month for ESPN? I’m not so sure. Billions were spent on NBA and NFL deals over the last few years and ESPN has been able to pass on this expense via bundled cable. In the future, the consumer is going to decide if he likes football enough to spend $50 a month for it. ESPN denies it, but they are worried about unbundling. They know that once the consumer sees what he actually has to pay to watch a game; he may do a cost/benefit analysis and decide it’s just not worth.

It seems like a short time ago there was a Blockbuster video rental store on every corner. Blockbuster believed it was in the movie rental business without really understanding they were in the late fee business. Then Netflix arrived. Netflix killed Blockbuster by not charging late fees for returns. Netflix knew Blockbuster’s main source of revenue was in those late fees. Once Netflix killed that revenue source, there was nothing left to financially salvage the company and Blockbuster went belly up.

Like Blockbuster, and the many companies and industries listed above, losing touch with customers’ needs bodes ill. For industires such as malls and media, the reckoning is on the horizon.

 

Steve Clark

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

The Authentic Trump

One of the flash words of the 21st century is “authenticity.” Exhausted from living lives of quiet desperation in just trying to keep our financial and emotional heads above water, so many of us are reevaluating what truly matters and what quality of life really means.

Crown

This search for authenticity is not only personal. It’s political. We are also finished with misleading and deceptive politicians who will say anything, do anything, to retain power and line their own pockets to satisfy their egos and greed at the expense of the governed.

We hunger for leadership authenticity. The danger with hunger is that it can lead to acts of desperation.

In 2008 we were hungry for hope and change. In our neediness, we asked too few questions of leadership and, instead, swallowed whole the promise of fundamental transformation without asking precisely what was going to fundamentally change and what, exactly, it would look like after the change. As a result, many people now look around and ask, “What happened?” What happened was the inevitable outcome when form trumps substance.

No pun intended but the perfect segue none-the-less.

We’re in the run up to 2016 and Donald Trump is on fire. He has struck a nerve with people everywhere along the political spectrum. If you ask most of those who are energized by Trump what his policies and his solutions are, they cannot tell you. What they can tell you, and will tell you with passion, is that he is speaking about the things that matter to them. That he is a political outsider. That he gets the job done, whatever the job is.

Most political operatives and experts do not understand the phenomenon that is Donald Trump. They point to his inconsistencies. They point to his hubris. They point to his lack of substantive solutions. They point to his disrespect for women. The search goes on in an effort to discover the secret that is The Donald. But none will be found because there is no secret.

The success of Donald Trump is his authenticity. He is being authentically himself. There is no attempt to whitewash the hubris or past participation in corrupt government. He makes no excuse for supporting eminent domain, the confiscation of private property from one individual and giving of it to another individual for the profit of the latter (with The Donald being the latter). He makes no apologies for his wealth or garish display of same. He has no a connection to any power greater than himself. He is the first, the last and the always.

Our hunger for authenticity is making us blind to the fact that authenticity, like hope and change, simply isn’t enough. We are so desperate for someone who will not play the game that we are willing to overlook if there is yet a more dangerous game he is playing than the one we trying to escape.

Hannibal Lecter was authentic. Mother Theresa was authentic. You have to find out what the authenticity is all about, what it stands for, how it manifests itself, how it will impact your life and what it will become if unrestrained. Don’t kid yourself. If you think the Presidency of the United States is a position of immense power, you haven’t seen anything until you see an unchecked ego in that office such as is embodied in Donald Trump.

I thought that with 7+ years behind us of a President who promised to fundamentally transform the United States of America and did, that we would be smarter and more circumspect next time in falling for form over substance. I at least thought we’d ask more questions and demand more comprehensive answers.

But as I watch the groupie-like crowds showing up for Trump’s appearances and listen to otherwise rational conservative voices in media, I am coming to the realization that the emptiness and fraud of Obama’s “Hope and Change” might just have been a prelude to the emptiness and “authenticity” that is Donald Trump.

It makes me wonder if we will survive our hunger.

Carole

Acting-President Cruz

Yesterday I watched the entire live stream of the D.C. rally against the Iran deal that took place in front of the U.S. Capitol. There were many speakers. Senator Ted Cruz, talk-radio and author Mark Levin, Sarah Palin and talk-radio host Glenn Beck to name a few. While I was moved by what both Levin and Beck had to say, it is Cruz and Trump I want to focus on here.

The American President

It is first Important to stress the purpose of the rally. It was to publicly stand and be counted in the ranks of the opposition to the pending deal with Iran. That was the sole purpose of the rally…to hopefully influence both Congressman and Senators to vote against it.

