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Monday, January 30, 2017

Has the U.S. Become a Dictatorship?

Separation of powers is the cornerstone of American democracy. When the judicial branch is blocked from performing its role as a check on the executive, this will lead to a constitutional crisis.  The people of the U.S. must not allow their nation to become a dictatorship.

Supreme Court, Washington DC 077596

Sunday, January 22, 2017

You've Got To Change Your Evil Ways (C. Santana)

Slowly  but convincingly, major businesses have learned they cannot avoid the strong arm of government regulators. Business tricks played with mortgages, pollution, exotic investment vehicles, money laundering, the Libor rate and price-fixing have all been met with huge fines. The fines levied on BP, major banks, VW, and certain other producers are proof enough.

Shucking Beside the Chesapeake 074055

These fines were well deserved and settlements, reached quickly even if wrongdoing was not openly admitted. The giant firms and banks seem more eager to move on rather than drag out cases, the bad publicity that goes with them.

Moving forward under President Trump, Prime Minister May and other new leaders, these enforcement actions may be fewer but any damage along with the progress is done. Future cases brought to the courts by tough regulators may be tempered by supposedly pro-business cabinet members.

The ultimate victims of all these corporate shenanigans were consumers themselves. The final cost of the fines themselves are no doubt being passed along to consumers. People sucked in the pollution from rigged diesel engines, faulty nuclear reactors and the oil spread over the Gulf of Mexico. People lost homes as a result of mortgage banking fraud. Ordinary taxpayers lose billions when the rich use tricks and loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

Big businesses and banks may be less greedy moving forward. CEOs and CFOs appear to be showing caution with regard to loans and investing more in green solutions. These steps may appease regulators and consumers alike.

The hard questions are not being posed. Who is going the pay the medical bills of the people sickened by all this pollution? How can bankers make whole the customers they cheated? When are we going to punish the politicians that steal citizens health care, good roads and lives lost in pointless wars?
Fossil fuel producers are masters of deception when it comes to hiding the real costs of burning coal, oil and nuclear fuel. They point to wind and solar as more costly while their products not so secretly sicken billions. Cigarette, alcohol and sugar producers spend billions on false research or false advertising intended to lure consumers to their deadly products. Pharmaceutical makers rattle off complex side effects too fast for consumers to understand the meanings of each. These firms sometimes paid their fines but did not change their evil ways.

In addition to fines and settlement costs, large organizations must be required to educate or rather reeducate consumers. Gambling casinos pay for gamblers anonymous programs but do the booze distillers pay for AA. Maybe but don't expect Exxon or BP to spend much promoting solar or wind. Sugary drink makers, tobacco dealers and drug makers don't subsidize health clubs. Banks don't sponsor many lessons on how to save on your new house purchase. The incentive is not there even though they might be literally killing their own consumers.

Governments and schools need to use more of the penalties paid by firms to address the root problems. It will take time to prove to consumers that Coca Cola makes them fat, coal causes cancers, and more exercise is better than more cigarettes or drink. Special interests will fight back but the truth will prevail. Once this is accomplished maybe we can educate voters about the need to support candidates that truly represent their best interests.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Signs From Women's Marches Around the World

These are the contents of mostly hand-made signs carried by women all over the world:

You can't comb over misogyny.

Keep your mitts off my lady bits.

A nation is not defeated until the hearts of it’s women are on the ground.

Respect existence or expect resistance

Hasta La Vista Sociedad Machista

Trump, Respeta A Los Migrantes

Our rights aren’t up for grabs.

Men of quality do not fear equality

You may not be a racist but you elected one.

Repeal and replace Trump

I’m not usually a sign person but GEEZ!

Women want to be heard, #just listen.

Women’s rights are human rights

Don’t forget to set your clocks back 300 years.

Show up. Dive in. Persevere

It’s time for women to stop being politely angry

Not My President. Save Science.  Trump is a Fascist.

Rebellions are built on Hope

Paws off my Pussy

I stand with Planned Parenthood

I’m so angry I made a sign!

Hell no we won’t go back

With Liberty and Justice and Respect for All.

Can’t believe we still have to protest for this stuff!

Mother Nature is a Woman Too!

Keep your tiny mitts off my rights!

No President is above the law.

No longer the silent majority

Besties Putin Trump Bromance

I march because I refuse to go backwards

Health care is a human right

Are rights aren’t up for grabs and neither are our lady parts.

I march for America

Make America Think Again

Not My President, Yes We still can

Let’s Change History, not repeat

Our lives end the day we become silent about things that matter - ML King

Trump promotes wars
Trump hurts the planet

Droits pour les femmes Americains

The whole world is watching.

