Archive for the ‘Crony Capitalism’ Category.

You Didn’t Build That

Detroit did not need a Thomas Jefferson or a Mohandas Gandhi or another great political philosopher with a world-changing idea — it needed someone to fix the potholes, balance the books, keep order on the streets, see to the schools, and keep the city agencies orderly and honest and effective. Without that, all of Detroit’s productive capital — physical, financial, and human — was devalued and ultimately dispersed.

A nation as rich as ours can afford a great deal of stupidity, but hubris is expensive.

Detroit’s success was a very complicated story. Its failure is a simpler one.

How did Detroit become the “Motor City” at the center of the U.S. automotive business? It wasn’t obvious that it would be: At the end of the 19th century, more than 100 automobile companies were organized in the United States, most of them in New England and Ohio. But Michigan won out because it had a hugely important advantage in one natural resource: smart people.

Ask a half-dozen car guys why Detroit beat out the rest, and you’ll get a half-dozen answers: Maybe because Henry Ford and Ransom Olds lived in Michigan, or maybe because Standard Oil helped to lift the gasoline-powered Michigan manufacturers over competitors in Cleveland and Boston, which leaned toward steam and electric power. (Electric cars — imagine that.) But one of the main reasons Detroit became the Motor City is that it already was a motor city: Before it was a powerhouse in the automobile business, it was an important center for manufacturing marine engines (as was Cleveland), and as such was home to a work force with skills relevant to building automobiles — metalworkers, mechanics, engineers, machinists, experienced laborers. The most useful kind of intelligence resides in particular people and in particular intellectual communities, whether those are theoretical physicists or construction workers. That kind of intelligence cannot be boxed up and redistributed like surplus cheese. It is where it is, and it is there because of organic developments that cannot be managed.

Henry Ford offered good wages and an intelligently organized production process, but he didn’t exnihilate those skilled workers into existence; he just hired them. The larger and more complex the intellectual ecosystem of Detroit became, the greater the advantage provided by its workforce was — and the more it became a magnet for the best workers.

And Henry Ford wouldn’t have got very far without them.

. . .

(I will here offer the obligatory periodic reminder that the story about Henry Ford’s bootstrapping the automobile market into existence by paying his workers enough to afford his products is a myth, pure folk economics.)

Henry Ford’s problems are our problems still. North Carolina is the Detroit of the American upholstered-furniture industry, and its biggest problem right now is finding skilled workers to man the industry’s factories. A program set up by furniture manufacturers and a local community college is training up new workers as fast as it can, but that is not fast enough: “The good news is we can graduate 150 people a year,” one furniture executive told the Wall Street Journal. “The bad news is that the industry needs 800 to 1,000 people.” Another recruiter described hiring an upholsterer through a temp agency as “winning the lottery.”

And yet millions of Americans somehow manage to languish in persistent joblessness.

The story is familiar, with businesses ranging from the literally old-timey (mechanical-watch manufacturers) to the high-tech (chemical companies) complaining loud and long that they cannot fill their openings, that highly skilled, reliable labor is impossible to find. Old-fashioned business strategies such as (radical idea!) substantially raising wages are not always effective. (Keep trying, guys; it worked for Henry Ford — eventually.) Industry groups have put together training and apprenticeship programs such as the one for furniture-makers in North Carolina, where a $600, eleven-month course prepares workers for jobs that can pay in excess of $75,000 a year. The Institute of Swiss Watchmaking operates training programs in Fort Worth, Texas, along with Hong Kong and Shanghai. For those on shorter timelines, there are still a bunch of oil-and-gas companies that will pay you to get a commercial driver’s license and then hire you when you do.

If the demand-side story is familiar, then so are the excuses from the potential supply side. If you’ve followed the intramural debate on the right between the classical free-market conservatives and the new right-wing anti-capitalists, then you’ve heard this before: “I want a good job, but I don’t want to move to one of those awful, expensive, godless coastal metros to get it.” “Okay, but there are lots of jobs to be had in lots of other places that aren’t Palo Alto.” “But I don’t want to invest four years in college and go into debt to do it.” “Okay, there are jobs to be had in West Texas gas fields and North Carolina furniture factories and all sorts of other places that don’t require a four-year degree.” “But. . . .”

There’s always another “but.”

Furniture-factory recruiters tell the Wall Street Journal that potential workers sometimes turn their noses up at their training programs because there is no guarantee that demand for workers will be as strong years in the future as it is today. Factories trying to recruit Millennials also have discovered that starting the workday at 6:30 a.m. is an obstacle. The usual thumbsuckers offer the usual thumbsucking excuses. A cynical man might wonder what exactly would get these folks to take the job — an iron rice bowl?

There’s a reason so many of the complaints we hear about China are characterized not by horror at the brutality of the Chinese regime but by frank envy of its command-and-control powers.

Tom Friedman calls it being “China for a day.” Marco Rubio calls it “industrial policy.”

. . .

If you are willing to consider the full, mind-bending complexity of the U.S. economy, then Elizabeth Warren’s “You Didn’t Build That!” argument becomes, in a sense, Leonard Read’s argument in “I, Pencil.” Everything touches everything else, and burdens are shared in complicated ways. Senator Warren’s story is an attempt to create a compelling moral narrative for managerial progressivism, the dusty intellectual antique installed firmly in the center of her brain. But while her political conclusions do not necessarily follow from the facts, she isn’t wrong about the facts themselves. Entrepreneurship does not happen in a vacuum, and nobody seriously thinks it does.

