One lesson I learned long ago is that Amazon sometimes offers different pricing when I am logged-on versus when I am browsing anonymously, with the price always being lower with the latter. And if I place an item in my cart while logged-on, it sometimes declines in price the next day, but if I wait more than a day or two to purchase it, the price always rises back to the default or even higher.
Amazon has announced a new policy for sellers, with it taking effect July 1, where logons will require the use of a smartphone for two-step verification. Starting a few weeks ago, sellers were required to click on the "not now" button to avoid two-step verification.
Amazon patented advanced predatory behavior for use in actual retail stores, "Physical store online shopping control," preventing shoppers from comparing prices by monitoring online activity conducted over its wireless network and responding by displaying a different page, directing an Amazon employee to harangue the shopper, sending the customer a text message or email, or blocking Internet access to non-Amazon sites.
Hopefully we will see anti-capitalists establishing powerful wireless transmitters in nearby buildings, along with highly directional antennas, to give Amazon shoppers the opportunity to price-check outside of the oligarchy, though that would require shoppers to carry two wireless devices.
Amazon's tactics are very different than the ones used by stores offering frequent shopper cards. Prices are the same for all shoppers, with the retailer only discovering the identity of the shopper at checkout. And some of the cards do not require surrendering personal data, though not giving it will result in not receiving any coupons.
Only someone with more dollars than sense would shop in such a store.
The Kafkaesque nightmare started with two letters from the IRS, the only IRS letters I have ever received.
The first, from its Austin, Texas, office, dated March 14, stated: "The amounts you reported on Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit, Part II, columns (a) - enrollment premiums, (b) - applicable second lowest cost silver plan (SLCSP) premium or (f) advance payment of PTC, don't match the information we have on file from the Health Insurance Marketplace."
The second letter, from its Andover, Massachusetts, office, dated April 24, just about stopped my heart, as the title read, "We're auditing your 2016 Form 1040." It continued with: "We need you to send us information to support the Premium Tax Credit (PTC) claim on your tax return. We are holding all or part of your refund due to a discrepancy with your PTC pending the results of this audit. Be sure to respond within 30 days from the data of this notice or we'll disallow the PTC claim and you may owe additional tax."
In other words, not only would I lose the substantial tax credit for Obamacare, I would be hit with the penalty enacted against teabaggers who never obtain insurance.
I do not have a numbered bank account in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands. I am not in the inner circle of Donald Trump. I am not a Rick Santelli groupie, so I had medical insurance for the entire year. In other words, there was no valid reason for auditing me.
Connect for Health Colorado (CfHC), the health insurance marketplace for Colorado, was the culprit, though I would blame the IRS until the conclusion of my ordeal.
In late January, I received a 1095-A by mail, but around the same time I received an email explaining that the 1095-A was in error. I was advised to wait until a corrected one arrived. The email was addressed to someone else, with the name not being close alphabetically. Everyone else I know who received medical insurance through CfHC told me that they also received an email addressed to the wrong party. Technically this was a HIPAA violation, but that law has always been a joke.
In early February, I received a corrected 1095-A. I verified that its CORRECTED box was checked, the per month amount was XY-something (my payments had been XY-something), and the monthly amounts were all the same. I e-filed on February 21 using the second one.
I had never seen an incorrect tax form from an employer or company, so I assumed that this one was okay too. Big mistake.
Then I received the aforementioned first IRS letter. Naturally I sent copies of my 1095-A and 8962 to their Austin office. I called a couple of times, each time being told that my taxes were in process, requiring eight weeks for completion.
I contacted CfHC and was assured that my 1095-A had been submitted by January 31, 2017, as required by law. A few days later the CfHC agent emailed, asking to close the ticket.
I finally looked very carefully at the corrected 1095-A I had received, verifying every single data field. The amount that I had paid every month did not match the amount listed on the 1095-A, with the amounts being, respectively, $XY6.76 and $XY3.64, with the difference being $3.12.