No al Muro
Watergate Building, Washington, DC 13528

Friday, January 20, 2017

New Kid In Town

White House, Washington DC 077787

Lately I've taken to following world events from the point of view of intellectual authors and writers in India. I've always enjoyed BBC, Le Monde, Deutsche Welle and CBC articles along with NPR broadcasts. There is little international coverage comparable to NPR or Lyse Doucet at BBC or Carol Off and Jeff Douglas of As It Happens. At least so I thought until I got into the work of today's Indian reporters (ANI, PTI, Indo-Asian News Service, CNI, Samachar Bharti and UNI) and historians. They cover every fact, dispel every fake news story and hardly miss any major U.S. developments. Just like the New York Times, Post or Economist, only even more thoroughly, and objectively, in many cases. Indian readers demand this accuracy. Foreign journalists stand right alongside the rest of the Press Corps in the White House, but most Americans never bother to search for this coverage. Except for the cool party every year where they roast the President, Foreign Correspondents are logically most followed by people in their home nations. This will continue unless or until Trump expels the entire Press Corps from the White House Press briefing room.

Where are the Supply Chains?

Unlike many popular American news sources, Indian writers have figured out Trump can't possibly keep almost any of the promises he made, it is simply illogical to think otherwise. He cannot easily back the U.S. out of most treaties or agreements, he cannot get Mexico to pay for a wall, and this whole bring back a significant number of manufacturing jobs to America, all nonsense. New treatys take time, often years to formulate. The wall? We'll get to that later. There is no supply chain left in the U.S. for key types of manufacturing, like electronics. Those also take years to build.

Sure companies will shuffle chairs around and proclaim new jobs created. Look closely at the claims so far, few and far between are the real net jobs. Not that new good-paying jobs would not be a welcome relief. The new careers that look promising are more likely to be in areas related to alternative energy, design, chemistry, physics and nanotechnology. These are not yet areas where unemployed steel or auto workers are likely to be retrained. Don't expect the old mill at the end of town to re-open this or next. It's a rusted out hulk by now and needs to be torn down.

But that's the best idea, create jobs yourself, by coming up with new ideas and start hiring all your poorly paid neighbors. That's a workable concept, along with patching the roads into and out of town, repairing that old bridge across the railroad tracks to the mill that isn't open any more. But wait, the recovery you wished for during the campaign already happened, under that hardworking young last President. Obama. The one the most obstructionist Congress in history tried to stop. But didn't really. Racism is still there and I heard no plan to change that out of the mouth of that supposedly rich guy from New York.

Many Problems Were Fixed

Unemployment actually is low right now. Another point Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh never had time to cover while spewing so much hate for the great President that happened to also be a black man, and a white man, and a gentleman, and a scholar. All the truth, look into it when you’re sitting there wondering why the guy you voted for turned out to be such a jerk. Why you're wife or child is being denied affordable health care. Now you'll learn why they really called it the Affordable Care Act and not that other name. But now you'll have big pharma and big health care back taking every last cent out of your pockets and putting in theirs. While you head to the bankruptcy court so your wife can continue chemo treatments.

Besides affordable healthcare, Americans already have one of most everything they need or desire. Our bridges and roads are in bad shape but still passable in most cases. It is the rest of the world where new buyers and new markets and new infrastructure needs are found. Do you really think the makers of everything at WalMart are going to move their plants to Toledo or Detroit? Do you realize how high the prices of all that Asian stuff in your house would be if they were made here? You couldn't afford most of them. What happens if you take all the t-shirt production out of Cambodia and Bangladesh? The answer is, you don't, there are few mills left in the States and even fewer people that know how to operate the equipment used in today's mills.

Isolationism?

Afraid of imported BMWs or Mercedes? The firms that could afford to build profitable plants in the U.S. have already constructed them here. That Mercedes delivery van wasn't imported from Germany. Go check. The other things can't and never will be made here. Foreign car and truck firms already build their largest new plants already in the southern U.S., they export up to 70% of what they make there! Chrysler is owned by Italy's Fiat. Airbus builds here too. Now, there's an idea, make something here and ship it overseas. But wait, the inexperienced leader some of us elected to office didn't realize that other nations might place tariffs on new Boeings is we raise import tariffs. There's also the WTO out there to penalize those that do try to start trade wars, even U.S. administrations.

No, the reality is far too integrated for the man that claims to be able to segregate all the Muslims and send them home. The U.S. is the birthplace of millions of Muslims and Jews and Atheists and spiritual groups most have never heard of. You cannot unmix a smoothie. Or fence it in.