(Senator Warren leans heavily on an old politician’s trick: Arguing with positions that nobody really supports; in this, she is a lot like our friends on the new anti-capitalist right, who believe they have a patent on the idea that there is life beyond the market.)

Consider the early days of the automotive industry: When Alexander Winton drove from Cleveland to New York City to promote his new automobile, the trip took nine days and was thought to be such a feat that he was greeted by a million people upon arriving in Manhattan. The roads were, as Winton put it, “outrageous.” A few years later, an enthusiast in another Winton automobile made the first coast-to-coast automobile road trip in the United States, from San Francisco to New York.

. . .

The complexity of real-world economic relationships is the point of “I, Pencil,” Read’s famous essay, which illustrates that even something as straightforward, ubiquitous, and cheap as a No. 2 pencil relies on a vast network of industrial processes, specialized knowledge, trade, etc. so vast as to be well beyond the comprehension of any single organization, much less any individual. That’s the miracle: Nobody knows how to make a pencil, but we have plenty of them, anyway. Read took this as an argument against central planning, and he might be reasonably criticized for minimizing the role of the public sector; Senator Warren takes the same entangling relationships as an argument for more central planning, even though she occasionally remembers to make a rhetorical gesture in the direction of capitalism. Read was basically right and Warren is basically wrong, but Warren’s distortion of the underlying principle does not diminish the importance of public-sector and non-market institutions in the ecosystem of Readian economic complexity.

The complicated truth is that Henry Ford (and every other entrepreneur) drafted behind both public-sector and private-sector investments that preceded him and his own innovations. The marine-engine business helped lay the foundations for the subsequent success of Detroit’s automotive industry, but so did roads and schools and the like. There’s a word for that: civilization. Isaac Newton was not the only one who stood on the shoulders of giants. All of us do. (And not just giants: Nobody invented the automobile or the internal-combustion engine. There were thousands and thousands of contributors to that subtle and spectacular evolution.)

If it seems like we have drifted a long way from the original point about the role of the work force in the entrepreneurial process, we haven’t.

. . .

The current argument about the future of capitalism is about a lot of different things, some of which are only tangentially related to one another. Some of these considerations are matters of narrow political self-interest: Senator Rubio et al. have discovered that there is some juice in Trumpian neo-mercantilism and believe, with good reason, that there is even a little cross-partisan appeal to it. They have failed to articulate a set of policies or meaningful principles to go along with that hunch, but if President Trump has shown Republicans anything, it is that policies and principles are optional for a working majority of right-leaning voters, who can be had at the price of some vague grumbling about the national interest and intellectually dishonest claptrap about how “market fundamentalists on the right want more record-setting days in the stock market above all else,” as Senator Rubio put it.

I will reiterate here two things: The first is that Senator Rubio is engaged in a political fight to the death with a straw man, and that so far the fullest expression of his conception of the national interest in economic policy is subsidies for politically connected sugar producers in Florida. In politics, vague principles rarely stand up to specific demands from specific constituents.

On the wider cultural front, the fight about the future of capitalism is in no small part a matter of status competition, less a question of economic development than of how we talk about economic issues. Practitioners of resentment politics wish to reduce the prestige of cultural rivals, and so we have the strange spectacle of our so-called nationalists abominating the actual centers of American power, prestige, and influence: Silicon Valley, Wall Street, the Ivy League, Hollywood, etc.

Both Warren-style progressives and right-wing critics such as my friend Michael Brendan Dougherty seek to undermine the heroic account of entrepreneurship and corporate success traditionally put forward by apologists for capitalism. For these critics, the professional and financial elites represent a morally corrupt class that needs to be taken down a peg — those of you who have followed this conversation for a while will remember that Dougherty’s famous thought experiment about Garbutt, N.Y., had conservatives advancing the interests of “a typical coke-sniffer in Westport” and his in-laws down the road in Darien. Their argument is at heart about social status, holding that the finance workers in Fairfield County and the multinational firms that employ them deserve less admiration, as do the start-up founders and venture capitalists on the opposite coast, which is why it is important that they be cocaine enthusiasts or sexual deviants or whatever for purposes of political narrative if not in real life, where the coastal elites practice the bourgeois values (stable marriages and thrift and relative sobriety and all that) to a remarkable extent.

At the same time, the same critics argue that we should have more sympathy for those who are stuck in economically stagnant and socially backward communities and who do not wish to leave them. Dougherty presents this explicitly as a sympathy deficit on the part of the capitalism camp: “Any investments he made in himself previously are for naught. People rooted in their home towns? That sentimentalism is for effete readers of Edmund Burke. Join the hyper-mobile world.”

Though the protectionism put forward by the likes of Trump and Rubio is couched in the language of national interest, it is the opposite of that: Americans as a whole would be better off with lower food prices, but a small handful of Americans is much better off with higher prices secured by the policies supported by Rubio and other like-minded politicians. Americans as a whole are much better off when markets are allowed to allocate resources efficiently, but there is a vast and politically significant archipelago of communities that would prefer that certain inefficiencies be preserved, because their livings are tied to those inefficiencies and their communities have been built atop them. Detroit in 1960 was on top of the world — it was the highest-income city in the United States. Detroit would have been very comfortable if it could have been frozen in time, economically, in that moment. And a very wide array of politicians and activists, from local union leaders to President Ronald Reagan, took extraordinary steps to try to preserve the position of the U.S. automotive industry, with the disastrous consequences that you can see in front of you in Detroit today.

