Monday, July 17, 2017

Beacon Center calls out corporatism.

Having owned and operated a small business for about thirty years, I totally understand why business starts have lately been at an all time low. It was far easier to start and succeed in a business when I got going than it is today.

Rules and regulations are smothering. Good, eager employees are hard to come by. Rents are through the roof. You're more likely to raise money from a bunch of strangers online than to get a bank loan. And the world of commerce now is all about the big guy, not the "little man." (Hear pertinent Alan Jackson song by clicking HERE.)

I started getting a taste of this several years ago. We got on the internet early and into e-commerce soon after. We discovered Google Ads and before long we had $1,000 a month devoted to it. I've got to give it to Google that it is a very clever way to sell advertising. It works as an auction, too complicated to explain here. So you are not paying a set rate for the advertising. And it is completely un-auditable. You are charged per click at the floating auction rate, and who the heck knows who's clicking. A year or so in I discovered through a roundabout way that about half the clicks I was paying for were from somewhere in Asia. I immediately pulled the plug on Google Ads. It's no wonder that company so quickly became worth billions. I think there was a class action lawsuit over this, but I don't have time for filling out all that stuff.

I was becoming discontented with Google Ads anyway, as the keywords we used to load advertisements were not pulling like they should. We are a niche business and we sell things that hardly anyone else has, but I noticed that big box retailers like Amazon and Wal-Mart and even Lowe's were beating me out for advertising space on my unique keywords. I can't prove this but I suspected they were "blanket bombing" the search engine, paying for space on every single commodity keyword whether they sold the item or not, forcing up the ad price for small fry like me and positioning us out of the running. And I certainly cannot prove this, but I suspect they were doing it at a discounted price because of their volume despite the auction system.

Over the years I've noticed other ways we little guys subsidize the big guys, as especially in shipping. The Wall Street Journal had a story just last week about how the USPS is essentially subsidizing Amazon shipping. That's no news to me. I've watched my shipping costs go up exponentially in the past few years as Amazon and other big online retailers offer free shipping even on tiny orders. UPS and FedEx lust after their volume, bend over backwards for them, and take them as loss leaders so they can keep or grow market share, meanwhile letting the little schmucks make up the lost profits.

Which leads me to this latest Beacon Center mini-documentary. It's one thing when you are working against bigger competition. You can always try to out-service, out-smart, out-maneuver them. But when it's the government you're up against, the best you can hope for is a Pyrrhic victory. And operating like that does not meet payroll for long.

The video is just about twenty minutes and makes the point beautifully. Click on the graphic to view. Thank you, Beacon Center:

Monday, June 26, 2017

5 other things Trump-haters hate.*

  1. The weather. They call it euphemistically "climate change" as if they can do something about it. President Trump, of course, recognizes the climate change industry for the fraud that it is and consequently cancelled our participation in the Paris Climate Accord.
  2. Black babies. Of the nearly 60 million abortions in the U.S. since 1973 (Roe v. Wade), almost 18 million of the souls snuffed out were black. That's about 30%.  Yet only about 13% of the U.S. population is black. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a proponent of eugenics, the philosophy of culling inferior races from the population to improve the human race. Her belief was that blacks were inferior to whites. Hitler's regime built upon her ideas in its "final solution" of culling Jews from the human race. Planned Parenthood has done her proud as well. President Trump, of course, values human life no matter the race and has taken action to stop all federal funding for abortion on demand.
  3. Soldiers. Bill Clinton while a Rhodes Scholar famously wrote a letter in which he came down on the side of those who "loathe the military." Barack Obama famously fumbled the pronunciation of "corpsman" as "corpse-man" at a national prayer event. God forbid a Trump-hater's child might volunteer for military service; that would be stupid, as John Kerry famously suggested. President Trump famously has no such antipathy for the military. He has deferred to military commanders to make military decisions. We have not fallen headlong into war since Trump has assumed office as the Trump-haters predicted, yet Bill Clinton's weakness set us up for 9-11 and Obama's ineptitude with the "Arab Spring" has made it more like Arab Hell.
  4. Habeas Corpus. The longer the "Russian collusion" theme is pushed by the Trump-haters in the media and the Democrat party the more apparent it is that there is nothing there. This seems to be a trend, politicizing the justice system to thwart the opposition, whether we're talking the IRS's stonewalling conservative nonprofits' applications for tax-exempt status, the Justice Department's "Fast and Furious" debacle, or the national security apparatus' being used for massive spying on American citizens' innocent phone and internet traffic. Habeas corpus - the basic right of a citizen to be free from prosecution without evidence of a crime - is nothing more than a "negative covenant" like the entire Bill of Rights to the Trump-haters. President Trump, on the other hand, put a constitutionalist on the Supreme Court.
  5. National Security. To the Trump-haters, secure borders are nothing but a euphemism for racism, as are voter ID laws. If it's not racism, it's Islamophobia. Or homophobia. Or xenophobia. Or misogyny. Or whatever obscures the point and keeps the opposition on the defensive. The point of the system is to exploit it, right? Not to ensure equal opportunity, democratic rule of law, nor citizens' rights. Nations are an anachronistic construct. One is as good as another; might as well have open borders. Unless we're talking about Russia, of course. President Trump's Make America Great Again campaign is just code for everything bad. Bad bad bad.
* Of course, not all Trump-haters really hate these five things or the many other things that the core Trump-haters hate which are too numerous to mention but all of which have to do with American exceptionalism. Those of you who disdain Donald-Trump-the-New-York-Loudmouth might want to examine your guilt by association with the true, convicted Trump-haters. Their hatred is not for the obnoxious New Yorker; their Trump-hate is really hatred for the traditional values of the voters who put him in office.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Trump! Now more than ever.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, take three minutes to refresh your collective memory of the scene below in which the Inquisitor George Stephanopoulos thrusts a question out of, er, left field at the then-candidate for president of our republic, Mitt Romney:

