Amazon on Steroids

If Amazon was a country, the U.S would place trade restrictions on it for illegal dumping. Illegal dumping in trade occurs “when manufacturers export a product to another country at a price either below the price charged in its home market or below its cost of production.”

We permit Amazon to do what other countries are denied the right to do: dump their products into the U.S. Why? Because it would kill many of our industries. Often times, foreign companies receive massive assistance from their governments. One example, Airbus in Europe is subsidized by government funds which helps it stay competitive with Boeing. If we allowed these private/state owned companies to operate freely here in the U.S, domestic companies would not be able to compete.

Amazon is not owned by the government; however, due to the nature of capital markets, it has massive advantages over its competitors. The genesis of this advantage stems from the banking  crisis in 2008.

During 2008, many banks were shut down and/or merged. As part of the bailout and mergers, terms set by the Federal government barred banks from continuing to carry risky assets on their balance sheets. Then, the Federal Reserve infused the banks with billions of dollar in bailout money. The regulations put in place restricting trading by banks while loading them with money, caused the banks to begin buying and investing in things that were “government approved.” The banks bought billions of dollars in government bonds and other “approved investments” that would not raise the ire of the federal regulators.

What happened as a result?

Many legitimate small businesses and startups were frozen out. Why lend one million dollars to a startup if the regulators were going to complain? So the banks stopped lending to smaller firms and only invested in “sure things.” Asset managers and fund managers figured out the game and started mimicking what the banks were buying, thus only buying the safest and surest of investments.

Enter Amazon.

Recognizing that it had the opportunity to raise billions of dollars, Jeff Bezos went on a buying spree…buying out Amazon’s competitors and making massive investment in its infrastructure. It wasn’t that Amazon was making a ton of money. It wasn’t. What it had was access to the capital markets, something its competitors did not have.

Infused with cash, Amazon kept on tightening its profit margins lower and lower which was effective in driving its competitors out of business. Amazon is literally killing the retail industry and the malls that support those retailers. Malls across America are dying and some analysts have estimated that 50% of all malls will be closed within ten years.

Here’s the point. Many of these retailers are small business owners and have no access to the capital markets and, therefore, must make a profit.  In contrast Amazon, which has access to billions of dollars of capital, is not pressured to make any money and so lowers its margins to the point where it freezes out its competitors.  As stated earlier, the U.S. would never allow a country to operate so brazenly knowing the goal to be crushing domestic competition in order to make more money and monopolize the industry. But the rules appear to be different for Bezos and Amazon.

Larry Kudlow once said “profits are the mothers milk of all business” yet we obviously live in a time where the rules no longer apply. At some point this anomaly that allows Amazon to operate on minuscule margins with access to unlimited capital will end. The market will turn rational at some point and demand a return on the billions that was invested into Amazon. However, by that point, all serious competitors to Amazon will have been wiped out and it will be free to charge you whatever it wants.

I am a capitalist and a libertarian at heart; but what Amazon is doing is mercenary and illegal…or needs to be. Amazon is skirting the laws barring monopolies and participating in the perversion of our current capital markets, which have not been fixed since the 2008 crisis.  Amazon should be reigned in and broken up before its too late. We are literally letting one company destroy the fabric of our economy by rapidly destroying the retail industry in order to assure its own survival.

Many Amazon supporters claim that Walmart was guilty of many of the same things that Amazon is doing. I disagree. Sam Walton started with one store, limited access to capital and built has empire one store at a time. His success was based on profits and reinvesting those profits back into his company to buy more stores.

What Walton did was something available and accessible to all Americans. He had no special advantage or received no special treatment. Amazon currently has an advantage shared by only a handful of companies: unlimited access to capital. With this advantage, those few are literally laying waste to the American retailer and, to a greater extent, the personal liberty and equality of access inherent in free market choices.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

 

Conversation- The Lost Art

We have destroyed a five thousand year old tradition. For all that time, we humans passed along information through conversations among ourselves and within groups whether those groups were a tribe, town, neighborhood, school, family gathering or the dinner table. In the West, that’s over. Discourse and conversations, if they can even be termed that, now happen through advanced technology and digital media. Human to human exchange is gone..replaced with human to human by way of digital media and rapidly evolving technology.And yet, with all of the digital media content out there, radio and podcasts still have a massive grip on the consumer. Why? Because we’re HUMAN and the spoken word with its corresponding human emotion will always hold our attention. Its how we’re wired.