While Senator Cruz and Donald Trump are both seeking the Republican Presidential nomination only one of them used the occasion to tout his greatness and stump for votes. I doubt I need identify which of the two that was.

While Senator Cruz spoke eloquently, passionately and factually about the dangers of the deal and why it is in the national and world interest to not enter into the Agreement as negotiated, Donald Trump made but a brief reference to the harm to Israel on his way to aggrandizing himself, his prowess and his assurances to everyone listening that a Trump presidency would soon have us “tired of winning” on the world stage. His hubris truly knows no bounds. He was unable, even for this critical issue, to put his ego second to the moment. Today, following yesterday’s event, the contrast continued. While Donald Trump had the audacity to say that Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, was “too ugly to be President,” Senator Cruz had a letter delivered to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House John Boehner outlining the legal approach which will prevent the release to jihadists of $150B in now frozen Iranian assets which will surely be used to attack the U.S. and Israel as blatantly reiterated as recently as this week by the Supreme Leader of Iran.

Sen. Cruz’s three-step process includes:

1) “Both of you should formally determine that, under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, also known as Corker-Cardin, because President Obama has not submitted to Congress the widely reported side deals between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the President has not yet submitted the Iran agreement as required by Corker-Cardin. Therefore, the 60-day clock for congressional review has not yet begun to run. And, critically, as a result, federal law prohibits the Obama Administration from lifting sanctions.

2) Leader McConnell should introduce a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that, if the agreement had been introduced as a treaty, it should not be ratified. This will put everyone on record and will make clear that there is insufficient support in the Senate for approving the agreement as a treaty.

3) We can assume, based on his past practice, that President Obama will simply ignore the law and declare that he is lifting sanctions under the agreement anyway. On that assumption, we should make clear to the CEOs of banks holding frozen Iranian funds that their misplaced reliance on the President’s lawlessness would not necessarily excuse them from the obligation to comply with existing federal sanctions laws. And if they release billions in funds to Khamenei, they risk billions in civil (and possibly even criminal) liability once President Obama leaves office. Having spent years advising major corporations in private practice, I can tell you that their general counsels will likely tell them their legal exposure is real, which could well result in the banks deciding not to release the funds to Iran, the President’s lawless waivers notwithstanding.”

My point is this: if you want to be rid of a lawless President with an out-of-control ego who believes the Constitution does not pertain to him, Donald Trump is not your replacement. He is your next nightmare. He is used to calling the shots with no opposition…and if and when opposition appears, Trump is in the life-long habit of steamrolling over it.

If you want a President who understands the Constitution and the law that it spawns…if you want a President who respects you and this country enough to set aside his campaign and put front and center the framework for denying Iran the means to harm us…if you want a President who is not afraid to go up against the leaders of his own Party for the best interest of the United States and its citizens, then Ted Cruz is your candidate. He is acting Presidential even before he gets there.

I had quite enough of “Hope and Change” and parting of the seas with Barack Obama. Donald Trump offers more of the same. “Make America Great Again” and “I’ll make Mexico pay for the wall” is just an updated version. Been there, done that.

Michael Douglas, playing U.S. President Andrew Shepard in the movie “The American President” makes a moving speech at the end of the film. Shepard is addressing his opponent during a bitter re-election campaign. Two great lines from that speech are: “We’ve got serious problems, and we need serious people. This a time for serious people and your fifteen minutes are up.”

It’s what I think we need to say to Donald Trump. His fifteen minutes are up. You still want him in public office? Fine. Make him Secretary of Commerce. It’s what he knows best.

In the meantime, the serious Presidential candidate for this serious time is Ted Cruz.

Carole

contact@carolegold.com

Donald Trump and Wollman Rink

Central Park in New York City is an amazing park and within the park is a fabulous ice skating rink called Wollman Rink.

Wollman RInkIn 1980, N.Y.C did major renovations to Central Park and shut down the ice skating rink .  The renovations were suppose to take 2.5 years, but 6 years later the rink was still in disrepair. The public was outraged that the rink was not functioning thereby denying them access to to this great facility. For New Yorkers there is nothing more joyful than ice skating in Central Park.

There was no incentive to fix the park as the people assigned to doing the work were getting paid regardless. Dragging out the repair for 6 years meant a steady paycheck all that time. Government contractors bill similarly to lawyers: by the hour. The company fixing the rink knew the longer they worked on the rink the more money they could extract from the city. So even though the project was still 3.5 years overdue, the project managers were still drawing their paychecks.