I recall wondering just what the devil was going on as I watched that debate live. In retrospect it's easy to see. It was the opening salvo in a well-coordinated campaign to cast Romney as leader of the party with a "war on women." It would be coupled with the theatrics of Sandra Fluke's push for free (i.e. taxpayer sponsored) universal contraception. It would reach its climax in just that element of Obamacare which would not only champion free contraception, but also abortion on demand, sex reassignment surgery, and the like, all pandering moves to fire up the fringe elements of the left and put conservatives on the defensive.

It was a true conspiracy: It involved several parties with one goal in mind. That goal was to destroy Mitt Romney and by association the party he represented. The parties included naturally Democrat operatives, the pseudo-journalist Stephanopoulos acting on their behalf when he was supposed to be an impartial debate moderator, and no doubt some person or persons providing the resources to put it all together. George Soros? The Clinton Cabal? Barack Obama? Vladimir Putin? Genghis Khan? Whoever, the people pulling the strings in a conspiracy are always shadowy figures, most easily referred to as "they." That way, when we talk about "they" we look like paranoid conspiracy theorists.

Except, in the way you can't see the wind but you know the wind exists because it blows your beach umbrella, when you can identify a conspiracy in retrospect you know "they" exist. Paranoia is just right thinking when "they" really are out to get you.

Right now, day by day, "they" have launched the biggest, foulest, most devisive and atavistic conspiracy in modern American history. The conspirators are not only the same players that concocted the "war on women," but also the Republican establishment, the Mitch McConnells and Paul Ryans who are supposedly on Trump's side but who damn him with faint praise (or perhaps we should call it "feint praise:" they pretend to be conservative as a feint to get elected, then govern on the take to the left).

Many more can be added to the list: from my home state Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker, Marsha Blackburn. How do we know these are party to the conspiracy? By sins of omission. If they were not against Trump, we would hear full-throated support for him and condemnation of the witch hunt that is going on, stirred up by James Comey, led now by Robert Mueller, the foundation for which was laid back in the Obama administration with the phony crisis of Russian intervention in the election.

Go back and find the first mention of Russian intervention in the press. You'll find it was planted during the primaries, just as Stephanopolous' absurd question was posed to Romney early on in the process. And now "they" are salivating over possible impeachment proceedings against Trump coming out of this Russian ploy. "They" have been talking about Trump's impeachment since before he was even inaugurated. Is this a conspiracy? Gee. I don't know. Duh! You get a dope slap if you cannot spot it.

The long knives are out for Trump. And they are coming not just from "them" but from within his own party. Now, more than ever, it is time for "us," the American people, to rally to his defense. No one else will. And if we are true to the American ideal, to democracy and the Constitution and individual liberty, we will give Trump full-throated support to oppose "them" who would take him down.