I contacted CfHC many times. I used Twitter and even emailed the CEO, Kevin Patterson, whose predecessor, Patty Fontaneau, personally retained money for grants intended to purchase equipment, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General finding that CfHC had "a lack of adequate stewardship of Federal funds." Patterson previously served as chief administrative officer to Governor Hickenlooper, who is only interested in pardoning armed robbers. All I ever received was the usual soothing customer service hokum.
A manager named Lori called and spent minutes saying absolutely nothing. The only thing I remember from the conversation is that she said, "Thanks for not yelling at me." I received an email informing me that the trouble ticket had been closed.
Then I received the second IRS letter and went ballistic. I mailed yet more forms to them, this time via certified mail to their Andover office, including copies of the checks I used to pay the monthly premiums. I emailed the CfHC board and demanded action.
Walter, who works for Lori, called me on May 15 and tried to give me more soothing talk. However, he said some things which completely changed my perspective. He said in an off-hand manner that my corrected 1095-A had not been transmitted before January 31. He believed that it had actually been transmitted in March which would explain the IRS letters.
Walter also said something which struck me as complete rubbish, that 1095-As are not required to be exact, that they have a tolerance, so the $3.12 difference was not important.
I sent one last request to the board for a copy of the 1095-A which had been filed after the January 31 deadline, but no one ever responded.
I tried to call the IRS via the number included on the second letter, but every time I gave up after being on hold for almost two hours. Then I realized that I had been able to call them with only a 5-10 minute hold via the number included on the first letter. I would not be able to ask detailed questions regarding the audit, but I would be able to ask questions regarding paperwork. I called on May 18 and asked a few specific questions:
- I asked for the dates on which the IRS had received a 1095-A transmission. The agent informed me that the IRS had received two transmissions: January 30 and May 10.
- I asked whether there was any penalty for health insurance marketplaces not transmitting a 1095-A by January 31. She told me that they are required to transmit the data by that date, but she was unaware of any penalty for not doing so.
- I asked about Walter's assertion that 1095-As have a tolerance. She admitted that she had never heard of such a thing, that IRS forms are always supposed to be accurate.
And she told me that the audit had been closed on May 16.
I haven't yet received a letter from the IRS, but Danielle Henry of Congressman Jared Polis' office informed me that my refund would be deposited into my checking account on June 1. And it was. I seriously doubt if CfHC would reimburse me for my USPS Certified Mail expenses, so I won't even ask.
So for those unlucky enough to depend upon CfHC:
- You have no idea what CfHC reports to the IRS and you cannot force anyone there to divulge that information.
- Do not trust any mailing or email CfHC sends. Verify every data field, and if any are incorrect, demand a new one.
- Don't e-file. Mail copies of your 1095-A and payment receipts with your tax return so the IRS can reconcile CfHC's errors.
Because CfHC will not change due to the CEO being a friend of Hickenlooper.
Everywhere I go, I see people working multiple, low-paid, part-time jobs, and help wanted signs for more people just like them.
The most recent was a woman in a restaurant working as a cashier. She was probably in her late 20s or early 30s. She revealed that she works three part-time jobs, seven days a week. At least she seemed somewhat optimistic.
The previous guy was also working in a restaurant, but as a server. He was pushing 60 with a bad leg. He worked two part-time jobs. Not surprisingly, he was bitter about life in general, not least because he had a bachelor's degree but worked at jobs a high school graduate could handle.
The guy before that worked in an office supply store. He was probably in his late 30s or early 40s. He also worked multiple part-time jobs. He wasn't bitter, but he wasn't optimistic either.
These people are examples of the unemployment statistic U6, currently at 8.6%, which counts people who are unable to obtain full-time work and are forced to settle for multiple part-time jobs, usually without benefits. The media ignores this statistic for the most part and touts U3, currently at 4.4%.
When I attended high school and university, I worked part-time jobs. I had a regular schedule and could not have tolerated a changing one. Today I often hear from people who have changing schedules, making it impossible to attend school, take care of children, or work another part-time job.
