Category Archives: Business

Government Motors (GM) Is Reckless? You Don’t Say!

Business, Free Markets, Government, Law, Welfare

The greater the incursion of government into markets, the less quality control consumers are able to exert over the products they purchase.

GM (Government Motors) has been propped up by “government-backed guarantees,” on the backs of taxpayers. That’s government’s SOP (Standard Operating Procedure).

Government Motors was further inoculated against legal liability by filing for Chapter 11 protection, or bankruptcy.

“Immunity is pure cowardice,” complained a plaintiff. “They are hiding behind bankruptcy.”

You got it. That’s what government-supported bankruptcy did for Government Motors. It conferred “legal immunity from liability for deaths or injuries in accidents that happened before the current company was created out of the government-supported bankruptcy in July 2009. It was left free of old claims and lawsuits and those remained with ‘old GM,’ which holds assets and liabilities that did not go with the ‘new GM.’”

People have to make up their minds, for once and for all. Do they wish to rely on the benevolence of market forces or the malevolence of government force.


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Will Microsoft’s New CEO Kill Surface?

Aesthetics, Business, Internet, Technology, The Zeitgeist

Forbes’s Gene Marks contends that Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s New CEO—whom Marks thinks is way cool because, wait for this, Nadella is a “decade younger than his predecessor and looks young for his age”—has effectively killed the Microsoft Surface.

Let me unpack Marks’ “logic”:

Even though The Surface is “a powerful little laptop, lightweight with a Windows 8 touchscreen and a long battery life”; and though this product is “both tablet and laptop and integrates tightly with other Microsoft applications”—Cool-Because-He’s-Young Nadella is to be hailed as brilliant too for sabotaging the future of a magnificent product. It is alleged that Nadella wishes to end Microsoft’s foray into hardware (Surface), and take the company back to the business of software.

“A Windows First policy,” argues Marks, “was the reason behind products like the Surface.”

If, as I understood this terribly hip article, The Surface is more than the software it runs—why reduce the best Tablet in the business to its bits? What about the “Big Idea”?

Not being a techie, I have no idea if Forbes’s Gene Marks is being plain silly, or if silly is the new norm in the media’s tech coverage. I suspect the two are not mutually exclusive. (“A silly society is a youth-obsessed society.” Youth-obsessed U.S is silly.)

In its hipness, the Forbes article reminds me of that grating, pretentious Cisco ad, in which a female with a deceptively soft voice waffles about the Internet of All Things (WTF?!).

But I guess I’m still from the Book Age. Behold a throwback: a wall-to-wall library, or half of it, as I could not get the entire thing in the frame. Sean made this solid maple thing to my mid-century American, Heywood-Wakefield design specs (more):

Bookcase I


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‘The Deep State’

Barack Obama, Bush, Business, Government, Homeland Security, The State

If possible, disregard the statist, leftist elements of Mike Lofgren’s essay, “Anatomy of the Deep State,” by which I mean Lofgren’s grief over partisan gridlock in Washington (if only), about the GOP’s plot to render the “executive branch powerless” (I wish); his conviction that “Wall Street is the ultimate owner of the Deep State,” and that corruption flow from it, rather than from government outward, to say nothing of his idiotic antipathy for Ayn Rand. Yes, there is a lot of nonsense here.

Concentrate, if you can, not on Lofgren’s analysis, but on his factual insights into what he terms “The Deep State”:

… Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an “establishment.” All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched. Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State’s protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude. [2] …

… The Deep State does not consist of the entire government. It is a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department. I also include the Department of the Treasury because of its jurisdiction over financial flows, its enforcement of international sanctions and its organic symbiosis with Wall Street. All these agencies are coordinated by the Executive Office of the President via the National Security Council. Certain key areas of the judiciary belong to the Deep State, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose actions are mysterious even to most members of Congress. Also included are a handful of vital federal trial courts, such as the Eastern District of Virginia and the Southern District of Manhattan, where sensitive proceedings in national security cases are conducted. The final government component (and possibly last in precedence among the formal branches of government established by the Constitution) is a kind of rump Congress consisting of the congressional leadership and some (but not all) of the members of the defense and intelligence committees. The rest of Congress, normally so fractious and partisan, is mostly only intermittently aware of the Deep State and when required usually submits to a few well-chosen words from the State’s emissaries.