In 1986, Donald Trump went to the papers and blasted then mayor, Ed Koch, for gross negligence in not getting the project done, pointing out that the mismanagement was costing the City and the people of NY tons of money.

Trump told Koch he could fix the rink and have it open in three months at no cost to the City! He would pay for it!  All he asked was to run the venue and an adjacent restaurant and use the profits to recoup his costs. Mayor Koch refused Trumps’ offer.  But the public was outraged and turned on the Mayor. They knew Trump’s offer was generous. So, facing political backlash, Mayor Koch relented and awarded the project to Trump. The end result: A project that had taken the City over 6 years to fail to complete was completed in three months! Trump’s popularity soared for he was seen as someone who could take action and fix a problem.

Donald Trump is seen as a man of action and not words. He is a builder. He creates things he does not talk about them.  He has been attacked by both Conservatives and Liberals for his views. The most interesting attacks have come for the Conservative side of the media. He has been lambasted for not being Conservative enough, for changing his views on issues and lastly, for not being ideologically pure.

Yet even in the midst of these attacks, he remains popular.  The reason he remains popular is that he is a doer.  The average person who supports Trump does not care that he is not ideologically pure . What they want is their issues addressed.

In the 2014 midterm cycle, the Republican Party had a landslide victory yet Obama’s Leftist agenda continues to get implemented unopposed. Previously, when a party lost that much power, as the Democrats had, there was always reform in within the parties to mend their ways, address the citizens’ concerns in order to stay relevant. But alas… no more.

The politicians don’t care. They know the game is fully rigged and no mater what they do, they will always have the support of their base. Obama knows no matter what he does he will always have the Democratic Party behind him… where else are they going to go?

So here comes Trump talking directly to the voters with his simple message “Vote for me. I will address and fix your concerns.” That simple message is having a profound impact.

Take the case of illegal immigration. Both parties know it’s an issue and both have talked about the ways to solve it. Yet the problem remains unsolved. Immigration reform has been a political issue for over 30 years without resolution. People in the Conservative movement who like Trump could care less about someone’s ideological purity. They want the border fixed. Period! What they want is a wall built, beefed-up border patrol and a remedy to get the illegals out of the country. People know that Trump can and will fix this. If elected he won’t be talking about the issue; he will be fixing the issue.

This is what scares both parties. If Trump gets elected, he will have the will of the people behind him. Just as with the Wollman Rink, the politicians won’t be able to hide and Trump will finally build the wall he says he’ll build to stem the flow of illegal immigration.

Similarly, with the Veterans Administration that is entrusted to care for our Veterans. Given that over the last 15 years the U.S has been in a constant state of war, now more than ever we need the best facilities in the world to take care of our troops. It was the government’s decision to put the troops in harm’s way, so the least we must do is to provide excellent and comprehensive care of them when injured or upon their return from service. The V.A.’s  issues have been a problem for well over sixty years. There have even been books and movies addressing this national shame. One of hte most famous, the movie Born on the 4th of July goes to great lengths to discuss the many ways the V.A has failed our veterans. Anybody who has been a round the V.A knows it is a complete mess and, like all other government institutions, it exists for the benefit of the government bureaucracy and its bureaucrats, not the Veterans it was created to serve. For the bureaucrats as well as the workers, the V.A has become a career – a means to an end – a way to pay the bills. The original mission to provide the best quality care for our veterans no longer exists. Trump has campaigned that he plans to refurbish and fix the V.A.  I don’t think anybody doubts that Trump can get it fixed.

So the bottom line is that the entire political class, Left and Right, is scared. The politicians, the bureaucrats, the government workers all fear Trump for they know he will force them to do the unthinkable…start working to earn their paychecks.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

Silent No More

I owe my father a debt of gratitude. He taught me to fear no one and to believe that I could do anything to which I put my mind.

His teaching caused me to do many things in my life that others seemed to think required a degree of courage or, in some cases, a disregard for societal limitations but for me seemed natural and lacking in difficulty. For example, I went to Europe for six weeks by myself at age 24 with only a one night reservation in Spain; went to law school at age 33; adopted a daughter from China at age 45; lived an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle for a few years in my late 40’s; moved from an entire life lived in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to Austin, Texas 3 years ago knowing no one and for no professional reason. I have functioned as a lawyer and an Intuitive (people cringe at the word “Psychic”) my entire adult life. Yet each of these, and more, pale in comparison to writing this entry.

warning

We each have a gift. Mine is the written and spoken word. I have decided to use my gift to post a warning.