In many respects, we've already transitioned to Gilded Age 2.0, with monopolies, oligarchs, and ersatz serfs. One big difference is that the Internet has allowed the creation of a new class of people, reality TV stars who rise above the otherwise depressed employment market, with Trump being their patron saint though they won't admit it. Trump's promises to save American jobs, e.g. with respect to H-1B and H-2B visa abuse, were all bluster and deceit, similar to Obama, Bush and Clinton.
Carly Fiorina, the former HP CEO who laid-off 30,000 employees, with many of those jobs being outsourced to foreign lands, was in the presidential campaign for a while. She infamously asserted: "There is no job that is America's God-given right anymore. We have to compete for jobs as a nation." But what she really meant was that her $40 million golden parachute was her God-given right, not to mention that she conflated American jobs and ones created overseas.
The other amusing thing about Fiorina was her "personal relationship with Jesus Christ that saved [her and her husband] from a desperate sadness," though I would imagine that $40 million would mitigate a large amount of sadness or at least pay for a hunky pool boy to wipe away the tears. Unlike Fiorina, the Tea Party, and the Religious Right, I've actually read the New Testament, especially the part where Jesus said, "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."
"Grandma, speak some Swedish," exhorted my mother and her sisters to my great-grandmother many years ago.
"We are in America. We speak English now," she replied.
Her response reflected the belief, largely forgotten now, that people moved to another country to assimilate and become productive members of that society. Today we have an ersatz Turkish sultan claiming that assimilation is "a crime against humanity."
Contrast my great-grandmother to a woman I saw at the light rail station. At least I think it was a woman. She was wearing typical garb for a woman in Saudi Arabia, a black sack running from head to toe, with everything covered except her eyes. Her shapeless clothing could have been hiding a weapon as large as a pistol-grip shotgun.
Why did she come here if she does not want to be an American, especially when women in Mosul, Iraq, burn their face veils after being freed from Islamic State?
There are many other people who would welcome the chance to become Americans, e.g. Yazidi women who have been used as sex slaves by Islamic State, Coptic Christians who are being murdered in Egypt, and Assyrian Christians who are being kidnapped and/or murdered by Islamic State. Invite them instead.
I was driving near Boulder, Nevada, to see Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, Valley of Fire State Park, and other natural attractions. The trunk of my car was loaded down with all sorts of stuff. I drove into a gas station to fill up and an attendant walked over to my car. He bent down and appeared to look at the area around the rear axle. He told me in a serious voice that my shock absorbers were in desperate need of replacement. He said he could repair them in a few hours. I declined his offer and watched him very carefully until I left.
After returning from my trip, I asked a dealership service advisor to inspect the shocks. He told me that they were fine.
I bought my full-size pickup new from Emich in Littleton many years ago. They always treated me well. Then Emich was bought by John Elway who moved the dealership to Lone Tree. Things really didn't change much. I was told by dealership personnel that John Elway treated his employees well. I tried to use the dealership whenever I could, but I was working all over the Denver area and sometimes was forced to use a facility close to where I was working at the time.
At a Goodyear Auto Service shop in Broomfield, I brought my pickup in for an alignment. The manager told me in a serious voice that there was a part somewhere in the area of the wheel that needed to be removed before he could do an alignment (his explanation was more involved than mine). I thought about my options. I could calmly inform him that it was highly unlikely that the manufacturer would include a part that had to be removed at the first removal of the wheel. Or I could call him a lying sack. Or I could leave, which I did.
Later at the dealership where I bought my truck, I mentioned the story about the wheel part that needed to be removed. The service advisor looked at me as if I was from Mars.
At a Goodyear Auto Service shop in Englewood, I brought an old Chrysler in for an alignment. I really wish I still had that car, with its V-8 and no smart technology backdoors. I remembered my experience with the previous Goodyear shop and was prepared to leave if he lied to me. I waited until the alignment was completed. I paid and drove out of their parking lot -- and turned back into the shopping center at the next entrance because it was clear that something was very wrong. When driving straight ahead, the steering wheel was turned a full quarter turn to the right. I returned to the Goodyear shop and told the manager of the problem. He returned in ten minutes and told me that the lube fittings were dry as a bone, supposedly explaining the problem with the steering. He finished his thought with, "I'm as serious as a heart attack," probably thinking I was so gullible that I'd agree to pay him even more money. I thought about calling him a lying sack for two reasons. First, I owned a lube gun and added grease every time I changed the oil. And second, lube fittings have nothing to do with a steering wheel being so far off center, though keeping them full of grease is important. But I simply told him to give me the alignment I paid for. As I drove away, I found that the steering wheel was properly centered.