I saw this submissiveness on many occasions. One memorable incident was passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008. This legislation retroactively legalized the Bush administration’s illegal and unconstitutional surveillance first revealed by The New York Times in 2005 and indemnified the telecommunications companies for their cooperation in these acts. The bill passed easily: All that was required was the invocation of the word “terrorism” and most members of Congress responded like iron filings obeying a magnet. …

…the Deep State does not consist only of government agencies. What is euphemistically called “private enterprise” is an integral part of its operations. In a special series in The Washington Post called “Top Secret America,” Dana Priest and William K. Arkin described the scope of the privatized Deep State and the degree to which it has metastasized after the September 11 attacks. There are now 854,000 contract personnel with top-secret clearances — a number greater than that of top-secret-cleared civilian employees of the government. While they work throughout the country and the world, their heavy concentration in and around the Washington suburbs is unmistakable: Since 9/11, 33 facilities for top-secret intelligence have been built or are under construction. Combined, they occupy the floor space of almost three Pentagons — about 17 million square feet. Seventy percent of the intelligence community’s budget goes to paying contracts. And the membrane between government and industry is highly permeable: The Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, is a former executive of Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the government’s largest intelligence contractors. His predecessor as director, Admiral Mike McConnell, is the current vice chairman of the same company; Booz Allen is 99 percent dependent on government business. These contractors now set the political and social tone of Washington, just as they are increasingly setting the direction of the country, but they are doing it quietly, their doings unrecorded in the Congressional Record or the Federal Register, and are rarely subject to congressional hearings.

… Washington is the most important node of the Deep State that has taken over America, but it is not the only one. … The Deep State, based on the twin pillars of national security imperative and corporate hegemony, has until recently seemed unshakable and the latest events may only be a temporary perturbation in its trajectory. But history has a way of toppling the altars of the mighty. …

MORE.

Yes, “The Deep State” is bad, but so are aspects of Mike Lofgren’s analysis of it.


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UPDATED: Banana Obama’s Latest Ex Post Facto Exploits (Idiocracy über alles)

Affirmative Action, Business, Constitution, Healthcare, Law, Taxation, The State

Every self-respecting banana republic, as the US is fast becoming, operates on an unconstitutional ex post facto basis. The victims of its agencies have no way of foreseeing or controlling how vague laws will be bent and charges conjured in the course of seeking desired prosecutorial outcomes.

Wikipedia:

An ex post facto law (Latin for “from after the action” or “after the facts”), also called a retroactive law, is a law that retroactively changes the legal consequences (or status) of actions that were committed, or relationships that existed, before the enactment of the law. In criminal law, it may criminalize actions that were legal when committed; it may aggravate a crime by bringing it into a more severe category than it was in when it was committed; it may change the punishment prescribed for a crime, as by adding new penalties or extending sentences; or it may alter the rules of evidence in order to make conviction for a crime likelier than it would have been when the deed was committed.

“Two clauses in the US Constitution prohibit ex post facto laws: Art 1, § 9 and Art. 1 § 10.” But the Constitution—itself no great shakes for lasting liberty—is dead.

Via the indefatigable Betsy McCaughey, who knows Obamacare backwards, comes foreboding news about President Camacho’s latest ex post facto exploits. These entail new Obamacare regs making it “a requirement that employers attest to the IRS, meaning under penalty of perjury, that they have not reduced the number of employees or cut hours to shield themselves from the extra costs of Obamacare.”

More on these “bone chilling intrusion into your freedom to run your business”:

Monday’s announcement is actually a hush money scheme. Under the Affordable Care Act, as written, employers are penalized a whopping $3,000 each time one of their workers goes onto the Obama exchanges and gets a taxpayer subsidized plan. Now the administration is offering to waive that penalty, provided employers stop complaining. Employers who want to take this deal must attest that they haven’t laid off workers or cut hours to squeeze under the 99-worker threshold.

Here’s where Big Brother starts running your business. The IRS will forgive you if you make changes “because of the sale of a division, changes in the economic marketplace in which the employer operates, terminations of employment for poor performance, or other similar changes.” It’s none of Big Brother’s business why you hire or fire. This is a bone chilling intrusion into your freedom to run your business.

UPDATE: Idiocracy über alles. And how can an affirmatively appointed judiciary, members of who “confuse the Constitution for the Declaration of Independence,” know the meaning and prohibition on mischief-making with the law?

Both federal judge Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen and the one-time newspaper of record confused the Constitution for the Declaration of Independence during their haste to celebrate the overturning of Virginia’s gay marriage ban Thursday night.

“Our Constitution declares that ‘all men’ are created equal. Surely this means all of us,” wrote Allen in a tautological pronouncement that cited a unilateral assertion of sovereignty penned in response to 18th-century British abuses of power, rather than the supreme law governing the U.S.

MORE.


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More Busybody, Know-Nothing, Know-It-All Brownian Motion From Barack

Barack Obama, Business, Free Markets, Labor

He knows very little about his professed field of expertise, the US Constitution. And he knows absolutely nothing about the workings of the free market. These credentials are more than enough to allow the busybody, know-nothing, know-it-all president, Barack Obama, to advise Walmart, Apple, and 300 other amazingly successful enterprises on how to establish what he calls “best practices.”