The things that gave Detroit its critical advantages in the early 20th century were not things that could be planned out in advance by super-intelligent philosopher-kings in the bureaucracies. Creating a marine-engine industry that would help to prepare the workforce for an automotive industry that would not exist until decades in the future is not the kind of plan that mere mortals can conceptualize or execute. If you had tried to explain to the best and most forward-looking thinkers of Detroit’s golden years that China and India would soon enough be significant high-tech competitors, they would have laughed at you. Also, if you’d told them that one of the biggest and most valuable U.S. companies in 2019 would be an electronic bulletin board where you can go to denounce your aunt as a hate-monger, they would have been perplexed, as, indeed, some of us are. Remember that many of the best minds of the time believed that the automobile would be a passing fad.

Conservatives like to laugh at Paul Krugman, revisiting his long-ago prediction that the Internet would prove no more economically significant than the fax machine, but nobody is really very good at predicting the future of economic developments at any meaningful level of detail. Go spend some time around private-equity investors and see how they come by their billions: They are smart, but they are not superhuman, and they do not have any special insight into long-term economic trends — they do a tremendous amount of grunt-work discovering and creating value in ordinary companies and complex deals, inch-worming their way through. That’s how a lot of wealth gets built. That’s the real world. And Senator Rubio scoffs at it as fiddling with “financial flows detached from real production,” as though factories just built themselves.

. . .

You couldn’t have planned Detroit’s success. But you could have avoided its catastrophic failure. Detroit was not done in by lack of clever industrial policy or by shortage of some other species of cleverness. It was done in by corrupt and ineffective government and a local political culture that went from bad to worse to much worse to Coleman Young. They tried to save Detroit with tariffs and failed. They could have saved it with safe streets and functional schools and the hundred thousand other tiny needful things that good governments do well.

Good government — including a steady, stable, predictable policy environment — multiplies the value of labor, just as training and capital do. That is why investment capital around the world for years has flowed largely to well-governed countries, most of them liberal democracies, with the largest recipients of foreign direct investment being the United States and the European Union. (China, the important exception to that rule, is not well-governed; it is governed brutally but predictably, an ugly but useful reminder that stability has economic value, too.) There are many places that businesses could go in search of low wages and a loose regulatory environment, but you aren’t driving a car made in Haiti or using a computer built in Burundi. Investors aren’t putting a lot of money into factories in Yemen or Afghanistan.

. . .

The U.S. government is in many cases a force for instability and non-confidence in our national economic life. Peter Navarro’s position as Trump’s China hand is as ridiculously implausible as Hunter Biden’s role on the board of Burisma, but there he is, whispering into the president’s ear. Senator Rubio is no less implausible in his belief that he has eagle eyes to detect subtle national interests in complex economic affairs of which he has no substantial first-hand knowledge. His problem isn’t stupidity — it’s hubris.

A nation as rich as ours can afford a great deal of stupidity, but hubris is expensive.

Senator Rubio represents a government that has shown little competence in the small and ordinary things. It cannot even manage to follow its own ordinary processes for creating budgets or appropriating funds, instead lurching from season to season with a series of “emergency” measures in a state of never-ending crisis. You might think that that would be the cause of some modesty and circumspection in Washington. You would be wrong.

Rather than monkeying around with things that are beyond his ken and outside of the credible operating capacity of the U.S. government, Senator Rubio should be seeing to some of the things that might actually make a difference. The U.S. government is on a catastrophic fiscal course that will, without reform, eventually result in a ruinous debt crisis the likes of which the world has never seen. (We’ve seen fiscal crises in Canada and Argentina, but the U.S. economy represents nearly a quarter of the world’s economic output.) We have entitlement programs that are in need of reform, decaying and archaic infrastructure under federal purview, serious K–12 educational problems entangled with federal policy, a tax code in great need of simplification, a series of worldwide military engagements that have failed or are on the verge of failing, enormous deficits, an out-of-control presidency and administrative state, etc., all of it under the responsibility of a federal apparatus that cannot even produce an accurate count of how many programs it administers. Senator Rubio and his colleagues are like fast-food workers who haven’t yet mastered the drive-thru but demand a seat on the board of the company: They are not doing a very good job with the responsibilities they already have.

And many of those are responsibilities that cannot be taken on by anybody else: If the United States is to have an immigration system characterized by intelligence and decency, or a federal criminal-justice system characterized by justice, then the federal government is the instrument that is going to bring that about. These tasks cannot be delegated to the Chamber of Commerce or the Rotary Club. But rather than see to these, and other authentic federal responsibilities, Senator Rubio would spend his days micromanaging the world’s mining markets lest the sneaky Chi-Comms hoard all the ytterbium.

(Seriously.)

What was true for Detroit is true for the United States as a whole. The first step toward success in government is avoiding failure, and what emerges from the complicated story of Detroit’s success and the relatively simple story of its failure is not that government must master economic complexity and put it in harness but rather that government must do a lot of relatively simple things well. Detroit did not need a Thomas Jefferson or a Mohandas Gandhi or another great political philosopher with a world-changing idea — it needed someone to fix the potholes, balance the books, keep order on the streets, see to the schools, and keep the city agencies orderly and honest and effective. Without that, all of Detroit’s productive capital — physical, financial, and human — was devalued and ultimately dispersed.

Detroit’s fall happened hard and fast. As the poet said, Goin’ down slow ain’t the only way to go. Deride “financial flows detached from real production” all you like, but if you want workers to have jobs, then you need enterprises to employ them. If you want enterprises to employ them, then you need investment. And if you want investment, then you need good government and a stable, predictable policy environment, not Senator Rubio freelancing around the economy like a kid trying to play chess without even knowing how the horsey-thingies move.
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The U.S. economy is a vastly complex system with countless variables. Here’s a puzzle with only three variables: 1. There are about 5.7 million unemployed people in the United States right now. 2. We have thousands and thousands of jobs going unfilled because employers cannot find workers to fill them. 3. We spend about $10 billion a week on unemployment benefits.