Excuse me for laughing but if you build a 20 foot wall, you'll just be boosting sales of 22 foot ladders on the other side. That truth precedes the Crusades, even the Romans knew that! Indian authors in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Delhi speak to these truths, though in far more polite English and Hindi and Urdu and Bangla. They make Fox News look like a high school student's project.

Sure they may also be conservative Hindu BJP or UPA, NDA or Congress party supporters at root, but they get their facts straight. That's because most intelligent people in India read and study so much, getting advanced degrees and using their minds to stay aware of the world they inhabit. I learned this long ago on my 6 trips all over India.

Extinction

We are the Dodo birds or passenger pigeons, alone on our island, hardly aware of the bloodthirsty hunters among us about to bring about our extinctions. Fake news begat fake leaders who turn in plagiarized homework that will quickly not make the grade. We flunk because we didn't study hard enough, especially the math and science. Parents in other nations, like India and China and Japan did make their kids do that tough homework.

You're Fired

Watergate, Washington, DC 13528

Remember how long it took for the nation to understand the magnitude of what Richard Nixon during the Re-elect the President campaign? What happened when everyone, Republican and Democrat, finally learned the truth about Watergate? The FBI, CIA and Treasury departments are already deep into an investigation based on communication between the Russians and Paul Manafort and other Trump campaign officials. The hacking of the DNC email servers sounds eerily like the Watergate Break-In. Trump's profits from the Old Post Office Building (a Federal government property) alone represents a clear violation of the law. Writers in India have already parsed this and other likely scenarios out in fine detail.

Old Post Office, Washington, DC 12125

I'm wondering if the old huckster that wouldn't rent to black people until he was sued for discrimination isn't going into Twitter withdrawal symptoms soon. You see, Presidents cannot use social media. Personal phones aren't allowed in the Oval Office. Thankfully.

The Truth Exists, Like It or Not

Don't believe in global warming? Like that's going to stop the glaciers from melting, the seas rising and people heading for higher ground, in any nation above water. Climate events aren't about the stop just because you don't believe it. Aldous Huxley once said, "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." 

Wouldn't show us his tax returns? Well then, obviously he cheats on his taxes. Any columnist worth his Macbook in Mumbai knows that. Big time. Warren Buffet even called The Donald out on that one and who knows more about a rich man's tax forms than Warren Buffet. And no, I'm not talking about the guy that sings that "Wasted Again in Margaritaville" song, that's Jimmy Buffet. Warren Buffet founded Berkshire Hathaway, currently valued around $400 billion. You need to stop tweeting Donald and eat your mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.

Twitter Withdrawal

But like a spoiled teen not permitted to text during Thanksgiving dinner, will he go all catatonic? Heaven forbid, what are they saying about him in the Twittersphere? Sir, you have Vlad the Impaler holding on line 2. If you don't lose the sanctions the Moscow hotel room video hits the airwaves. After that we go live with the actual recordings of your campaign staff coordinating DNS hacking with the Russians. Kompromat, you know that Russian word very well, don't you Mr. Apprentice?

So do the London bookies. I'm not going to post the link to Ladbroke's, I don't promote fool's errands like the lottery or gambling. But they do like to bet in the UK. And that means they study the odds of certain events happening. The current odds favor impeachment in the first year by 4 to 1 and it only gets worse. These are on display because people in England want to place these actual bets, they like the odds and some bettors will win.

The Emperor really has no clothes on this time. And everyone can see that plain as day. It doesn't even take the little child standing by the side of the road jumping up and down pointing at the naked fat man walking down the road. 70 is well past the time for positive change in a rich kid's sheltered life in a fishbowl. You're living in downtown DC now Mr. Trump, not back home in New York City. There's a huge difference in how the game is played in this town. It's hardball.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Deceit and Foriegn Interference

We who thought the masses would never again accept a leader so full of misogyny, xenophobia and other rank types of hate are so gravely disappointed.
The only saving grace to having the court jester suddenly become the ruler of the court is that his destructive ways will quickly unite the fair and just among both parties behind the one true cause of liberty and justice for all.
Let the people's voices be heard.
Let the protests begin to draw us together.
Let the forces of darkness be dispelled by the light of truth.
Let the man elected through deceit and foreign interference be shown to be the complete fraud that the majority of us know he most certainly is.  - T.H. Williams, Jr.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Inequality, Schools and Weapons

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mountain Village of Ossanite 00002

The total cost to build and operate a nuclear submarine is approximately $5 billion dollars, $10 billion for each aircraft carrier. This includes refueling from time to time, crew training, shore facilities and so many other costs that are rarely, if ever, explained to tax-payers. Their weapons systems will be never be used in battle, or if they are, that’s it, for the entire planet. This too is never openly discussed much in public forums.