The longevity of radio is a testament to the power of words as well as the ability to educate and entertain. Some of the highest paid entertainers and talk show hosts in the world are on radio. The incomes of Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck verify this fact.

In some ways this result is odd because people on television have a huge advantage over radio due to better distribution systems, higher production quality and larger staffing. Yet they can barely hold on. Further, they have the ability to use and manipulate their audience with images. None-the-less, those “celebrities” or media darlings still can’t command the size audience that a great radio show can. Rachel Maddow is one of the highest rated cable TV shows, with an audience of four million viewers and the power of NBC behind her. Yet Rush Limbaugh, essentially a one man show, consistently pulls in over 25 million listeners a week.

A radio host has only his or her words to convey their message. Because of this, radio hosts are forced to be concise, clear and on-point at all times. In radio all faults, foibles and illogical statements are exposed as they occur. Radio hosts debate listeners and adversaries alike to get their point across which is why only the best speakers thrive in such an unforgiving medium.

Both of us listen to talk radio, especially Conservative talk radio.  We see why so many of the hosts are successful. They have the ability to converse, influence and explain very complicated matters in easy-to-understand terms. At first glance it  appears they are uniquely qualified to speak on these matters or have some special talent that allows them to.  The reality is that most benefit from having had a family structure where conversation and discourse was encouraged and enforced.

Take the case of Rush Limbaugh. He was an unremarkable student in the lower grades and did not go to college. He does not have a law, or any other, advanced degree. Even his employment history leaves a lot to be desired. For the most part, he had mid-to-low-level jobs at which he toiled for years. What Limbaugh did have was a stable family and an inquisitive father who took the time to educate his children. His father was a lawyer and judge.  Meal times were a family affair where hour long conversations about politics took place. His father would discuss many of the cases he worked on and how those cases, and their outcomes, related to society at-large. Civics, history and Constitutional Law were common topics of conversation and were so detailed that Limbaugh felt he received the best education just sitting at home! Although he was not academically gifted, what he did have was a love of radio and the ability to speak well. His ability to make an argument, explain the basis for his position and defend his ideas were challenged and refined every day of his youth at the dinner table.

Michael Savage is another example. A radio host with a vast following, Savage has said on numerous occasions that his time around the dinner table is what trained him for his career in radio. Although he has multiple degrees and is highly educated, Savage says that what fine-tuned his views on life were the hours spent with his mother.  She was a Russian immigrant who would gather with other women from the community and talk well into the night. As a child, Savage was not excused from these gatherings but instead was “forced” to hear them every night. These conversations helped shape him and his ability to critically think. He began to understand and view America from the eyes of immigrants: the hopes and dreams of what the United States offered from their perspective. A window into the world that other Americans could never understand.

Think about it. Two of the most influential men in radio and political analysis got the majority of their training around a dinner table! Not through textbooks, universities or television. Such is the power of family and spending time together engaged in meaningful and thoughtful conversation in a safe but challenging environment.

Today, as a father of six, I (Steve) know my kids benefit immensely from hearing my wife’s stories about growing up in South America. Latinos have a vivid way of speaking that sparks the imagination. Their stories are imbued with faith and mysticism.  I’ve worked in sales but my wife can tell a story much better than I ever could! I thank God our kids are reaping the rewards of hearing and seeing this county (as did Savage) through the eyes of an immigrant whose stories drive home   the truly extraordinary possibilities and benefits available here that can be found nowhere else.

As a mother, lawyer and former talk radio host, I (Carole) was raised in a home such as were both Limbaugh and Savage. Our dinner table was where heated and diverse opinions were shared and challenged. I learned early on to think critically and to be articulate if I hoped to be taken seriously. In many ways, it was the foundational training ground I needed to go on to both the practice of law and talk radio.

The technological advances have helped our children in many ways. But those raised with it, in the absence of sufficient human interaction, will be the first generation educated primarily by a digital medium rather than the spoken word. Our world has always been shaped by ideas. As a culture, we tend to move in the direction of the ones that are most convincing  not necessarily best.

In the recently released book, “Stealing Fire” authors Stephen Kotler and Jamie Wheal analyze “The Flow…that part of the brain where creative problem solving resides. Whether using meditation, prayer or drugs (Silicon Valley execs are now daily taking LSD and mescaline to enhance flow), time spent in that state exponentially enhances, by as much as 500%, creative thinking; but, it also shuts down the prefrontal cortex where critical thinking occurs. Since the power of great oratory has the ability to also move the masses into the flow (think Jesus, Hitler, Martin Luther King) it simultaneously causes critical thinking to shut down…which is why oratory must be accompanied by an intent to do good by the speaker as well as be critically evaluated by the listener.