Sort that out and the ytterbium will take care of itself.

You Didn’t Build That, by Kevin Williamson

Statolatry, Ozymandias

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KoC insurance scammers?

BuzzFeed News spoke to seven current and former Knights of Columbus, two of whom are involved in the case, and reviewed emails, court documents, and internal membership spreadsheets and contact lists. All of the men were in leadership positions in their local chapters that enabled them to have access to membership information. The men were from four different states and seven different towns, but their stories were nearly identical. All of them said that they noticed large numbers of inactive members on their local council’s rolls, that senior members of the Knights of Columbus ignored their questions about it, and that they had to use donations meant for charity or pay out of pocket to cover dues owed by what they began calling “phantom” members.

Each of the men said they joined the Knights of Columbus years ago because they wanted to do good work; the group was influential and respected in their local parishes. And the Knights did do good work, giving back to their parishes and creating a sense of community. It was worth the $30 to $100 annual membership fee. Once they entered leadership positions, however, they each noticed something odd — there were dozens of inactive members on each of their books who hadn’t paid their dues or participated in the Knights in years, sometimes over a decade.

The men tried to contact the members to see why they weren’t paying their dues, but many of them had moved away, changed parishes, left the Catholic Church, or, in some cases, were listed as over 100 years old and were almost certainly no longer alive. In one case, an internal membership spreadsheet provided to BuzzFeed News showed that of one council’s 399 members, 97 were inactive. After making several efforts to get in touch, the leaders of the council managed to track down most of them, but two were dead, about 40 said they planned to withdraw from the Knights, and they never managed to find another 30 of the members.

When they tried to alert the state and national council of Knights, known as “the Supreme Council,” about the issue, they were instructed to jump through nearly impossible hoops to get the inactive members off their rolls, they said. Several of the men pointed out that this goes against a section of the Knights of Columbus constitution that states that after three months of a member not paying his dues, he “ipso facto forfeit[s] his membership.” But this didn’t seem to matter to their higher-ups.

. . .

All of the men who spoke to BuzzFeed News said they still greatly valued the work done by the local chapters, and recognized how important the Knights were to their communities.

“What they’re doing is so un-Catholic,” a man from Texas who asked not to be named out of fear of retribution from the Knights said. “When I found out what they were doing, I almost resigned.”

. . .

All of the seven agreed that the Knights were not a lost cause, but said the organization’s leaders need to be held responsible for what is happening. The local Knights have to fight for what’s right, they said, and go against the Supreme if that’s what’s necessary.

“It’s like David versus Goliath,” Mishork said. “But the truth has to come out.”

A Powerful Catholic Group Is Facing Allegations of Insurance Fraud: The Knights of Columbus is being accused of inflating its numbers to appear more profitable to insurance companies — and some of its members say they’re paying the price.” by Ema O’Connor, BuzzFeed News, August 22, 2019

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AMAZON, den of thieves

Many alternatives to Amazon, including WalMart, Lowes, HayNeedle, WayFair, Etsy, etc., etc.

AMAZON, den of thieves

amazon scammers – Google search

Prime and Punishment: Dirty Dealing in the $175 Billion Amazon Marketplace,” by Josh Dzieza Dec 19, 2018, The Verge

VIDEO: “How Scammers in China Manipulate Amazon,” by Jon Emont, WSJ, December 17, 2018

Amazon Targets Unprofitable Items, With a Sharper Focus on the Bottom Line,” by By Laura Stevens, Sharon Terlep and Annie Gasparro, WSJ, December 16, 2018

Amazon ran a sting to root out counterfeit textbooks, but some small sellers say they were unfairly targeted,” by Ari Levy, CNBC, December 13, 2018

An Amazon revolt could be brewing as the tech giant exerts more control over brands,” by Jason Del Rey, ReCode, November 29, 2018

New Parents Complain Amazon Baby-Registry Ads Are Deceptive,” by By Rolfe Winkler and Laura Stevens, WSJ, Nov. 28, 2018

The Caesar Of The Amazon Jungle,” by Rod Dreher, TAC, November 15, 2018

Amazon’s Golden Fleecing,” by The WSJ Editorial Board, Nov. 14, 2018

Amazon’s Great HQ2 Swindle,” by Daniel Kishi, TAC, November 13, 2018

Amazon’s HQ2 was a con, not a contest,” by Eric Johnson, ReCode, November 9, 2018

Amazon’s own published books are quietly taking over the site,” by Thu-Huong Ha, Quartz, October 26, 2018

Amazon Investigates Employees Leaking Data for Bribes – Employees, through intermediaries, are offering internal data to help merchants increase their sales on the website, WSJ, September 16, 2018

Amazon is investigating claims that employees deleted reviews and sold sales data to sellers, by Andrew Liptak, The Verge, September 16, 2018

Markets in everything, Marginal Revolution, September 17, 2018

Amazon’s Antitrust Antagonist Has a Breakthrough Idea,” by David Streitfeld, NYT, September 7, 2018

Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it. I regretted it. – Duluth News, Dec. 17, 2017

Amazon demonetizes conservative website (us), Legal Insurrection, May 23, 2018

IBPA’s Fall 2017 Update on the Amazon Buy Button Policy ChangeIBPA, Oct. 5, 2017

How Sellers Trick Amazon to Boost Sales, WSJ July 28, 2018 (On MorningStar)

On Amazon, Fake Products Plague Smaller Brands, WSJ, July 19, 2018

To cash in on Kindle Unlimited, a cabal of authors gamed Amazon’s algorithm, July 16, 2018, The Verge

Just How Bad Is the Fake Reviews Issue on Amazon? Here’s an In Depth Example, reddit, June 2018

FakeSpot – Tired of fake reviews?