Barack’s latest Brownian Motion, of course, is code for his real goal: to “prohibit discrimination based on unemployment in companies with more than 15 workers.”

If he can’t get Congress to go along, well, then, with his pen and phone (read executive action), the president will free thee from want. (Here, loud, maniacal laughter is in order: “NHAHAHAHAHAHA!”)

And here is more about the moron’s hiring ideas (which include importing millions of new, low- or no-skill Democratic voters).


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The Blind Spots Of Popular Economic Indices

Business, Economy, Private Property, Regulation

In their methodology, popular economic indices are woefully inadequate, as they take into consideration only a limited number of variables. So while you’ll be risking life, limb and property living in Rwanda, and will struggle with everything from poor infrastructure and limited human capital, to the paucity of potable water and Internet and electrical connectivity—as an entrepreneur, starting a new business there is much easier than in the U.S, in terms of “the number of procedures required, the time spent complying with them and the cost of doing so.”

Via Fox News:

A new study by the World Bank and the International Finance Corp. found that the U.S. ranks well behind countries like Rwanda, Belarus and Azerbaijan in terms of how easy it is for an entrepreneur to start a new business. The U.S. did narrowly beat Uzbekistan, though.
The rankings were included in the organizations’ joint study “Doing Business 2014: Understanding Regulations for Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses.” The annual report, released in October, ranks the relative ease of creating a new business in 189 countries, looking at such measures as the number of procedures required, the time spent complying with them and the cost of doing so, among other factors.
The report found that New Zealand is the easiest place in the world to create a new business. Starting one there requires “one procedure, half a day, (and) less than 1 percent of income per capita and no paid-in minimum capital,” the study noted. New Zealand was followed by Canada, Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong in the top five.
By contrast, the U.S. requires, on average, six procedures, takes five days and requires 1.5 percent of the company’s income per capita.

Still, that it is easier for a start-up to open the business doors in Rwanda, Belarus and Azerbaijan than it is in the U.S. is still a grave indictment of America.

Moreover, and as a friend, the Canadian economist Pierre Lemieux, once pointed out perspicaciously, economic indices ignore a “Century of the State.” “If ‘economic freedom’ is inseparable from the rest of human liberty in a social context (using one’s property to express dissenting opinions, travel, have sex, grow marijuana, store one’s firearms, raise funds from “public” investors, etc.), the freedom indexes are off the mark”:

This explains why some countries ruled by hard tyrannies (as opposed to the soft, Tocquevillian brand we know in the West), where nobody in his right mind would want live except to make a buck as a privileged foreigner or a member the local nomenklatura, make it to the top of the list. Who would want to live in Hong Kong (ranked 1st of 151 countries in the HF/WSJ index), that is, under one of the worst tyrannies on earth, and so much so for its very efficiency? Who would want to be a peasant under other Asian tyrannies like Singapore (ranked 2nd)?

The selective definition of economic freedom also explains why the indexes show growing economic freedom while everybody who lives in the real world must know that the 20th century, rightly described by Mussolini as ‘the century of the state,’ is continuing in the 21st with a vengeance. During the 12 years of the HF/WSJ index, economic freedom is supposed to have increased. For example, over that period, both the U.S. (now ranked 9th) and Canada (ranked 12th) have improved their scores by 11%, while in both countries (and others) the Surveillance State was growing uncontrollably, including on financial markets. In the U.S., so many business executives are going to jail that perhaps repression will have to be outsourced to China.

Thus, the ‘economic freedom’ that is being measured is a rather special animal: it is the freedom to do what is narrowly defined as freedom in the statistics underlying the index. In practice, the freedom indexes encompass some general conditions for economic freedom (like a stable currency, or narrowly defined ‘property rights’), specific government restrictions or controls (on foreign investment, for example), and consequences of state intervention (the informal economy or corruption). And, of course, the weights assigned to the components of the indexes are arbitrary.

I am not saying that such indexes are totally useless. They do regroup variables that are correlated with GDP per capita and its growth, but keep in mind that GDP is a very unreliable construct that reveals basically nothing about the general welfare, and is based on arbitrary value judgments (this is pretty standard welfare economics: see my upcoming article in The Independent Review). The indexes may correlate with the difficulties the businessman will have with local bureaucracies. They may even indicate opportunities for investors to make money in limited contexts, assuming the information has not already been incorporated in prices. The HF/WSJ publication even contains some useful country summaries and international statistics.”
But the freedom indexes have little to do with ‘economic freedom’ as we use the term in politics, economics and philosophy.

Via BAB.


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