Eisenhower Strike Group 1668334

Yet thousands of hours are spent discussing why we should or should not spend more money on healthcare or for repairing schools or bridges. We are told by politicians no more money should be spent to rehab drug addicts or criminals or create jobs or for Project HeadStart or Planned Parenthood.

Baby recently out of Incubator

There is no money available for building a humane society but there is no shortage of money for things that would destroy society in minutes. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Skeletons by Stevie Wonder

"Skeletons"

Skeletons in your closet
Itchin' to come outside
Messin' with your conscience
In a way your face can't hide

Almost Ready for Inauguration, Washington DC 077681

Oh things are gettin' real funky
Down at the old corral
And it's not the skunks that are stinkin'
It's the stinkin' lies you tell

What did your mama tell you about lies
She said it wasn't polite to tell a white one
What did your daddy tell you about lies
He said one white lie turns into a black one

So, it's gettin' ready to blow
It's gettin' ready to show
Somebody shot off at the mouth and
We're getting ready to know

It's gettin' ready to drop
It's gettin' ready to shock
Somebody done turned up the heater
An' a it's gettin' ready to pop

Crevices in your pantry
Now what do we have in here
Havin' a day time nightmare
Has always been your biggest fear

Oh things are gettin' real crucial
Up the old wazoo
Yet you cry, why am I the victim?
When the culprit's y-o-u

What did your mama tell you about lies
She said it wasn't polite to tell a white one
What did your daddy tell you about lies
He said one white lie turns into a black one

So, it's gettin' ready to blow
It's gettin' ready to show
Somebody shot off at the mouth and
We're gettin' ready to know

It's gettin' ready to drop
It's gettin' ready to shock
Somebody done turning the heater
An' a it's gettin' ready to pop

It's gettin' ready to seep
You're gettin' ready to freak
Somebody done picked up the talk box
And gettin' ready to speak

It's gettin' ready to jive
It's gettin' ready to gel
Somebody done gone let the lid off
And it's gettin' ready to smell

They're gettin' ready to deal
You're gettin' ready to ill
Somebody done just dropped the big dime
And they're gettin' ready to squeal

It's gettin' ready to turn
We're gettin' ready to learn
Somebody done fired up the brimstone
And you're gettin' ready to burn

It's gettin' ready to shake
You're gettin' ready to ache
Somebody done snitched to the news crew
And it's gettin' ready to break

You're gettin' ready to lie
They're gettin' ready to spy
Somebody' s been put on the hot seat
And you're gettin' ready to fry  - Stevie Wonder

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What Goes with Apple in 2017?

Sandbridge Virginia 1460370 Hundreds of millions of people all over the world carry an iPhone. Only a fraction of them replace their iPhones most years. Every two or three years more people sell their old iPhone or give it to a relative in need. This is a normal turnover cycle, very familiar to mobile phone vendors. For many solid reasons and one or two speculative causes, the 2017 iPhone cycle will be significantly different.

To begin with, the full impact of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 debacle will be seen. A significant percentage of loyal Samsung phone users experienced doubt about their device choice in 2016. Even if they didn’t purchase the ill-fated phablet, they had concerns about their supplier. Samsung also initially mishandled the process of recalling and replacing the devices. Nobody likes being stuck in limbo in regards to their primary communication tool.

Corporate Phone Users

Admittedly, the consumer market buys the lion’s share of smartphones. However corporations, governments and smaller businesses buy an incredible number of phones for their employees. Every field support technician, trainer, sales rep, marketing person, and executive carries a company phone, typically in addition to their personal devices. Many business people now carry a tablet too.

Having once shipped out thousands of smartphones in my fulfillment role to corporate users, I know what large corporations expect in a mobile device. They need security, they need reliability and they need their executives, sales teams and field employees to be confident with the device issued to them. They do need to keep costs down, so they don’t replace phones often and they recycle used phones sacked employees turn back in. Corporate managers are also acutely aware of liability, for their firms and the products they use. Nobody but lawyers like lawsuits.

Samsung failed the corporate buyer test in 2016. Executives holding a Galaxy Note 7 couldn’t take it on a flight. This is huge, who wants to be the business exec that causes an emergency landing? Loyal Samsung customers began to wonder if their phones would suddenly catch fire in their pockets (actually most fires started while the devices were charging). Finally, they were forced to return the devices. Samsung even had telcos shut off the remaining units. This loss of confidence in a manufacturer is not short-lived.