But why should we champion Trump, this coarse, egotistical, cartoon character of a president who tweets and blusters and is supposedly racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, and sports such a bad hairdo? Mainly, because most of it is not true. The presumed racism, misogyny, etc. are all the result of concocted campaigns a la the "war on women" to mis-characterize his motives and beliefs.

And as for the impatient and ineloquent tweets and crazy hair? This makes him real. I had an English teacher in high school who pointed out that it is the improbable quirks in fictional characters that make them real. And if we are honest with ourselves, we all have such quirks. We fancy ourselves worldly, sophisticated, talented, honest, when we might have such wonderful qualities in some small or great measure but in fact we have feet of clay. We have an indiscretion or two in our past (or present) that we would just as soon not see the light of day. We drive an impressive vehicle or live in a magnificent house but in fact there a lot of payments left to make. We say we are young at heart but maybe we've had a lift or a tuck to belie the inevitable fact that our bodies are aging. I could go on and on with this and everyone reading it would eventually have to say, yep, that's me. The point is, we are all human, and Trump more than any other public figure I have seen in my lifetime, has put his humanism out there without shame and in the face of derision and outright venom.

And yet, despite his divorces, his self-promotion, his reality show ostentatiousness, who among us would be ashamed to have children who turn out with the poise and work ethic of the Trump progeny? Who among us would not like to have a percentage of his bank account? Who among us would not like to have his tenacity, his zeal, his enjoyment of life (just look at a video of him enjoying the inaugural parade with son Barron), or his magnificent spouses, culminating in the breathtakingly beautiful and gracious Melania?

The truth is, Donald Trump exemplifies the best of the American ideal of the pursuit of happiness. He was not born in poverty, but remember that Biblical quote about the "eye of the needle?" He may not get into Heaven - that's for Another to decide, not us - but he has done something more difficult I think in this culture than to rise out of poverty: he has not succumbed to success. He has raised good children with good mothers. He has taken the "talents" God has given him and he has not buried them, he has invested them and done well not only for himself, but also for thousands of business partners, contractors, and workers along the way. Sure, he's blown it more than once, but that again makes him human. He is not the manufactured politician we are usually stuck with who fools us by smiling in our face but then stabs us in the back by being on the take from huge corporations and vested interests.

When I first supported Trump for president I saw him as a real-life version of the character portrayed by Rodney Dangerfield in his comic masterpiece, "Easy Money" (click here to see post). Trump has not disappointed me. If you think that the one percent should always be the one percent, if you are addicted to the welfare state like some sort of Stockholm syndrome hostage, if you feel content that "they" have dominion over your life, your treasure, and your country, then you should cheer the witch hunt on. But if you believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Trump represents the path not taken lately. He represents a path where corporate and political interests or globalists or communists or czars are on the run, not the individual.

Did anybody have to look up the word atavistic that I used earlier in this post? I had to look it up. I knew it existed but I could not remember it. I think I first encountered it when I had to read Lord of the Flies in junior high (for you millennials: middle school). It describes that human failing of having our worst instincts come out in times of stress. When the long knives came out against Julius Caesar, the Roman Republic was on the verge of collapse. Its Senate which was supposed to rule the empire was instead ruled by corporate, political, and military interests. The population's discontent was thwarted by "bread and circuses." And Caesar was assassinated not by men who wanted to save the Republic from him, but who wanted to gain the Republic for themselves. Which is exactly what happened after a bloody civil war, and tyranny reigned thenceforward. Eventually, the empire collapsed, beset by enemies from outside its borders and unchecked corruption within.

America is not the Roman Empire and Donald Trump is not Julius Caesar, but our republic too is teetering on the brink. It always is, actually, because it is a democracy. It is in tense times like these that we must most assiduously guard against allowing our atavistic tendencies to put the pig's head on the stick. Whether you are Republican or Democrat or Independent, it is time to stand up for the President, give him a chance to try his agenda and if it doesn't work, vote him out next time rather than allowing the current witch hunt to take him down. And with him, all hope for the greatness that has been America.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Your Int'l Pundit, John Arra-son

CLICK HERE to view my appearance on the Tokyo News. Even if you don't understand a lick of Japanese you can see that I'm unhappy to be paying the premiums for the other fellow who is just delighted about it.

Friday, April 7, 2017

How to Save Obamacare.