We are approaching a moment in human history that, for those who survive, will be the stuff of history books and legends. If you are a Christian, you may refer to it as “End Times.” If you are a Jew you have Isaiah and other Prophets who seem to be calling out their ancient warnings once again. If you are an atheist perhaps you think of it as we humans just screwing up a good thing.

I am a Jew who describes herself as a Spiritual Mystic. There are many people, both in and outside of Judaism, who would so define themselves. The definitions are less relevant than an awareness of what is occurring and the responsibility each of us must take on as we transit through this time of individual choice on behalf of humankind.

The expression that “history repeats itself” exists for a reason. It does, in fact, repeat itself. Again, for the biblically astute, Koheleth (Ecclesiastes 1:9) says, “The thing that has been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is nothing new under the sun.” The admonition that “there is nothing new” provides us in each generation with a pathway to discovering purpose in our lives. The repetition is our opportunity to alter our responses to what humankind has chosen previously. It is our opportunity to correct, repair and heal our reactions so as to alter old, ineffective and harmful patterns for the highest good of all concerned.

This is surely not the first time we have confronted hard choices that require courage and faith. Perhaps the most familiar is the Israelites leaving Egypt or, shortly thereafter, losing patience and returning to the practice, idolatrous worship, out of which they had just been miraculously freed. Ancient Egypt was a culture of materialism, decadence and death. Despite their salvation, the Israelites reverted to indulging in those patterns having been safely shepherded to their Promised Land.

But obstinacy, willfulness and fear have long been with us.

Every generation since humankind began has had its particular challenges. Each has been given the opportunity to choose anew. Sadly, we are a stubborn and stiff-necked species that has been unwilling to make the significant, life-affirming choices and changes that are required of us. And with each generation, the call to awaken to our individual responsibility to choose more wisely becomes more immediate if we are to survive the challenge. We are here. This is our time. These are our choices:

Do we choose hate-filled Iran or do we choose Israel?

Do we choose to protect the innocent or do we choose barbaric Planned Parenthood?

Do we choose Black Lives Matter or do we choose All Lives Matter?

Do we choose to abandon our Veterans or do we choose to heal and honor them?

Do we choose political correctness or do we choose Truth?

Do we choose fear or do we choose Love?

This last question is the most important because Fear and Love are on a continuum. At one end is Fear, Evil, Darkness and Death while on the other is Love, Truth, Light and Life.

If each of us makes certain that every single choice we make now on those other five questions moves us closer to Love, Truth and Light we can, perhaps for the first time in human history, alter the pattern and be the generation that repairs the world.

It’s called Tikkun. It’s the Hebrew concept that we are each here to heal and repair the world. To end the separation not by force but by laying our hearts bare in service to the certainty that the ultimate choice is Life or Death.

The same book that informs us there is “nothing new under the sun” also warns us in Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20) of a blessing and a curse, encouraging us to “…choose life, so that you will live.” 

Let us not delude ourselves once more that this is, somehow, someone else’s choice to make. It is yours. It is mine. It is now.

Carole

The Disney Lie: An American Tale

Perhaps the reality of the Disney Corporation, as opposed to the fantasies it creates, is an apt metaphor for what has become of our culture.

Disney

Like all good parents with the financial means, my ex-husband and I took our daughter to Disney World at age 14. They had a great time, while I couldn’t have been more eager to get out. Call me crazy, but my idea of fun isn’t being strapped into a stationary “chair” while a simulator hurtles me out into the Universe at warp speed.

My limited preferences aside, for most Americans all things Disney are national icons. So it’s particularly troubling when an icon turns out to be anything but admirable.

In 2000, Prentice Hall published Peter and Rochelle Schweizer’s “Disney: The Mouse Betrayed: Greed, Corruption and Children at Risk.” The book detailed how Walt Disney put safety first. Not so with the current company operating in his name. The Schweitzer’s investigated how current management allows Disney World to have an injury rate twice the industry average; how it became a partner in the nation’s largest pay-per-view pornography distributor; revealed its rampant pedophile and sexual abuse problem; highlighted its preference for cover-ups and inexpensive solutions; exposed the weird message Disney sends when employees are caught peeping on – even filming – coworkers and guests in their dressing room; spotlighted how it thwarts efforts of local law enforcement at its theme parks and, last but not least, how Disney licensees have been repeatedly charged with violating federal child labor laws.