Amazon Says More Than a Million U.S. Small Businesses Sell on Its Site, WSJ, May 3, 2018

Update On My Stolen Book (and Job) on Amazon, ExtremeTech, April 25, 2018

Why All My Books Are Now Free (aka A Lesson in Amazon Scams and Money Laundering), Meb Faber Research, April 18, 2018

Someone Stole My Entire Book (and My Job) and Is Selling It On Amazon, ExtremeTech, April 13, 2018

The Book Thief, Amazon Edition, WSJ, Feb 26, 2018

How an Amazon Self-Published Book May Be the Latest Money Laundering Scam, Fortune, Feb 23, 2018

Amazon warning: Beware of deliveries you didn’t order, Clark Howard, Feb 23, 2018

Going Off-Topic – Amazon made me a victim of tax fraud & potential money laundering and I want answers!, CTRMCenter, Feb. 23, 2018

Money Laundering Via Author Impersonation on Amazon? Brian Krebs, Feb. 20, 2018

Amazon tries to snuff out a bunch of Kindle publishing scams, CNet, Sept. 7, 2017

Amazon Scams On The Rise As Fraudulent Sellers Run Amok And Profit Big, Forbes, Jan. 2, 2017

Amazon – Amazon report listing abuse or violation

Amazon- Claim Copyright Infringement

email: copyright@amazon.com

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The Clerisy and the Kakistocracy and the Administrative State

If anything, both Left and Right have developed a newly intense resentment of the way in which purely private actors can exercise tremendous influence over their lives: corporate mergers and restructurings take away jobs and upend the economic situation of communities dependent on them; Facebook and Twitter endeavor to silence unpopular political views, or else are used as vehicles for ochlocratic attacks on hapless Starbucks staffers and Chipotle managers; in 2008–09, the world economy was convulsed by the fact that a great many Wall Street firms made bad investments that they did not quite even understand, necessitating trillions of dollars in bailouts and “quantitative easing” to stave off economic disaster. It is easier for a man to walk away from his wife and children than from his credit-card debt or student loans. Nobody seems to really know what his health insurance will cover — or what it will cover the day after tomorrow. A third of the teachers participating in a grant program found themselves saddled with loans — loans they had never signed up for, sometimes amounting to tens of thousands of dollars —because of paperwork issues. Innocent men and women are wrongly prosecuted and end up financially ruined even when they escape jail, and even as prosecutors boldly boast about abusing their powers.

The burden of these developments always seems to fall on those who do not have much money or power. You miss filing a 1040EZ one year and you’ll get your bank account hijacked by the IRS; Lois Lerner hijacks the entire IRS for a political project and she ends up with pension that’s twice what most American households earn in a year. Corporate executives flit from one gilt perch to the next, politicians flout both law and morality without real consequence, and their cronies and minions rarely miss a paycheck. Meanwhile, the New York Times is full of advertisements for Rolex and Cartier, Tiffany and Zegna — and stories about how nobody can really be expected to get by on $200,000 a year.

In Francis Fukuyama’s magisterial Origins of Political Order, he specifies three things that undergird the development of political development: the state, the rule of law, and accountability. The first we have plenty of — more of than we need, really. The other two . . . less so. Irrespective of how you feel about the current legal efforts being made against President Trump, it is impossible for any intelligent person to look at the situation and conclude that anybody — anybody — involved in this mess is simply working to apply the law rather than conducting a political jihad or counter-jihad through legal means — lawfare, as they call it. The rule of law took a beating during the Obama administration, and the chaos of the Trump administration does not seem likely to contribute much to its recuperation.

Who’s in Charge Here?

Crony capitalism and statolatry all the way down.

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AMAZON, den of thieves

AMAZON, den of thieves and a-holes

Many alternatives to Amazon, including BandH Photo, WalMart, Sam’s Club, Costco, Home Depot, Lowes, HayNeedle, WayFair, Fry’s Electronics, Etsy, NewEgg, Your local hardware store, etc., etc. Use product name, SKU, ISBN, model number to search for alternatives.

Google Shopping

Use reddit: best canopy reddit

amazon scammers – Google search

PopSockets CEO calls out Amazon’s ‘bullying with a smile’ tactics,” Jan. 17, 2020

You Might Be Buying Trash on Amazon — Literally,” Dec. 18, 2019

Uploaded Ring footage reportedly provides location to the square inch,” ArsTechnica, December 10, 2019

Hey, Bezos: Check Your Privilege, Sith Lord,” by Mytheos Holt, American Spectator, November 29, 2019

Amazon Probed by U.S. Antitrust Officials Over Marketplace,” by Spencer Soper and Ben Brody, Bloomberg, September 11, 2019

Amazon Has Ceded Control of Its Site. The Result: Thousands of Banned, Unsafe or Mislabeled Products,” by Alexandra Berzon, Shane Shifflett and Justin Scheck, WSJ, August 23, 2019

Amazon ‘Brushing’ Scam Indicates a Serious Problem for Victims,” BBB, August 16, 2019

Why Amazon pays warehouse employees to tweet about their jobs: It’s part of the e-commerce giant’s ongoing public relations campaign to quash unions and rewrite the narrative around its workforce.” By Rani Molla, ReCode, August 8, 2019