While everyone's attention is on Syria, perhaps it's a good time to take another pass at considering rationally the Obamacare crisis.

The presumed purpose of Obamacare was to make sure every American has affordable access to health care. Obamacare has failed at this. Not only did it leave millions of Americans without insurance coverage, it has raised the cost of health insurance drastically for millions of others. Soon many millions more will go without coverage as insurance companies are bailing out of the market. Competition has dropped. The quality of health care is dropping commensurately.

The Freedom Caucus did Donald Trump (and the American people) a huge favor by killing Paul Ryan's wimpy version of "repeal and replace" of Obamacare. Though Trump criticizes them for blocking a "win" for him, he's just playing his version of Muhammed Ali's Rope-A-Dope. (They seem to be handling his gut jabs well, unlike John McCain who is still stomping around the ring consumed with bitterness. I think he got a concussion from his tete-a-tete with Trump.)

Anyway, the opportunity is now greater than ever to forge Obamacare into a force for good, to make sure Obamacare provides the greatest coverage to the greatest amount of people at the lowest cost. Here's how:

1. Preserve and protect the private insurance market.

  • Th quickest most effective way to do this is to remove all coverage mandates, not just Obamacare mandates, but state mandates as well. Let insurers sell the coverage that people want to pay for - don't force maternity coverage costs on old people, sex change coverage on straight people, or any kind of coverage on anybody. Insurers know what consumers want and will tailor plans to various populations that they will snap up. And they'll compete hard for the business, driving prices down, because any insurance business is really just selling money, and a premium payer is a cash cow.
  • Outlaw restrictions for buying insurance across state lines. This is a no brainer and is easily justified Constitutionally in the same manner that home state sales taxes are not allowed on out of state purchases.
  • Let anybody buy insurance for anybody else, as long as it's ok with the insurer, of course. Why in the world are "kids" allowed on their parents' policies until they are 26? If not 18, then why not 36? Why does it have to be a kid? Or a spouse? Heck, the definition of marriage and sex is quite fluid, apparently, so why have arbitrary barriers in the insurance world?
  • Mandate tort reform. A huge amount of health care cost is eaten up by liability insurance costs paid by doctors and medical institutions. Mistakes and negligence should be compensated but should not constitute a lottery.
2. Move anyone who does not have private insurance to Obamacare.
  • Establish a network of Obamacare health care providers which consist of existing federal institutions such as the V.A. hospitals and state and local institutions such as public university hospitals, certain non-profit health care providers (i.e., Planned Parenthood, which could finally morph from eugenics to actual care for the living), and community health clinics. If you don't have private insurance, you don't need to register for Medicaid or Tenncare or anything else, you simply make an appointment (or show up in an emergency) at one of these Obamacare network facilities.
  • Vest authority in the states to determine the mandates for their Obamacare health care providers. So California can mandate abortion coverage through its Obamacare network but Tennessee, say, does not have to.
  • Block grant ALL federal health care expenditures to the states for spending on their Obamacare health care network as they see fit, prorated according to the number of citizens residing in their borders. The exception to this policy would be, say, agencies like the CDC or the FDA which are legitimate national programs.
It's that simple. We don't need the Congressional Budget Office to figure it out. I wouldn't trust them anyway, because it just makes too much common sense. It's only a matter of setting up a private vs. a public system, not unlike education. The private system will work beautifully. Everyone will want to afford insurance, even if it means giving up cable or high speed internet, so the rolls will be full of willing customers. Those who do not have private insurance for whatever reason - bad luck (i.e., a major preexisting condition), personal choice, sloth, or being in between jobs - will always have somewhere to go, cared for by the state. Private donors, religious institutions, and other benefactors can make the Obamacare facilities and staff just as good as they're willing to contribute.

Given its demonization heretofore it seems a paradox, but preserving private healthcare insurance is exactly the way to save Obamacare. It will drive the maximum number of people off the public dole and for those really in need, public funding will provide excellent care.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

How to Save U.S. Health Care Insurance

Those of us with a conservative mindset really hated Obamacare. We mostly don't think the Republican "Obamacare Lite" is much of an improvement. But I for one will take it.

I'll take it for the simple reason of self-interest. As an independent business owner responsible for my own health insurance, I've related how the cost of Obamacare was bearing down on me (see BlueCross BlueShield BlueNopoly Part I / Part II / Part III).

