When I was young and foolish, I owned a car with t-tops. I wasted a lot of gas in those days, driving through Rocky Mountain National Park and other scenic places. Even when the t-tops were on the car, it was amusing to look up and see blue sky instead of color-coordinated plastic.
One Sunday morning, my girlfriend and I went out to the carport to take the car for a spin, with this being in an apartment complex where residents could rent a carport if they so chose. When I turned the corner to my space, my heart sank as I saw that the t-tops were missing. Someone had stolen them during the night. I glanced at the space for my neighbor who had a Nissan 300ZX, also with t-tops, only to see that his t-tops were missing as well. Then I looked at the space for a Corvette I had often coveted, only to see that it too was missing its t-tops. We walked back to the apartment and I knocked on the door to the guy who owned the 300ZX to give him the bad news. I could tell he did not believe me, but I'll bet he did when he saw his car.
I called the police and filed a report. The officer told me that the apartment complex often had incidents like that. I made a mental note to look for a new place to live. Luckily I had a second car so I was not forced to drive an open vehicle in the rain or snow.
The next day I called my agent. He told me to call an adjustor and get replacement t-tops. I called the adjustor, but he didn't require me to travel to his office. All he needed was the police report, which made sense, given that there was nothing he could investigate. He gave me a telephone number of a business from which to obtain t-tops. This struck me as more than a little strange, as I expected him to tell me to go to the dealer and have new t-tops ordered.
I called the telephone number and talked with a guy who gave me an address which appeared to be in a residential neighborhood. I didn't want to make false assumptions, so I drove to the address in the early evening as we had discussed. As I suspected, it was a residential street. I slowed down as I approached the house, only to see a few large boxes sitting on the driveway. I didn't stop and returned home.
The next day I called the owner of a body shop I had dealt with in the past. I asked him if he could obtain new t-tops for me. He said he could, but his price would be significantly higher than what insurance would reimburse me for. He asked me to explain what I had been told by the adjuster. After I gave him the complete story, he told me not to contact the adjuster again and call a State Farm regional manager he knew.
I called the manager and once again explained my story. He told me to contact the dealer and have new t-tops ordered and charged to State Farm.
After the t-tops came in and I placed them on the car, I called the body shop owner to thank him for his assistance. He confirmed my suspicions that the adjuster might well be a member of a gang which stole car parts to order and then sold them back to the unsuspecting customer, with State Farm's unwitting assistance. He also told me that the adjuster no longer worked for State Farm.
I've had Farmers Insurance since then.
Uber, the world-wide taxi company masquerading as a ride-sharing service without proper background checks on its drivers, revealed that it has introduced "route based pricing," i.e. charging more for trips based on the destination. Uber paid a $10 million file for misleading California customers regarding its background checks, or lack thereof.
While no one should feel sorry for wealthy elites traveling to and from their equally wealthy friends, the new pricing plan will penalize servants for the affluent traveling to and from work and others forced to work in the gig economy because of outsourcing. And Uber will no doubt prioritize rides based on what it will earn, so the aforementioned servants will end up waiting longer.
Uber's increased prices will probably not result in higher wages for its drivers if history is any guide.
Bloomberg News is actually sympathetic with Uber's Robin Hood 2.0 action, stealing from the rich, poor, and workers, and giving the loot to other rich, referring to Uber as a "carpooling service" when normal people would call it a taxi service via app.
And Uber management is very rich. The two founders of Uber, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, are both worth $6.3 billion, though curiously the former is listed at #78 on Forbes' list of top-400 wealthiest Americans, while the latter is not
Other famous outsourcers appear on the Forbes list: #1 - Bill Gates, #2 - Jeff Bezos, #15 - Steve Baller, #20 - Michael Dell, #21 - Paul Allen, and #23 - Laurene Powell Jobs (by way of her husband, St. Steve).
Taxi companies benefit society because drivers are vetted to prevent rapes, robberies, and other crimes, something for which Uber drivers have become known, and because they serve people in an egalitarian first-come, first-serve fashion. Uber serves only its management and shareholders and should therefore be shuttered before it becomes too big to fail and a nightmarish monopoly.