It isn’t that our future will not be peppered with great orators. The danger lies in the capacity and developed ability of generations, raised without the benefits of intellectually challenging family life and reduced human interaction, to be able to discern between a well-intentioned leader and a despot.

sleeclark@gmail.com   contact@carolegold.com

These Truths Are Self Evident

In Catholicism we believe in certain truths. These truths define our faith.

In fact, at every mass we recite The Apostle’s Creed  which lays out the tenants of our faith: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty…” Each time we go to mass we reaffirm this belief. Given what we know today by way of breakthroughs in technology and science, many critics scoff at this creed finding that it refers to a time when life was more simple. It is therefore ironic that while many Liberals and Progressives mock the Church for its stands and its creeds, the Left has its own creed. It’s just packaged differently. This whole notion of creeds came to my attention when a friend of mine blasted this out to all of his email contacts:

  1. If you believe that tax cuts for the rich benefit the poor or middle class, please de-friend me.
  2. If you have less than $15 million in net worth and still call the estate tax the “death tax”, please de-friend me.
  3. If you don’t believe the earth is warming due to greenhouse gases, please de-friend me.
  4. If you believe everyone in the USA should have health insurance, please de-friend me.

It was a fairly aggressive stance.  He was saying that if you don’t believe what I believe then we should no longer be friends. Imagine if a Catholic lay person sent this out to his friends! I can hardly imagine the scope of rebuke and criticism.

You see this list that my friend sent out is part of the “Leftist Creed.”  The difference in creeds is that the Catholic one is inspired by God and deals with the relevancy of God presence in our lives; the Left’s creed is created by man as the foundation and pillar of government as its basis and support system.

For Catholics, the creed is a statement of faith, hope and our undying faith in Christ. Something greater than us. For the Left, faith and hope are placed in the bureaucracy of government: the belief that government is good and has the power to alleviate suffering.

I harbor no allusions regarding government. I detest and loath it. I am an American with strong Latino roots. Latinos know all too well from experience how corrupt politicians are. Just look at Venezuela, Ecuador and Cuba. This distrust of all things related to politics is quite common in Latin America. Less so here in the states. Barack Obama and FDR are two politicians who come to mind, both of who governed and believed that the power of the State could solve all of society’s ills.

Given my friend’s myopic belief in the Leftist Creed, he is willing to forgo friendships over it.  I wanted to address his points, if not with him directly then here.

  •  Taxes: The State and the establishment (teachers, media, etc.) always take the high ground, arguing over the moral correctness of paying taxes. They habitually sight the worst case alternatives when arguing for higher taxes. The homeless mother who would live on the streets if not for government housing; the lunch program for children who would otherwise starve. By claiming the high ground, all others who don’t pay their fair share are labeled as “cheats” and “tax evaders.” For me, taxes are government sanctioned theft. The State is claiming a right to your wages simply because you live here. Theft is to take someone’s property against his will, i.e., by force or fraud. If I don’t pay my taxes, I will end up in jail. How is that any different than being robbed by a mugger who will harm or kill me if I don’t turn over my wallet? In the first case, the Left argues my funds are being used to take care of the poor; but, how is that different than the robber who will using my funds for the same thing? The Left claims the high ground to coerce and manipulate people out of their money. It uses these arguments by saying government will allocate and distribute the money more efficiently and equitably than private institutions. In the end , all taxes do is fund government jobs and grows the State assuring the need for yet more taxpayer money.
  • Global Warming: There is this blatantly repeated mantra that the science on global warming is “settled.” When is anything in science settled? Consider these once settled items: the earth is flat, the planets revolve around earth and earth is the center of the universe. Remember, the question for the Left is not so much whether there is any warming but whether human activity is the major contributing factor to such warming. The fact is human beings do have an effect on the planet. And, yes we have done terrible things to it including the annihilation of numerous species. I would argue humans do have a big effect on climate change given all of our industrial production; but, so could a myriad of natural phenomena such as weather, solar flares, hurricanes, and/or earthquakes. There are other factors with greater magnitude and historically documented impact than what we humans can do. The threat of global warming/climate change disaster is about fear, manipulation and profit…all being used by the political class to collect more taxes and power to support their one-world, Socialist agenda.
  • Health Insurance:  I don’t think anything owes anybody anything. I can’t outsource my health. Its my personal responsibility to be mindful of  what I eat and maintain my body so that I don’t get sick. We have been conditioned and trained to run to doctors to cure us when, in reality, they should be in place to support disease prevention, not as station of last resort. For example, car insurance works because it supports the right behavior. If I need new tires or an oil change, I pay for it myself with many companies competing for my business. But if I get into an accident or cause major damage, I use my car insurance. Similarly, I would gladly pay for catastrophic health insurance that would only cover emergencies such as cancer; but, that option is not available here in the U.S.  Inexplicably, the Left was ecstatic over the passage of universal healthcare under Obama. They knew veterans have been covered by that plan for years and the V.A. is widely recognized as an total failure and abomination.  Had healthcare been allowed to evolve under free market principles, medical costs would have collapsed the same way the cost of televisions have collapsed as quality improving exponentially over time.