Amazon Is Coaching Cops on How to Obtain Surveillance Footage Without a Warrant,” by Caroline Haskins, Vice, August 5, 2019

Amazon Squeezes Sellers That Offer Better Prices on Walmart,” by Spencer Soper, Bloomberg, August 5, 2019

Amazon drivers part of $10 million theft ring, FBI says“, NBC News, August 1, 2019

Amazon Told Police It Has Partnered With 200 Law Enforcement Agencies,” by Caroline Haskins, Vice, July 29, 2019

Cord-cutters beware: Amazon’s TV antenna listings are rife with dubious claims,” by Jared Newman, TechHive, July 22, 2019

I Worked at an Amazon Fulfillment Center; They Treat Workers Like Robots,” by Emily Guendelsberger, TIME, July 18, 2019

Why Is Amazon Blocking Reviews Of The No. 1 Best-Selling ‘Justice On Trial?’” by Sean Davis, The Federalist, July 11, 2019

Road-tripping with the Amazon nomads: To stock Amazon’s shelves, merchants travel the backroads of America in search of rare soap and coveted toys,” by Josh Dzieza, The Verge, July 10, 2019

College student was late returning a textbook to Amazon, so the company took $3,800 from her dad,” by William Bender, The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 9, 2019

Amazon can be held liable for third-party seller products: U.S. appeals court,” by Brendan Pierson, Reuters, July 3, 2019

Amazon Is Watching: The Internet giant is wiring homes, neighborhoods, and cities with cameras and microphones, and powering the nation’s intelligence services. Are we sure we can trust it?” by Will Oremus, Medium, June 27, 2019

I Was Called A KKK Member For Asking Amazon To Support Ideological Diversity,” by Justin Danhof, June 24, 2019

Amazon Is Poised to Unleash a Long-Feared Purge of Small Suppliers,” by Spencer Soper, Bloomberg, May 28, 2019

Why Some Merchants Are Avoiding Amazon,” by Kiri Masters, Forbes, May 22, 2019

Amazon hit by extensive fraud with hackers siphoning merchant funds,” by Bloomberg, The Mercury News, May 8, 2019

Amazon accused of using Echo Dot Kids to illegally collect data on children,” by Craig Timberg, The Washington Post, May 8, 2019

When Your Amazon Purchase Explodes,” by Alana Semuels, The Atlantic, April 30, 2019

5-star phonies: Inside the fake Amazon review complex,” by Zachary Crockett, The Hustle, April 13, 2019

Don’t Just ‘Buy Now’! When Shopping on Amazon, You Need to Pay Attention,” by Katherine Bindley, The Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2019

What is Amazon?,” by Zack Kanter, March 13, 2019

Amazon Lobbied More Government Entities Than Any Other Public U.S. Company Last Year,” by Renae Reints, Fortune, March 13, 2019

Where does a tip to an Amazon driver go? In some cases, toward the driver’s base pay,” by Johana Bhuiyan, LA Times, Feb. 7, 2019

Amazon has finally admitted to investors that it has a counterfeit problem,” by Marc Bain, Quartz, February 5, 2019

How to Lose Tens of Thousands of Dollars on Amazon,” by Alana Semuels, The Atlantic, Jan. 2, 2019

Is It Really Five Stars? How to Spot Fake Amazon Reviews,” by Joanna Stern, WSJ, Dec. 20, 2018

Amazon Prime is getting worse, and it’s making me question the nature of reality,” by Mark Wilson, FastCompany, Dec. 19, 2018

Prime and Punishment: Dirty Dealing in the $175 Billion Amazon Marketplace,” by Josh Dzieza, The Verge, Dec. 19, 2018

Amazon Announces 2019 Fee Changes for Sellers,” by Ina Steiner, eCommerce Bytes, December 19, 2018

VIDEO: “How Scammers in China Manipulate Amazon,” by Jon Emont, WSJ, December 17, 2018

Amazon Targets Unprofitable Items, With a Sharper Focus on the Bottom Line,” by By Laura Stevens, Sharon Terlep and Annie Gasparro, WSJ, December 16, 2018

Amazon ran a sting to root out counterfeit textbooks, but some small sellers say they were unfairly targeted,” by Ari Levy, CNBC, December 13, 2018

An Amazon revolt could be brewing as the tech giant exerts more control over brands,” by Jason Del Rey, ReCode, November 29, 2018

New Parents Complain Amazon Baby-Registry Ads Are Deceptive,” by By Rolfe Winkler and Laura Stevens, WSJ, Nov. 28, 2018

The Caesar Of The Amazon Jungle,” by Rod Dreher, TAC, November 15, 2018

Amazon’s Golden Fleecing,” by The WSJ Editorial Board, Nov. 14, 2018

Amazon’s Great HQ2 Swindle,” by Daniel Kishi, TAC, November 13, 2018

Amazon’s HQ2 was a con, not a contest,” by Eric Johnson, ReCode, November 9, 2018

Amazon’s own published books are quietly taking over the site,” by Thu-Huong Ha, Quartz, October 26, 2018

Amazon Investigates Employees Leaking Data for Bribes – Employees, through intermediaries, are offering internal data to help merchants increase their sales on the website, WSJ, September 16, 2018

Amazon is investigating claims that employees deleted reviews and sold sales data to sellers, by Andrew Liptak, The Verge, September 16, 2018

Markets in everything, Marginal Revolution, September 17, 2018

Amazon’s Antitrust Antagonist Has a Breakthrough Idea,” by David Streitfeld, NYT, September 7, 2018

Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it. I regretted it. – Duluth News, Dec. 17, 2017

Amazon demonetizes conservative website (us), Legal Insurrection, May 23, 2018

IBPA’s Fall 2017 Update on the Amazon Buy Button Policy ChangeIBPA, Oct. 5, 2017

How Sellers Trick Amazon to Boost Sales, WSJ July 28, 2018 (On MorningStar)

On Amazon, Fake Products Plague Smaller Brands, WSJ, July 19, 2018

To cash in on Kindle Unlimited, a cabal of authors gamed Amazon’s algorithm, July 16, 2018, The Verge

Just How Bad Is the Fake Reviews Issue on Amazon? Here’s an In Depth Example, reddit, June 2018

FakeSpot – Tired of fake reviews?