I started fooling around with electronics as a kid. I found an old AM radio and some headphones, but I could not make it work. I eventually realized that one of the tubes was broken. I learned this by bringing the tubes to the tube tester in a large drug store, as tube testers were common in those days. Being only ten years old, the fact that the broken tube was no longer available stumped me.
So I wrote a letter to a magazine. I believe it was Electronics Illustrated. My letter was not a work of beauty, with it being something like, "I'm only ten years old, but I do not understand how to replace an XYZ tube now that it is obsolete."
The next month's issue not only did not contain an answer, it contained a smart-ass remark from the editor: "I'm only 113 years old, but I don't know either."
So that's the way adults are, I thought, just as nasty and unhelpful as children.
A few weeks later I received a fat envelope in the mail. In it was an apology, of sorts, that explained how the editor thought his response was uprorious, but then he received some letters from sympathetic readers upbraiding him for being so insulting to a child, especially one who was interested in their hobby.
In the envelope were all of the letters the magazine received. Most of them explained how to solve the situation, including references to a book which listed all tubes and equivalents thereof.
But one letter stands out in my mind even today.
The man offered to sell me some used equipment for $100, which was a lot of money to a child in those days. Even at my tender age, I knew something was wrong with his offer, not to mention that this was many years before eBay and other Internet sites made such transactions reasonably safe.
I did not reply to his letter.
I did not appreciate until years later that he was a predatory asshole who thought nothing of taking advantage of children, with this occurring years before Ayn Rand's social Darwinist philosophy became widespread.
Even though Trump promised many times on the campaign trail to shred free trade agreements, he has signed his first, with China.
BBC News' Karishma Vaswani noted that "typically it is China that benefits far more than the foreign business partner."
The dealster got a taste of some of his own medicine. China is the camel which has been able to insert its nose under the U.S. market tent, with Trump foolishly believing that China will cooperate on North Korea.
China will now accept U.S. shipments of liquefied natural gas, though this isn't shocking, given that China's rapid growth, funded by the West, requires oil and gas. Texas oil man Rex Tillerson likely had something to do with that.
China will also lift its ban on U.S. beef imports, though it remains to be seen how Chinese consumers will view beef filled with steroids and antibiotics.
Chinese cooked chicken will be allowed into the U.S. market.
The country which uses "gutter oil," i.e. cooking oil which has been thoroughly used, dumped into a sewer, and reclaimed via pumps, to cook food will now be sending cooked chicken here.
This is the country where scientists learned that clenbuterol served as a leanness enhancer in meat and used it for human consumption, yet somehow ignored the fact that the additive is toxic.
The country which thinks nothing of adding melamine, a common industrial plastic, to milk intended for children, as well as jailing parents who complain about the practice, will now import meat which children will eat.
What could go wrong?
Chinese banks can also enter the U.S. market.
But honestly, given how Wells Fargo already opens accounts without permission, we won't even notice. Chinese banks might even be more honest. For a while, anyway.
And when the next Wall Street crash occurs, it will most likely be U.S. banks which lead the charge, just like in 2008. Wave the flag and all that.
Trump promised to "never let our workers down," but he's already convinced himself that Americans love him regardless of what he does.
The U.S. never traded with the Soviet Union because it was the evil empire, but now we trade with communist China, enabling it to reach a point where it is building its New Silk Road and threatening the U.S. Navy with potentially carrier-killing DF-21D missiles, and all so U.S. capitalists, e.g. Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, the Walton family, and Jarad Kushner, can rake in the loot.
Trump's base, the Tea Party, is smaller than that of liberals. His swing voters, ordinary Americans who took a chance because Hillary Clinton, the most notorious criminal ever to run for the White House, was not someone they could accept, do not appreciate his doing exactly the opposite of his campaign promises on H-1B visas, free trade, cleaning up the swamp, etc. I could not hold my nose securely enough to vote for either one.