We all need basic principles and values to provide a framework for living our best lives. This is what a creed does. So, you can choose between a creed, such as the one I follow, that assures me of my inherent divinity as a child of God and worth His benevolent guiding hand or you can choose the Leftist Creed that assures you that without government intervention you are doomed to poverty and destruction of the planet.

Free Will. You choose.

 

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

An Amazon On The Loose

Where are Jeff Bezos and Amazon heading and why should it matter to you? Well, as if this quote from Bezos isn’t revealing and disturbing enough, read this entire article. Being silent in the face of infringement upon personal freedom is acquiescence and results in voluntary enslavement.

“Our goal with Amazon Prime, make no mistake, is to make sure that if you are not a Prime member you are being irresponsible.”  Jeff Bezos

READ HERE: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/americas-amazon-problem_us_59443b5be4b06bb7d2731cba?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004   

Amazon Branches Out (or further into our lives)

The first step in being scanned as you leave the grocery store. Amazon has the capability to allow you shop and as you leave the store its technology will scan everything in your cart and charge your card on file. No line. No cashiers.

Some amazing changes are ahead of us for good or ill, and only time will tell how we continue to apply and permit the technology to improve or control our lives. It will really be up to us as to where we allow it to go. Read here: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-06-16/amazon-buy-whole-foods

Zuckerberg et al: Do As I Say!

As a parent, I know the importance of having my words match my actions. Otherwise, we are simply viewed by our children as hypocrites. This is no less true for those involved in social movements. A recent example of the disconnect between the  message and the “bringers of the  message” is this article on environmental pollutants that evidences why there is so much anger by those who are not the privileged or the elite.

Read here: http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/06/15/from-uber-drivers-to-zuckerbergs-security-officers-palo-alto-has-an-idling-problem/

At at time when tempers are so easily inflamed, perhaps all of us should be making efforts to walk the talk… and tread lightly as we do.

 

 

 

An Employee With Integrity

Today I experienced an extraordinary example of personal responsibility and integrity. A physician’s office initiated an unauthorized product order that caused an overdraft to my bank account.  I phoned the physician’s office to rectify the problem and was told by one of the staff that I would have to speak with the office manager who, after being put on hold, indicated she would call me back. In the meantime, no credit would be issued.

Because the manager had specifically not permitted the other staff person to issue my credit in advance of a call from her personally, I anticipated the rationale I was about to hear on the call back as to why the order had been shipped and that, unfortunately, no credit would be forthcoming.

Then the call came.

The manager began the call by saying she could not call me back until she had looked into all the facts surrounding the debit and shipment and spoken with other staff members. So I not so patiently, or calmly, awaited what would follow.

Imagine my shock when the next words I heard were, “You were 1000% correct. We were wrong. We made a mistake. I am so terribly sorry but we are going to make this right. We are issuing you the credit as we speak. When you know the full harm done to your account balance, please let us know. We are going to make this right.”

In a world so bereft of personal responsibility, of people who want to blame everyone but themselves for their own errors, of employees and staff being too busy, or too unconcerned, to care about customers’ or patients’ feelings and issues, it is totally appropriate that I call this adult, ethical and professional response “extraordinary.”

Perhaps this is the sad part of the story. That doing what is ethical, honest, and just plain “right” is now the exception rather than the norm. I am not about to wax nostalgic on “the good old days” as if there was ever a time when people always did the right thing. Its illusion to think perfection ever existed.

But is undeniably true that when rapid technological innovation and social media became the replacements for Judeo-Christian values and personal human interaction, we went down a slippery slope that has landed us in a world where the witnessing of personal responsibility and integrity deserves a blog post.

But it does.