Amazon Says More Than a Million U.S. Small Businesses Sell on Its Site, WSJ, May 3, 2018

Update On My Stolen Book (and Job) on Amazon, ExtremeTech, April 25, 2018

Why All My Books Are Now Free (aka A Lesson in Amazon Scams and Money Laundering), Meb Faber Research, April 18, 2018

Someone Stole My Entire Book (and My Job) and Is Selling It On Amazon, ExtremeTech, April 13, 2018

The Book Thief, Amazon Edition, WSJ, Feb 26, 2018

How an Amazon Self-Published Book May Be the Latest Money Laundering Scam, Fortune, Feb 23, 2018

Amazon warning: Beware of deliveries you didn’t order, Clark Howard, Feb 23, 2018

Going Off-Topic – Amazon made me a victim of tax fraud & potential money laundering and I want answers!, CTRMCenter, Feb. 23, 2018

Money Laundering Via Author Impersonation on Amazon? Brian Krebs, Feb. 20, 2018

Why Amazon Is Raising Third Party Seller Fees for Apparel & Select Categories,” by Tara Johnson, CPCStrategy, January 23, 2018

Amazon tries to snuff out a bunch of Kindle publishing scams, CNet, Sept. 7, 2017

Amazon Scams On The Rise As Fraudulent Sellers Run Amok And Profit Big, Forbes, Jan. 2, 2017

Amazon – Amazon report listing abuse or violation

Amazon- Claim Copyright Infringement

email: copyright@amazon.com

Amazon Search Inside – Look Inside

email: insidethebook-submission@amazon.com
sitb-pdf-team@amazon.com

Kindle Direct Publishing KDP
https://kdp.amazon.com/

Author Central
https://www.amazon.com/author/tcn

https://1cr.us/9-2/amazon-den-of-thieves/

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Strong Towns

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“Urban Renewal” and The Kakistocracy


Adventures in Buffaloland – Episode 1 – Tim Tielman in Niagara Square, downtown Buffalo

Urban renewal was the lethal marriage of progressive urban engineering with what Tim [Tielman] calls the “kakistocracy“—thieves who justify their crimes against place in the canting and condescending language of efficiency and inevitability.

New York’s Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, while being driven through urban-renewal-decimated Auburn, New York, “In the 1950s, with a progressive government and newspaper, you got into urban renewal and destroyed everything of value in your town. If you’d had a reactionary newspaper and a grumpy mayor, you might still have it.” Try to imagine Chuck Schumer or Kirsten Gillibrand saying something one-ten-thousandth as perceptive. (Confirming Moynihan, the largest American city to reject urban renewal funding was Salt Lake City, whose voters, following the lead of their delightfully cranky libertarian Mayor J. Bracken Lee, rejected the federal bulldozer in 1965 by a vote of 29,119 to 4,900.)

Moynihan had a soft spot for Buffalo, probably because it was filled with the ethnic Catholics who claimed his heart, if not always his head. His support was critical in saving Louis Sullivan’s terra cotta-ornamented Guaranty Building (1896) from senseless demolition. (In a 1961 essay in Commentary, Moynihan called Buffalo “a big, ugly, turbulent city.” I once asked him if that description caused any problems in his campaigns. He looked at me incredulously. “How many people in Buffalo do you think read Commentary?”)

Tielman says, “Absent the federal and state money, none of this devastation occurs in Buffalo or Niagara Falls.” He elaborates: “Where did this free money go? To the existing power structure”—whose acts of destruction were facilitated, I regret to say, by urban Catholic mayors, who sacrificed significant portions of their cities to the Greatest Generation’s Greatest God: Progress.

. . .

[T]he Canal District [in Buffalo] is now threatened by every parent’s nightmare: a children’s museum, a $27 million project, jointly funded by a state development corporation and corporate donors, with the city offering a $1-a-year lease for forty years.

Tim is not enthusiastic. “Did you know Buffalo is the largest city in the country without a children’s museum?” he asks in mock outrage. “We can’t let that stand!” More seriously, he notes that “children’s museums attract fewer people than cemeteries,” and that this one “has nothing to do with the Canal District—it could be anywhere.” (It could be anywhere—what an apposite caption for so many of the edifices that deface our cities: This could be anywhere.)

. . .

Jane Jacobs occupies the catbird seat on Tim’s bookshelf. He rhapsodizes Jacobsian over pre-urban renewal Buffalo, which was “dense with buildings and crowded sidewalks, where one could wander block upon block, past shop after shop, restaurant after restaurant, office building after hotel, without apparent end. Buffalo was a beehive, where all of life’s necessities, pleasures, and luxuries could be had within the square mile of its core.”

Its demolition was not the work of some invisible hand or inscrutable force but rather, in Tielman’s phrase, “social engineers” who destroyed the essence of the city.

. . .

Next time you’re in Buffalo—and you really ought to visit; the Buffalos and Lowells and Pittsburghs are so much better for the soul than Orlando or Myrtle Beach—take one of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo‘s open-air bus tours.