I was driving south on I-25 through Denver during the morning rush hour. It had been raining on and off, so sections of the highway were completely wet, though traffic was moving almost as fast as it ever does. I was in the #2 lane, assuming the fast lane is #1. I saw a blue Subaru coming up fast, but instead of traveling in either #1 or #2, it was traveling directly over the lane marking between them. I quickly changed lanes into #3 and watched the car just in case I needed to move over into yet another lane. As it passed, still straddling the two lanes, though it had moved a little more into #1, I saw that the driver was a woman in her early 20s. She was holding a smartphone over the center of the steering wheel, with her eyes glued to its display.
* * * * * * * * * *
The day before had seen some snow. By this time, snowplows had done as much as they could on I-25, though there were still some snowy patches where the sun was blocked by the median fence. I was traveling in lane #2, keeping about five car lengths behind the car in front of me. Traffic started to speed up a little, but something told me that I should not follow the herd. Perhaps I was remembering past snow days. I maintained my speed, with the increased herd speed resulting in the distance between me and the car in front doubling. The car traveling behind me did exactly the same thing, maintaining the previous speed, with his car being five or more car lengths behind me.
All of a sudden I saw brake lights flash red on the ten or so cars in front of me. Then I saw the pavement disappear and a snowy patch take its place. Those cars slowed abruptly, meaning that many of them were being involved in accidents. I hit the brakes, but the extra distance I had left enabled me to stop a few car lengths behind the car in front of me. The guy behind me did the same thing. After I came to a complete stop, I looked around and waited patiently for a chance to change lanes. The guy behind me must have thinking exactly the same thing, as he and I changed lanes at the same time and left the pileup behind. After I changed lanes, I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw a number of people emerging from their cars both behind and in front of where I had been. The two of us had been an island of calm in a sea of twisted metal.
Those who believe that self-driving cars will always be able to safely draft each other like stock cars are just fooling themselves.
* * * * * * * * * *
I know some people who work in auto dealerships and have for many years. They told me that in years past, the summer was a slow time for body shops, as there were no accidents due to snow, though there were sometimes many cars damaged because of hail. But now summers are just about as busy as winters.
Over the past two years, there has been a 14% increase in traffic fatalities, the largest in more than a half a century. Millennials have no idea what cars were like 50 years ago, but here's a few clues. Cars had basic seat belts, with few having shoulder belts. Airbags were barely on the drawing board, as they were introduced in the 1970s, becoming widespread in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Dashboards were made of metal and often had protruding edges for people to hit when flying forward during an accident. Steering columns often impaled drivers. Many people did not even wear seat belts, insanely believing that it would be better to be "thrown clear," with that usually resulting in one's head breaking the windshield.
Cars get safer every year, so the only reason for the fatality increase is cellphone use, especially texting while driving.
Donald Trump promised that he would eliminate H-1B visa abuse on his first day in office, though that never happened, with him being a major user of business users. He ordered that no quarter be given to illegal immigrants from Mexico and further south, deporting even those who have made a substantial contribution to this country.
Yet he, like his predecessor, has a soft spot for immigration fraud committed via EB-5 visas, used for immigrant investors, with green cards (permanent residence) being the carrot. They are given to those who promise to hire at least ten employees, but they do not have to be Americans: "A qualifying employee is a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident or other immigrant authorized to work in the United States including, but not limited to, a conditional resident, a temporary resident, an asylee, a refugee, or a person residing in the United States under suspension of deportation."
There is no minimum salary, so the required ten employees can be paid minimum wage, with them only required to work at least 35 hours per week, i.e. benefits are optional.
Required minimum investments are $1 million with no restriction or $500,000 "within a high-unemployment area or rural area in the United States."
A green card is a "permanent resident card" and is the usual step before citizenship. Naturalization can occur if one has "been a permanent resident for at least 5 years and meet all other eligibility requirements" or has "been a permanent resident for 3 years or more and meet all eligibility requirements to file as a spouse of a U.S. citizen."
According to Iowa Senator Charles Grassley: "Jobs created are not 'direct' and verifiable jobs. They instead are 'indirect' and based on vague estimates and economic modeling ... Investment funds are not adequately vetted, and there are no prohibitions against foreign governments owning or operating regional centers ... background checks aren't required for anyone associated with a regional center ... the minimum investment level hasn’t been raised in 25 years."