Note:  Credit goes to the practice of Dr. Anthony Bazzan at the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health of Jefferson Hospital located in Villanova, Pennsylvania. Particular honorable mention goes to his office manager, Jody.

 

 

How Meditation Reduces Bad Behavior

My good friend, David Kupferman, has been a Transcendental Meditation (TM) instructor for most of his adult life. A few years ago he taught me the process. It changed my life and there is science to prove it can change yours. While TM has worked for me reducing stress, eliminating a propensity to quickly anger and opened up channels of creativity, there are many forms of mediation. Clearly, this Baltimore school has found one that is working for their students in a most inspiring way. Read here: http://www.positivenewsus.org/meditation-not-detention.html

 

Why Comey and President Trump Don’t Matter

I like to know. Knowing comes from personal experience… not reliance upon another’s experience then trusting or believing their interpretation. That’s why I watched every minute of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearing and questioning of former FBI Director Comey’s testimony today. Which is why I know some things with certainty.

Director Comey stated that he “doesn’t know him [President Trump] well enough to read him.” Yet, the Director attributed certain intentions to the President that had no basis in fact but were rather the Director’s attributions upon which he subsequently relied in choosing to either act or refrain from acting.

Director Comey never before memorialized any conversation he had with any former President or other official of the FBI, CIA or Justice Department, yet he memorialized every one with President-elect Trump and President Trump.

Director Comey was careful to qualify many of his attributions with the words “I could be wrong.”

Director Comey chose not to proceed with either 1) a recommendation for prosecution or making public former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s improper efforts to have the FBI characterize the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server activity with language that mirrored the Clinton campaign’s characterization rather than that preferred by the FBI.

Director Comey admitted to deliberately using a friend, who is a professor at Columbia University, to leak to the Wall Street Journal notes from a confidential conversation he had with the President of the United States.

Director Comey stated that the President never attempted to interfere with the FBI investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.

Director Comey testified that the President said ” it would be good” if the investigation found that any “satellite” people who were a part of his campaign were found to have wrongfully colluded with the Russians. (Good in the sense of getting to the truth).

Director Comey said the President was never the subject of investigation, a fact the Director never made public or, for that matter, leaked.

I don’t know what the Democrats, Obama supporters, Hillary supporters, or the #NeverTrumpers hoped to find today, but whatever jackpot they expected to hit turned out to be much more of a vindication of the President and insight into a very selective enforcement mindset on the part of Director Comey’s decision making process than anything else.

This President may not be the Chief Executive of your dreams, or mine, but that is not cause for a witch hunt that is harming the nation and keeping us divided.

Read history.

We have had Presidents who were greedy, foul mouthed, corrupt, bigoted, stupid, immoral, philanderers and more. We survived them not because the opposition took them down. We survived them because the Constitution remained the framework for our rights and liberties as well as our restraints upon government and the Supreme Court upheld what that framework set forth.  All manner of Presidents, and bureaucrats, bring with them upon arrival their politics and idiosyncrasies and take them when they go. Yet, the Republic remains as it was intended: land of the free; home of the brave.

So, rather than getting all caught up in the sideshow distractions, let’s focus on what matters. President Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch to U.S. Supreme Court and will likely appoint one or two additional “strict constructionist” Justices during his term or terms as President.  All is well.                                      Carole

Trump To End War Against Nuns

One of the most vile things of ObamaCare was the contraception mandate that all organizations  provide contraception and abortion services in their plans, including religious organizations. For Catholics abortion is a mortal sin and one of the most heinous crimes one can commit. In addition contraception is not allowed and any serious practicing Catholic knows this.

Instead of the Obama administration allowing exceptions under religious beliefs, the administration was adamant that groups like ” Little Sisters of the Poor” , provide these services. Clearly anybody in this organization does not need to offer any of these services but the administration was relentless that groups like this cave.

The Obama administration took the Nuns to court where it ended up on the Supreme Court and where he lost by a unanimous decision.

“The Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision forcing the Obama Administration to “arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates [the LSP’s] religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered petitioners’ health plans ‘receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.’”

It was a no-brainer case; that’s why it was unanimous. The accommodation should have happened from the beginning. But it didn’t. Even after the decision, as you can see by the news reports now, the government continued to drag its feet, unwilling to set the sisters free. It is a mark of shame on President Obama’s legacy that he left office without relieving the Little Sisters of the Poor.”

Donald Trump has finally relieved the sister of this burden. For more on the story:

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/06/07/penny-nance-trump-set-end-ridiculous-war-nuns/