Apple Store Louvre France 15122100

When it comes time to replace older Samsung phones and tablets, business and government buyers typically must stick to IT department requirements. Chief Technology Officers (CTO) have long realized the trend towards phablets. Serving as a phone and a tablet, larger models eliminate a line, and another device to get damaged, lost or stolen. Any major IT department that is not prepared to manage iPhone 7s users today is seriously out of touch with current trends.

Blackberry Is Over

Blackberry devices were still in-use, mostly by finance and insurance industry executives in 2015. Significant investments in infrastructure like Blackberry servers and support staff kept the out-dated phones out there into 2016. 2017 is the year the Blackberry phone is finally laid to rest by corporate and government users.

Blackberry Bold iPhone.jpg

Business app development for Apple’s operating system, iOS, is lead by IBM but also involves many smaller app developers. All the popular apps like Timesheet Mobile, Google Apps, and others work just fine on iPhones and iPads.

The Blackberry retirement, along with the loss of confidence in Samsung equipment, will inevitably lead to greater corporate and government iPhone adoption in 2017 and beyond.

Reliability & Security & ?

Statistics show very few iPhone users switch to a different model. The same is not true for Android device users. They will try an LG or Pixel or Samsung phone, just to avoid marching in the same formation as those "iPhone people." But this is an out-dated mindset. Today people need a phone that is easy to use, reliable and gets a signal anywhere they go. The actual brand is practically hidden behind cases these days. 

Expiring corporate devices, phablets that catch fire and security are all concrete business reasons to switch to an iPhone. 

Bharat

We cannot begin to know if Apple corporate stores will open in India in 2017. Apple already has some corporate facilities in India and their suppliers are preparing to take advantage of affordable assembly lines. The necessary suppliers for smartphone production are already established in India. Foxconn, the Taiwan-based assembler for Apple and other manufacturers, is being welcomed by the government in Delhi. 

Wanna Buy a Used Phone?

What happens to old iPhones? They are refurbished and sold and resold at lower and lower prices until the device no longer works. The used smartphone market is huge, in the billions of dollars. iPhones hold resale value well above used Android models. People who buy used phones would rather buy a high-quality used phone than risk purchasing a dud.

Walk down the retail margs in any major Indian city and tell me you don’t see Apple logos and iPhones on display. While the average Indian consumer may not be able to buy a new iPhone, refurbished models are also imported and sell well in places like Chandi Chouk. India, Africa and South America all represent huge markets with tremendous potential for any firm, especially one with the highest brand recognition in the world. 2017 will be the year the Apple ecosystem really takes root in these markets.

Eight is Enough

Millions of people in China also carry an iPhone, despite the proliferation of cheaper models. In addition to all the above reasons, they can afford to spend more for iPhones as personal or fashion statements, just like some affluent people in other nations do. Business people need to look in-touch with current trends.

The 10th Anniversary of the iPhone just went past. But that’s not why so many iPhone users in China will upgrade. This new phone will be the iPhone 8. And if you don’t already know this, many, many people in China as well as Asians living elsewhere, revere the number 8. They like numbers that include 8, especially those that end in 8. This is a fact. You may not be superstitious yourself, but other people are.  This seemingly little notion will impact iPhone 8 sales in a considerable way in 2017 and 2018.

App Store, CarPlay and AirPods

Finally, the Apple App Store recently set all-time sales records. App Sales appear to be the fastest growing segment for the team from Cupertino. This means App Developers made more money than ever before. 

They can't restock the wireless earbuds, knowns as AirPods, fast enough.

I don't see the need for a device that sits at home on the kitchen counter and orders products as soon as your child asks for it. Not yet. I see Apple letting Amazon and the others work out those issues while unit sales are low.

200 car models are now compatible with Apple CarPlay. This is no short-term trend. Apple hardly needs a car of their own, plus all the headaches that come with vehicle manufacturing. But you can rest assured an Apple-branded car will be built by a major manufacturer in the near future. It is enough for now to have those easily recognized icons glowing on so many dashboards.

The wind is gathering in Apple sales, though they may not be full at the moment.  Apple reports fiscal 1st Quarter 2017 results later this month. Their shares have done well since the beginning of the year.


Note:  The author holds shares long in Apple Inc., its suppliers and vendors and has for decades. He is not employed in any way by those entities nor any securities or financial firms.