Senator Grassley and Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy wrote a letter to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a major cheerleader for EB-5 visas and outsourcing in general, and the Real Estate Roundtable, a major cheerleader for and user of EB-5 visas, informing them that the two Senators are well aware of their backroom deal which was "aimed at pre-empting the new rules."
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is "limited in its ability to prevent fraud or national security threats that could harm the U.S." due to the abuse of EB-5 visas because its hands have been tied by Congress and lobbyists thereof.
Jared Kushner, top White House adviser and husband of Ivanka Trump, is waist-deep in Trump's swamp, having facilitated the issuance of EB-5 visas to Chinese businessmen -- in FY2015, 93% of EB-5 visas were given to investors from Asia, with 84% given to ones from China -- who invested in Kushner Companies' real estate ventures, assisted by his sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer. One previous property was Trump Bay Street, a 50-story luxury apartment building in New Jersey.
Kushner sold his stake in One Journal Square project, which is less than three miles from Manhattan, though he and his wife still benefit from other projects. His sister is intentionally conflating the many Kushner Companies projects to fool investors. Brochure and posters for One Journal Square read, "Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States" and "Supported by the government, created by a star developer," and touted EB-5 immigration as "peace of mind."
"Nicole Meyer, when she stood in that room, made sure that people knew that she was part of this Kushner family, that her brother was in the administration," said Javier Hernandez, the New York Times' China correspondent. Hernandez and other reporters were ejected from the event.
The event's organizer, immigration agency Qiaowei, also known as QWOS, made note of Meyer's relationship to Trump and called her the event's "heavyweight honored guest."
Senator Grassley noted that during Obama's two terms in office, "there [was] a remarkable increase in the amount of foreigners using this visa program." Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Hillary Clinton's brother, Tony Rodham, also benefitted from EB-5 visas.
Senator Grassley and California Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to kill the EB-5 visa, with the latter calling it "inherently flawed" though Congress renewed it through Sept. 30.
"It says that U.S. citizenship is for sale. It is wrong to have a special pathway to citizenship for the wealthy while millions wait in line for visas. I agree that the time has come to end EB-5," said Senator Feinstein.
This is what we saw with Hillary Clinton, selling favors to foreigners via the Clinton Foundation. Trump needs to make good on his promise to clean-up the swamp, starting with his own family.
While working for a telecommunications company, I met an Indian women who was out of her element. She was in a software group but did not understand the language used. I had an older copy of a reference book for the language and lent it to her.
She told me some stories that at first I did not believe. She told me that she had worked until midnight the previous day. And the previous week, she worked until 2 am. I thought this was insane, given how productivity drops after too many hours are worked. We were not paid for overtime, so she was not motivated by money.
Our manager told us that one of the direct reports for her boss, an Indian man, was his wife, in clear violation of company policy. She told us that all of his direct reports, except for his wife, told him that the arrangement was a really bad idea. But nothing changed.
More and more Indian workers appeared in the company, though I did not appreciate at the time that all of them were being brought in under H-1B visas which did not allow them to switch employers. All of them were in the office when I arrived in the morning and still there when I left at the end of the day. I started looking for another job.
She never did return the book.
* * * * * * * * * *
"Why can't Wisconsin manufacturers, why can't small businesses, find enough people to work?" Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson rhetorically asked during a speech in a Senate hearing room. He is a member of the Tea Party Caucus, along with Marco Rubio.
Johnson touted his State Sponsored Visa Pilot Program Act of 2017, S.1040, as being able to solve the problem, with Colorado Congressman Ken Buck being a fellow traveler. Their dog and pony show was held in conjunction with the Cato Institute, the temple of social Darwinism. The bill would give each state 5000 new visas, plus a population-based share of another 245,000 visas, as well as being able to share visas not used by other states.
Funny how American workers at Disney, Southern California Edison, the University of California, Northeast Utilities, and many other companies were replaced by Indian workers -- after training their replacements. This did not happen because Wisconsin or any other state's firms were unable to find suitable workers. It happened because those firms were allowed to import de facto indentured servants via H-1B visas.