As if its apparent disregard for decency in its lust for money and profit weren’t enough, now comes a shameful story of its blatant disregard for corporate integrity, employee excellence and loyalty all in the name of…wait for it…profits.

A former Cast Member (the in-house term for Disney employees), with 10 years in Disney’s IT Department, has penned a damning expose of how Disney jettisoned hundreds of its top performing, long-term employees with virtually no notice in order to bring in foreign workers under the H1-B guest workers program.

Writing of his experience, the Cast Member explains: “After having worked grueling on call shifts, hundreds of middle of the night and weekends work sessions in addition to a barrage of problem phone calls around the clock for many years, they were going to simply throw us out for their financial benefit.”

Not only were the dedicated and highest performance-rated Cast Members summarily terminated, they were forced to stay on for 90 days and train their foreign replacements or forfeit a severance package!

This past January, a bill in introduced by Presidential hopeful Senator Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) along with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) would triple the number of foreign H1-B guest workers increasing the problem threefold.

So, this is how it works now in America.

Disney, the private or public sectors screw American workers, and safety at home, for the benefit of foreign workers be they legal or illegal. Keep seeking financial gain with no regard for whether or not your organization has lost its moral compass. Count on politicians to exacerbate the problem because they are in on the take too and their first priority is personal gain at the expense of their constituents. That would be us.

It turns out there’s a metaphor within a metaphor to be had here.

Yes, the Disney Corporation is a metaphor for our national soul. But so is that moon ride I was strapped into, hurtling me out into the Universe at warp speed with no way to defend or protect myself from all that was rushing towards me. Welcome to the United States of America 2015.

Disney lost its way. We have too. The protections we had in place to defend ourselves have been overridden by Executive Order, pushed aside in favor of retaining political power and buried in the hubris of the Supreme Court.

My only suggestion is that you do what I did that day on the moon ride at Disney World. Scream at the top of your lungs that you want out, get off the damn ride as soon as possible and hightail it out of Fantasy Land as fast as your feet will carry you.

Carole

Break The Rules

The world has changed and the lawmakers and regulators are having a hard time keeping up.

A few months ago, the creator of the underground website Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, was sentenced to life in prison for creating an online space that allowed people to use bitcoins, a cryptocurrency, to buy and sell things anonymously. Some used Silk Road to buy and sell  legal,  as well as illegal, drugs.  Since people do this anyway in the physical world, with or without Silk Road the drug trade marches on.

Break Rules

Ulbricht’s aim in creating Silk Road was to establish a marketplace free of government interference. He believed that some of the methods used by the government to regulate commerce are a form of coercion and aggression.

If you disagree and think the government is not heavy-handed, check out these examples:

  • Don’t pay your taxes, you will end up in jail. (see Wesley Snipes)
  • Don’t pay your property taxes and your house can be purchased by tax lien buyers. In most states, tax liens are senior to mortgage notes. What this law is telling you is that the government’s claim come first.
  • Don’t want to bake a cake for a gay wedding – watch your business get shut down. (Gay Baker Story)

We have been taught that the nation that we live in the freest nation in the world. But, try not paying your taxes and see what happens to you. Or take the example of  The Branch Davidians, who were massacred by the police, resulting in the death of 76 people, for not letting the Federal authorities enter their compound. Many of those killed were innocent women and children.

Ulbricht was convicted of money laundering, computer hacking, conspiracy to traffic narcotics, and procuring murder although the murder charge was later dropped. He claimed he just wanted to let other people engage in peaceful transactions absent the government’s increasing encroachment and force by way of regulation, law, and police actions. Consequently, there is a real need for the entrepreneurs of today to break the government stranglehold of business and create new means for people to determine how they want to work and live.

Take the many issues Uber has had to deal with. For the uninitiated in the transportation world, most cities have a Taxi and Limousine Commission that regulateS the drivers, the cars, the hours they work, the areas that people can be picked up in as well as the rates that can be charged. It’s a lot of laws for a fairly simple transaction! One party needs a ride and the other wants to provide it.

But this is where politics enters the game. All of these laws, rules and regulations add up to lots of fees, tickets and massive revenue for the cities. In addition, given the plethora of regulations, this keeps the flow coming into the cash trough for political donations.  And also realize that given the amount of employees in the transportation industry, it is much easier to organize and coalesce a large block of these voters (union employees) rather than independent entrepreneurs providing the same services.