Anyone who work in the parts department of dealerships and auto parts stores knows that the old wisdom that parts are generally available for a car for around ten years is not an accurate assessment of the situation. For trim parts, some beancounter estimates how many will be needed for warranty repairs plus a buffer. For body parts such as air dams which are often damaged when drivers run into snow banks, curbs, and other low-hanging obstacles, manufacturers supply them until the demand drops below a certain point, but in any case they are available for far longer than ten years. And mechanical parts, especially ones which are shared between different corporate models, are often available for decades after the model year ends. Except for trim parts, it's supply and demand.
I visited Century Chevrolet in Broomfield to inquire as to whether the seat of my pickup could be repaired, as I could tell that the spring or another under-butt part was broken. I sat in the waiting room for an hour until the service advisor returned with a story she thought I would swallow. She told me in a serious voice that seat parts were no longer available, but they could import a used part from the Midwest for $1100. I did not like this option and so I told her that I would think about it, though I knew that it was definitely possible that seat parts were no longer available.
Then she told me that my brakes were in serious need of repair. I thought about calling her a lying sack, as they had been repaired just one year before. But before I could do anything, she started giving me a sales pitch. She told me that the usual cost for a brake job was $800 but they would reduce it to $300. And then she said, as a smile appeared on her face, that the parts they used would be aftermarket ones with a limited warranty. I bid her a not-fond farewell.
I visited the dealership where I bought my truck and inquired as to the seat part. The service advisor informed me that there was a new one, in Denver, for $800. I took him up on the offer. I also asked him to look at the brakes. He told me that there was plenty of life remaining on them.
Later I asked someone I know who works in the parts department of a dealership about the aftermarket parts. He told me that reputable dealerships would not make such an offer unless there were no factory parts available, something that simply would not happen with brake parts. He continued by saying that for many parts, factory ones can actually be cheaper than aftermarket ones, so there's no financial advantage in using them. Maybe Century Chevrolet would have done absolutely nothing and charged me for the privilege.
I visited Grand Buick GMC in Thornton because I had an electrical problem with my pickup. It sat there for two days with nothing being done. I called on Thursday and was told that a power cable needed to be replaced. The service advisor told me that there were no cables in Denver and that it would take a few days to get the part to Denver, with the coming weekend being a major 3-day holiday weekend. I told him in no uncertain terms that I would retrieve the truck on Friday, one way or the other. He protested, asserting that the vehicle was dangerous to drive. I told him to use FedEx or UPS Next Day to have the cable delivered on Friday and I would pay the difference in shipping. I started to think he wanted to use my truck to drive in the mountains that weekend. When I arrived on Friday to rescue my vehicle, I noticed that there was a minimal charge on the receipt for extra shipping. Did he really not know about next day delivery services?
I brought my pickup in for AC service. John Elway had sold his dealerships to Autonation, a large corporation originally started by a guy who began with one garbage truck, which then became several. I was told that the compressor needed to be replaced, not surprising since the truck was more than ten years old. They replaced it for $1500, which was a bit much, but I had been satisfied with the dealership in the past. I noticed a few new faces in the service department.
Eleven months later, the AC failed again. I brought it into Autonation and they replaced the compressor under warranty, giving me another 12-month warranty. I noticed that none of the previous employees still worked there. When the new compressor started, it made a sound reminiscent of a turbine winding up, which was not a good sign.
Thirteen months later, the AC failed again. I called Autonation and was told that the warranty had expired, so I could pay to have it repaired. I contacted the general manager and asked him how two compressors in a row could fail at almost exactly 12 months in a state like Colorado where AC is not needed very often. He sidestepped my question and offered to fix it again for full price.