Johnson raved about a "new plague [of opioid addiction] in our country," blaming it for a lack of qualified workers, with Medicaid giving out free opioids like candy on Halloween. It is true that drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States, but that's a predictable consequence of the outsourcing relished by many of the elites, with suicide rates for Native Americans and middle-aged whites going through the roof.
Johnson and Buck are simply calling for more corporate welfare.
And the latest spending bill includes an increase in H-2B visas of almost 79,000, with these visas being used for blue-collar workers for seasonal jobs.
"But this is what it does: it takes jobs away from American workers and abuses the immigrants that come into this country ... In the past 10 years, the Department of Labor has found 800 employers, 800, who have abused 23,000 guest workers ... It is a new-fangled form of indentured servitude," wrote Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who is not voting for the bill.
Not surprisingly, the Washington Post is in favor of the H-2B increase, with its owner, Jeff Bezos, having outsourced Amazon's customer service to India: "The country's $25 billion dollar horse racing industry relies on a majority Hispanic immigrant workforce ... The policies could have a significant impact on the racing industry, and many employed in it. Without enough visas, horse trainers would face a labor shortage."
Why should the horse racing industry receive federal subsidies so it can avoid hiring Americans?
If we prevented corporations from importing cheap labor, they'd be forced to hire Americans. Sure, prices for those products would increase, but those workers would then have money to spend. Consider it trickle-up economics.
Instead of Johnson and Buck's gift to multinational corporations, we should pass Iowa Senator Charles Grassley's H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017, S.180, including these common sense remedies:
- The bill requires completion of a U.S. degree (or an equivalent foreign degree) as a qualification for "specialty occupation" eligibility, eliminating experience in a specialty as an equivalent to the completion of such a degree.
- The Department of Labor may issue subpoenas and seek appropriate injunctive relief and specific performance of contractual obligations to ensure H-1B employer compliance.
- The period of authorized admission for an H-1B nonimmigrant is reduced from six to three years, with a three-year extension available for aliens with extraordinary ability or with advanced degrees or professors.
- Labor may investigate applications for fraud and conduct H-1B compliance audits.
- The bill increases certain employer penalties, including the penalty for displacing a U.S. worker.
- An employer that violates any H-1B requirement shall be liable to the harmed employee for lost wages and benefits.
- No employer may replace a U.S. worker with an L-1 worker.
Because the bronze plaque in the Statue of Liberty does not read:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
They will be indentured servants and visa whores,
So CEOs and politicians can live on street easy."
Former Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz breathlessly declared: "I look more at the public record of someone like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. And their public record is pristine. They both fought back against the big banks and their practices and I have every confidence in the service they both provided."
On the contrary, there is no evidence whatsoever that Barack Obama fought against Wall Street and the banking sector.
Obama said shortly after he took office at a meeting with the heads of Wall Street: "My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks."
The problem is that pitchforks were far too tame. Tarring and feathering, followed by setting them alight, was more of what we had in mind.
Late in 2011, Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes told Obama that "there’s not been any prosecutions, criminal prosecutions, of people on Wall Street." But as David Cay Johnston noted, Kroft failed to ask Obama the obvious follow-up question, "And why not?"
In September 2013, Bill Moyers asked Bill Black, a hero to those of us who are tired of the lives of the rich and famous, not to mention corrupt, Wall Streeters, why there was no concerted effort to prosecute the people responsible for the 2008 Wall Street crash:
"The savings and loan debacle [of the 1980s] was one-seventieth the size of the current crisis, both in terms of losses and the amount of fraud. In that crisis, the savings and loan regulators made over 30,000 criminal referrals, and this produced over 1,000 felony convictions in cases designated as 'major' by the Department of Justice. But even that understates the degree of prioritization, because we, the regulators, worked very closely with the FBI and the Justice Department to create a list of the top 100 — the 100 worst fraud schemes. They involved roughly 300 savings and loans and 600 individuals, and virtually all of those people were prosecuted. We had a 90 percent conviction rate, which is the greatest success against elite white-collar crime (in terms of prosecution) in history."