Currently, regulators are having a hard time deciding which rules apply to Uber and which don’t. Part of the issues is that Uber is really just a platform that connects drivers with people who need a lift. So in every city Uber has tried to enter the marketplace, they have encountered brutal resistance from the political class. The good news is that the politicians have had a hard time stopping Uber due to the enormous popularity with its users and fear they will experience even greater backlash from the voters if they don’t allow Uber’s operation.

Or take the case of Free Ride, whose shuttle service offers exactly that — free rides in New York State, Florida, San Diego, etc., made possible by the low operating cost of the company’s small electric buses and paid for by local businesses advertising on the vehicles. The Free Ride idea seems simple. Like all good ideas, in retrospect it’s hard to believe no one else was doing it. The model now exists where commuters can travel for free. Imagine the backlash that is going to come from all the bus companies and the people they employ!

All of these changes, and the rapidity at which they are occurring,  has the government worried. We are forging ahead with a new communities and, hopefully, a society unfettered by the rules of government. In every area, the technological age is transforming our lives right before our eyes. Actors no longer need the gatekeepers of Hollywood as they can now upload their talents directly to YouTube; authors self-publish via CreateSpace. Need a hotel?  Skip the hassle and get a room via Airbnb and so on.

The overall reality remains that every aspect of our lives is still ruled by the government, with its control implemented and maintained by way of police, courts, jails and weapons (both civil and military). For now, the consequence can still be dire. So caution is the word of the day as you can yet end up on the wrong side of the political class. One need to look no further than the founders of Silk Road to see how badly, in fact, it can end.

Caution. Yes. But optimism for the future.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

Of Paradise and Power

The recent thwarted attack on a train traveling through  Europe brought to mind a book written a few years ago by  Robert Kagan titled Of Paradise and Power.

The premise of the book is that Europeans and Americans do not share a common view of the world as a result of the U.S shouldering Europe’s security burden over the last 60 years

Kagan lays out the fact that the US is quicker to use military force, more quickly to use financial incentives and relies less on diplomacy to get the results it wants. In contrast, Europe, places greater emphasis on diplomacy placing greater faith in international law and cooperation which results on more reliance on the United Nations to address complicated issues.

Kagan believes the U.S behaves as it does is because as a powerful nation it has a greater capacity to act in ways that the European nations don’t.  In contrast, the EU looks at the U.N Security Council as its substitute for power.

The relationship between Europe and the U.S radically changed after World War II and the advent of N.A.T.O. where members agreed that an attack against one nation would be considered an attack on all it members. This agreement emerged following Russia’s annexation of East Germany. The prevailing sentiment was fear that Russia, absent deterrence, would continue its expansionist bent. The U.S also set up a base in West Germany to act as a further deterrent to that threat.

The Europeans, realizing that the U.S was going to shoulder the financial and military burden, stopped spending money on defense. Instead, they began spending on social and welfare programs. The European nations sought to make their citizens’ lives easier by offering a smorgasbord of social and welfare services. In addition, they catered to unions and the working class by augmenting benefits to workers.

The result, the European nations have gone soft. Nowadays, it is quite common for European workers to get 30 days paid vacation per year. Simultaneously unwilling to maintain and defend itself, they look to the U.S for protection. Since they no longer have to defend themselves they have a hard time seeing the threats that exist that can harm them.

As a youngster I grew up next to a housing project that was two blocks away from my house. I learned quickly where to go and not to go. But there were times no matter what I did, violence was the only answer. I didn’t win many of these encounters but I was able to defend myself and, for the most part, get away without any real damage. The lessons I learned as a child have forever shaped me as an adult and to this day I am always fully aware of my surroundings. This sixth sense that I developed as kid has forever been my ally. I can literally tell when a con, scam or assault is in the brewing and I am quick to leave those surroundings unscathed. The point I am making is that getting nicked up early in life lead to me a life whereby I now led a personally safe existence.

The agreement that the U.S and Europe struck decades ago has given us a partner not being fully aware of the dangers that exist in the world.

So, it was no shock to me that when that major attack on a European train took take place. It was U.S. serviceman who came to the rescue. Having been trained to be on the lookout for bad guys, and knowing how to defend themselves, they foiled what would have been a major  tragedy and loss of life.

We live in a dangerous place and the U.S has been shouldering the burden and confronting it alone for way too long.

All of us have the duty to confront evil whenever and wherever we encounter it and not expect to outsource this responsibility. Given the influx of immigrants now flooding Europe, 185,00 in the last three months alone, this is going to be a battle the Europeans will have to confront on their own.Their safety will depend on it.

Let’s hope Europeans can remember the responsibility and discover the courage.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com