I took the pickup to McCaddon in Boulder which fixed the AC for $1200. There was no turbine-like noise emanating from the compressor. McCaddon told me that there was a lifetime warranty on the compressor. I pressed the service advisor on warranties and I came away with the impression that GM compressors normally have a lifetime warranty, with only Autonation offering a sub-par one. Does Autonation contract with a cut-rate shop to rebuild its compressors?
Now I buy tires at Discount Tire and have alignments and other work done at family-owned dealerships. As long as I live on the north side of the Denver metro area, I will use McCaddon. There's never a problem. And the work is sometimes cheaper than what swindlers would charge.
Women often complain that they are treated like idiots in automotive shops, often being taken advantage of. The truth is that some shops take advantage of everyone.
RethinkX co-founder and Stanford University economist and professor Tony Seba opined: "The day that autonomous vehicles are approved, the combination of ride hailing, electric and autonomous means that it's going to be ten times cheaper, up to ten times cheaper, to use a robot taxi, transport as a service car, than it is to own a car. Ten times."
To begin with, the theory of supply and demand would suggest that $25 oil would result in fuel-inefficient vehicles being brought back into regular service. Every time gas prices have dropped, the sales of fuel-inefficient SUVs and pickups have risen.
Taking some of Seba's fantasies one-by-one:
- Car-sharing will be the norm. But if car-sharing is so universally loved, why isn't it common today? Most cars today contain only a single passengers for all sorts of reasons. Car pool lanes are not remotely jammed. The gig economy does not lend itself to car-sharing. And has Seba asked mothers, whether single moms, working moms, or stay-at-home moms, whether car-sharing will work for them?
- All new mass-market vehicles will be electric by 2030. Where is the infrastructure to support these vehicles? Many people live in apartments, so is Seba planning to coerce all state governments to pass legislation requiring every parking place to include a battery charger? And how will that work for the many apartments which do not have parking places? Not to mention that once someone allows his car to run out of gas, so to speak, a tow will be required.
- Up to 80% of highways will be redundant. Our roads can only handle so much traffic at one time. Even when self-driving cars have been perfected, they will only be able to carry four people to work at a time, unless they want to ride like sardines. Unless companies allow employees to choose their own work hours so the concept of rush hour disappears, there will still be surges in traffic in the morning and afternoon. And in the evenings, people will not all queue to visit bars and restaurants.
- All [new] vehicles will be autonomous ... The concept of individual car ownership will be obsolete. This is Seba's biggest laugh. He's obviously never bothered to noticed that there are many magazines devoted to driving, with Hot Rod, Car and Driver, and Road & Track being just a few. Many people enjoy driving. People who like to go four-wheeling are not going to choose a self-driver. Many people living in snow states like to own four-wheel drive vehicles for the occasional blizzard. Human-driven pickup trucks will be with us for the foreseeable future. His brave new world simply isn't going to work for the millions of people who live outside major cities, not to mention people who live on farms. If he thinks banning guns is difficult, just wait until he tries to ban human-driven vehicles.
Seba and his pals are out on a limb here, with IEEE and just about every other expert in disagreement. Moody's noted: "While self-driving cars will likely force auto insurers to rethink their business models, widespread adoption of this technology is decades away, allowing insurers plenty of time to adapt."
As for the possibility of traveling being ten times cheaper, just where does Seba think this vast fleet of self-driving vehicles will come from? If the supplier is Uber, then prices for rides will only increase given its "route based pricing." There is great resistance to Uber becoming a monopoly.
This issue will be a repeat of the 2016 presidential election, where there is a major disconnect between the cities and the rest of the country.
That said, autonomous vehicles will definitely make a difference. The pace of sales of new vehicles to private owners will slow. And most importantly, the current trend toward increased traffic fatalities, both pedestrian and passenger, will reverse because texting e-children will no longer be a major hazard on the road.
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 also had an old Chrysler, 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.