Johnston asked Black if anyone from the Obama administration contacted him, with the predictable answer being, "No."
Instead Obama hired three Clinton stooges, Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers, and Eric Holder.
Johnson noted that Geithner "not only failed to stop the looting, he actually shut down investigators who were onto the frauds because he said he worried that the institutions he was supposed to regulate were too fragile to withstand scrutiny." Neil Barofsky, special inspector general in charge of oversight of TARP, documented in his book how Geithner repeatedly undermined his authority. After his time at Treasury, Geithner became president and managing director of Warburg Pincus, a private equity firm.
Summers was one of the gang of three, along with Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin, who prevented Brooksley Born, the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, from regulating derivatives, what Warren Buffett termed "financial weapons of mass destruction." The abuse of derivatives was a major factor in the 2008 Wall Street crash.
Summers declared in a July 2011 Reuters editorial that "there must be a clear and unambiguous commitment that whatever else happens, the failure of major financial institutions in any country will not be permitted." Throw women and children overboard, but save the banks at any cost!
Holder was Clinton's right-hand henchman in securing the pardon of Marc Rich in the last hours of the Clinton administration, with Rich being a notorious international criminal. The National Law Journal noted that Holder had only been filling his Rolodex during his time with the government.
Schultz was right on the money -- $400,000, to be exact -- with her comment regarding the "service they both provided."
For a number of years, I had a credit card on my parents' account, mainly to buy items from the hardware store that they needed. When I got it, I did not have to tell the bank anything, because my parents were on the financial hook for any charges.
But then my sister switched our parents' accounts to Wells Fargo. I accompanied my mother into Wells Fargo and spoke with Kelly Looman, a personal banker. We discussed the extra credit card, but then she started asking me personal questions. When she asked for my DOB and SSN, I should have told her to cram it, because she was obviously opening an account in my name even though I had specifically told her that I had no intentions of becoming a Wells Fargo customer. But I didn't because I did not want to upset my elderly mother. Looman told me that the data she collected was not stored, which of course was nonsense.
Another annoyance was that Wells Fargo's credit cards are not handled in-house. They are handled by a separate company, probably a firm which Wells Fargo bought after Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich unleashed the hounds of banking hell via the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the reintroduction of bucket shops. We had to tell the other firm the same data we told Looman.
My credit union's website displays my credit score, though the credit pull is only done a few times each year. One month after my visit to Wells Fargo, I noticed that my credit score had dropped 12 points, even though I have not been late on or missed a payment in years. I contacted Looman via email and she tried to convince me that Wells Fargo had nothing to do with it.
I knew that Wells Fargo had opened millions of accounts without permission. Shockingly, four executives were actually fired over the company-wide fraud. I filed a complaint with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). I specifically asked that the credit card be canceled, my data be expunged from Wells Fargo's computers, the credit inquiry be reversed to restore my credit score, and that Wells Fargo be removed as a party to my account so it could never again make a credit inquiry.
The OCC contacted Wells Fargo. Jennifer Rasnick of Wells Fargo's executive office called twice, each time leaving a message telling me to call Annie Fieger at 1-855-267-6141, extension 45606. She also sent two letters with the same message. However, when I called that telephone number, no one ever answered, with the voicemail mentioning a number of people, none of them Rasnick or Fieger. I left a general message, but it was never returned.
Then I called the Des Moines office listed on the letterhead of Rasnick's letter. I spoke with someone who gave me an entirely different telephone number for Fieger, 1-844-576-6424. I left a message at that telephone number, but no one returned my call.
In the middle of this, Fieger sent a letter explaining that Wells Fargo would delete the trade line from my credit profile. This was confirmation that an account had indeed been opened without my permission. She also included the same telephone number that Rasnick had given.
After sufficient time has passed, I will obtain a free credit report to see if Wells Fargo actually did anything.
Bernie Sanders is correct: too big to fail is too big to exist. Large banks are out of control. We need to bring back Glass-Steagall, something Donald Trump recently hinted at. We also need to give the banking industry the Standard Oil treatment, i.e. disallow banks from doing business in more than one state. Start with Wells Fargo.