Long story short: I had a company health plan with the usual bells and whistles in 2008. Then an HSA health plan for my nearing-26 son and me the next year with a high deductible for about three hundred bucks a month.

Then with Obamacare kicking in, that doubled. Then by January of this year, Obamacare mandated a version for which BlueCross wanted me to pay over a thousand bucks a month. Just for me. Healthy as a horse and young as a, well, a princess phone.

A funny thing happened on the way to the aforementioned. Donald Trump won the election and suddenly a plan appeared on Farm Bureau's site that only costs me $267 a month. It isn't Obamacare mandated, has a lower deductible and better benefits, still works with my HSA.

Why? I suspect with Trump's victory, the insurance company knew Obamacare would be repealed and replaced. The exorbitant penalties they were scheduled to face for offering non-compliant plans and that I would have to pay for choosing one would be eliminated. I was all set to pay the penalties because even with the penalty, I would come in at half the cost of the Obamacare plan that BlueCross was offering. I am tickled pink at how things have gone so far.

Not too pink. I still think it's bad policy for the government to try to make sure everybody has insurance as an entitlement and it's not insurance at all if "insurers" are forced to cover everybody equally regardless of pre-existing conditions. I actually have a pre-existing condition exclusion on my current policy involving kidney stones, having had an episode with those little buggers last year. Seems fair enough to me.

Of course, I would feel differently if I had a cancer or heart disease problem that was excluded. I understand that concern and I feel for those who cannot afford insurance. The backlash from those in both categories is why the Republicans including Donald Trump are proposing such a wimpy remedy in their new "American Health Care Act."  That's why I propose the following simple two-step plan as the next step in repealing and replacing Obamacare:

1. Mandate that current policies and coverages be left in place for, say, two years, as a safety net, but immediately remove all conditions on all newly written health care insurance policies, including pre-existing condition restrictions, state mandates, and the obstacles to purchasing across state lines. The resulting free market in health insurance coverage will drive prices WAY down and open the feasibility of health insurance coverage up to millions of new customers and small company corporate policies.

2. For those who choose not to buy insurance for whatever reason - expense, sloth, pre-existing conditions - set up an alternative health network that the non-insured must use for health care. This network would be made up of existing VA hospitals, community health clinics, even outfits like Planned Parenthood which could finally have a legitimate reason for being, and perhaps some mission clinics which serve the poor and nonprofits which serve clients with a specific disease. Care would be on a sliding scale, subsidized by the government to the extent the electorate is willing. The non-insured could still buy private health care if they could pay out of their own pockets. And philanthropies and state and local governments could assist as they see fit.

My proposal should satisfy both sides of the issue - those who want real, viable, market based health insurance, and those who want a single payer plan. Access would be free and easy. Everyone would be covered. And those who wish to pay for better benefits will have the freedom to do so.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Occupy Movement continues... the the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the N.S.A. and doubtless every other department and agency of the federal government.

Why? It's not the revenge of the loser Hillary Clinton. Despite an occasional tweet she's a dead duck. Instead it's the lame duck that won't die, Barack Obama. It's that Donald Trump represents the antithesis of Barack Obama. For Trump to succeed will be the undoing of every "accomplishment" of Obama's term in office:

  • Open borders.
  • A direct line to single-payer healthcare.
  • Chaos in the Middle East... and in America's streets.
  • A weakened military.
  • A strengthened police state.
  • The give-over of U.S. sovereignty to the U.N.
  • Control of capitalism via the global warming hoax.
  • Racial strife.
That's just a short list. Over eight years of blaming George W. Bush for everything "wrong" and straw men for any legitimate criticisms of his own policies, Barack Obama proved himself to be a passive aggressive huckster for every antagonistic remnant of the dope-smoking, baby-aborting, draft-dodging sixties.

Z.. he lives: Lead Occupier of the United States - LOOTUS. Even if the rest of the swamp is draining, he sits low in the deepest darkest hole resisting the legitimately elected new President.

But there is one big difference between himself and Trump that Obama cannot overcome: The people - the working and ambitious and post-racial people who actually prosper side by side - black and white, brown, yellow, and red - as Americans first and foremost, who don't just live in a smoke-filled bubble of sixties antagonism. The people are with Trump.

Trump is a winner, democracy and rule of law eventually will sustain him, and LOOTUS will eventually choke on the ever more concentrated swamp water he has left to live in.