The Real Buffalo Rises: How one American city lost, and then reclaimed its destiny.


Adventures in Buffaloland – Episode 2 – Tim Tielman visits two office buildings in Buffalo


Adventures in Buffaloland – Episode 4 – St. Paul’s Cathedral and Sullivan’s Guaranty Building<

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“Politics is unalloyed idiocy”

[O]ne of the reasons why I so thoroughly detest politics: it insults my intelligence. Even overlooking all of its many other faults, politics remains insufferable because it’s so completely imbecilic. It traffics in assertions that are either hilariously false or utterly meaningless. Politicians and their operatives then expect those of us on the receiving end of their moronic assertions not only to believe these assertions to be true, but also to marvel at the amazingness of the politicians who, we are assured, regularly perform the unbelievable feats described by the assertions.

Politics is unalloyed idiocy treated even by – indeed, especially by – the intelligentsia as if it is a solemn and serious undertaking. But it’s not. Politics is overwhelmingly the domain of megalomaniacal frauds, liars, and con artists.

Politics – Don Boudreaux

For too many, politics and the the state are their idols.

Statolatry. Ozymandias.

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“Tysons Corner, the Bubble Inside the Beltway Bubble”

Tysons [Corner, in McLean, VA] is an easy target for anger, with its combination of ostentatious wealth and its utter lack of coherent planning or design. It is the very archetype of ugly American sprawl: neither truly suburban, in which a leisurely drive or stroll down a sidewalk is at least in theory possible, nor truly urban, with all of the cheek-by-jowl rough-and-tumble life and character of a city. Tysons Corner instead consists of miles of grim concrete big-box stores, parking garages, flashy towers, garish office blocks, and decaying mid-century kitsch, all lining an expanse of 10-lane expressways that will kill you instantly if you crane your neck toward the dismal view for more than a second. It is the visual equivalent of putting a Beethoven symphony and a Metallica concert in a blender and piecing them back together at random.

But what should draw more attention is the fact that the greater Washington area now boasts one of the highest concentrations of wealth anywhere in the United States, much thanks to the ginormous federal bureaucracy and National Security State which has grown exponentially since the 9/11 attacks. As of 2015, fully half of the top 10 highest-income counties in the nation are in Maryland and Virginia, within an hour of the capital. There are probably as many Teslas in Fairfax County as there are in Silicon Valley.

None of this, of course, negates the reality that there is plenty of poverty, some of it desperate, right in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. For example, there are the inner-ring suburbs of southern Maryland, largely decaying time-capsules of the 1950s which might be largely abandoned if not for people left behind by the 2008 financial crisis, low-wage workers who likely spend their days servicing their wealthy neighbors, and a deluge of poor immigrants, not all of them legal. These pockets of poverty only make the bloat and waste of the government—and its symbiosis with the sprawling, ever-increasing network of contractors, consultants, lawyers, and establishment media organs—more shameful. It is not as if these counties are rich through a roll of the dice: it is rather through what James Howard Kunstler calls “asset-stripping”—the matrix of financialization, offshoring, and an ever-increasing “Deep State” bureaucracy.

If the government should ever shrink, if the financial system should ever truly collapse, or if the military industrial complex stopped turning, this whole region would be depopulated. The “Alexandria” of The Walking Dead might prove prophetic. Without the steady flow of federal dollars, the 10-lane superhighways, luxury apartment towers, those kitschy mid-century diners, not to mention most of Loudoun and Clarke counties, would make Detroit look like a boomtown.

Tysons Corner, the Bubble Inside the Beltway Bubble

Ozymandias

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Resistance….

[W]hat bothers most Americans is politics now defined as nonstop sermonizing in which a rich athlete, a Pajama Boy activist, a demagogic politician, or a quarter-educated billionaire movie star lectures less fortunate Americans on the various deplorable racists, sexists, homophobes, and Islamophobes among them.

There is a populist and growing resistance to the Orwellian idea that free speech is hate speech, that equality of opportunity is defined only by equality of result, and that identity politics determines the degree of government-mandated penance and reparations.

Sometimes individual voices of this far-growing resistance movement write credos aimed at the Google-mandated reeducation seminars. Sometimes a few faculty members simply do not show up at their required university diversity-indoctrination workshops.

Sometimes, millions of viewers flip the channel when jocks at ESPN lecture as if they were wizened philosophers.

Sometimes when multimillionaire athletes claim victimhood and won’t stand for the national anthem, viewers of NFL games never view again. And sometimes they vote for flawed candidates like Donald Trump, whose virtue of saying almost anything to anyone at any time is considered a sort of harsh medicine that targets the malady of identity-driven political correctness, a chemotherapy to stop metastasizing malignancy.

This rather different resistance is tired of Warsaw Pact–like drabness in which, like dead souls, they must virtue-signal one reality while in their private minds resisting the groupthink. Cynicism abounds, as it always does in egalitarian utopias like the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Venezuela, or Cuba, because the Animal Farm commandments on the barn wall are pro forma, not reflections of revolutionary zeal.

The diversity trainers who contract with universities to profit from their captive audiences are in their second and third generations of treating self-created angst. Al Sharpton and Maxine Waters are about as radical as Amway sales people. The Southern Poverty Law Center issues “hate maps” that include Christian organizations — while it gins up millions of dollars in donations, some of which are offshored to Caribbean tax havens to ensure six-figure salaries to lawyers who can find few victims of hate and fewer hate groups to litigate against on behalf of the Southern impoverished.

Two Resistances

Many have made politics their idol. Politics is a false god. As is statolatry.

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