Friday, December 26, 2014

A Yuletide Meditation - The Miracle of Markets



At this season of “Peace on Earth, goodwill towards men” it is fitting to reflect upon the most effective engine for peaceful cooperation, learning, discovery, innovation, material progress and social toleration known to mankind.  That is the voluntary and unhampered exchange of goods and services; the free market. 

The axiom that "When goods don't cross borders, armies will," says it all. 

But rather than rehash the pronouncements of deceased economists, I want to share a real life example that I am living through today.  As my friends and blog followers know, I am at a career crossroads exploring alternate paths.  These paths include seeking another job in my existing career discipline, opening a marketing /media consultancy and evaluating business opportunities outside of my field.

One of these opportunities involves a technology that has the potential to make the world a better place while delivering a handsome payout to its inventor and those who successfully market it.  If the rest of this blog seems a bit much like a commercial, so be it.  I’m not ashamed to shill for something that produces social good while making a buck or two for me.

The product is called RD Fresh. It is a mixture of 100% natural and harmless minerals.  While not a very new product, it is still obscure has been under marketed.  It was created by a chef not marketing and sales types.   I have joined with some entrepreneurs to grow market penetration.  


When placed in a refrigerator, RD Fresh does two simple things:

1.       It absorbs moisture thereby:
a.       Reducing spoilage, keeping stored foods fresher for longer
b.      Enabling refrigeration units to run more efficiently, cutting back energy consumption and equipment wear out
2.       Eliminates refrigerator odors making food taste better

Let’s focus on items 1a and 1b.  At present, RD Fresh is intended for the professional food service market although a home use version (Veggie Fresh) exists.  Let’s consider what happens when restaurants reduce food spoilage and energy costs.

The USDA and other independent sources estimate that 25%-30% of food in the U.S. gets wasted and thrown away due to spoilage.  The University of Arizona calculates that the dollar value of wasted food in grocery and restaurant channels exceeds $30 billion dollars annually.

Therefore, for a small restaurant, a $25 monthly investment can the save the business a couple of hundred dollars on spoiled food costs.  This adds up to $2,000 to $3,000 net savings per year.  Here is where economic calculation kicks in.

The owners of that restaurant can choose among three things to do with the savings:

1.       Increase their own take home pay – spend it on themselves and increase their personal satisfaction
2.       Reinvest in the business and create a better, more competitive restaurant
3.       Invest the savings in outside opportunities

In all three instances, this savings on prevented waste spurs additional economic activity, which helps to create jobs and incomes for others.

Similarly, the improvement in refrigerator performance will reduce energy costs.  The reinvestment options on energy savings are the same as above and are additive to them.

Now multiply this by a thousand or a million restaurants, food stores, hospital, school and military cafeterias.  The result is millions of new investments and consumer spending money flowing back into the economy.   This crates new jobs and new opportunities.

Reducing food waste and lowering energy consumption has another important benefit.   This can reduce the aggregated demand for both food and energy thereby making each more affordable for the disadvantaged and most vulnerable members of society.

All of this would accomplished without one single arm being twisted, shot fired, bill passed, tax levied or subsidy granted by government.  Certainly, RD Fresh is not the miracle cure that will suddenly transform Earth back into Eden.  However, there are countless RD Fresh type stories out there.  Inventors, innovators, entrepreneurs and investors, each making life a smidge better if given the chance.  And if they fail’ so be it.  Their idea wasn’t as good as they thought it was.  The market decides.

All major faith traditions encourage charity and almsgiving.  There will always be people who legitimately cannot help themselves, who cannot compete in the marketplace.  It is good for our culture and our souls to voluntarily help those in real need.

However the role of business in a free market is to make the world a little better at a time with each and every transaction between buyer and seller.

Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs, was chided for his lack of conspicuous philanthropy.  Yet for over 30 years he made the world a better place.  He made it possible for people access powerful computers in their homes.  In 2011, Dan Pallotta wrote in the Harvard Business Review:

“Without Steve Jobs we’d be years away from a user-friendly mechanism for getting digital music without stealing it, which means we’d still be producing hundreds of millions of CDs with plastic cases.

We’d still be waiting for a cell phone on which we could actually read e-mail and surf the web. “We” includes students, doctors, nurses, aid workers, charity leaders, social workers, and so on. It helps the blind read text and identify currency. It helps physicians improve their performance and surgeons improve their practice. It even helps charities raise money.

We’d be a decade or more away from the iPad, which has ushered in an era of reading electronically that promises to save a Sherwood Forest worth of trees and all of the energy associated with trucking them around. That’s just the beginning. Doctors are using the iPad to improve healthcare. It’s being used to lessen the symptoms of autism, to improve kids’ creativity, and to revolutionize medical training.

We would be without video conferencing for the masses that actually works. Computers that don’t keep crashing. Who can estimate the value of the wasted time that didn’t get wasted?

We would be without the 34,000 full-time jobs Apple has created, just within Apple, not to mention all of the manufacturing jobs it has created for those who would otherwise live in poverty.
We would be without the wealth it has created for millions of Americans who have invested in the company.”
And that’s the miracle of the market.  Peace on Earth, goodwill towards men.


Those interested representing RD Fresh or using in their kitchen can reach me at: jsiano@tpnaturals.com .

Related Posts:

Donald, Adam, Milton and Will
Capitalism for B Students

 

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"Half the people are stoned and the other half are waiting for the next election.
Half the people are drowned and the other half are swimming in the wrong direction." 
- Paul Simon

Friday, December 12, 2014

David, Absalom, Prosecutors and Cops



Amnon, son of the Biblical King David, raped and disgraced his half-sister and David’s daughter Tamar.  In Levitical law, the punishment for this crime was clear.  Amnon was to be “cut off” from his people – disowned, exiled, sent away.

However, David failed to punish Amnon because he had a soft spot in his heart for his son.  Enraged by his father’s miscarriage of justice, Tamar’s brother, Absalom took matters into his own hands and killed Amnon.  Once again, David neglected his duty to enforce the law; this time on Absalom for murder.  In turn, Absalom grew contemptuous of his father’s weakness and dereliction of duty.  Therefore, he rebelled against David, plunging the kingdom into civil war and chaos.

This past month, America has seen grand juries fail to hand down indictments in two high profile cases, plunging our cities into chaos and violence.  Was justice ill served?

In a recent Coffee and Markets podcast, conservative attorney Leon Wolf explained the grand jury process.  Grand juries are not trials.  They are investigations led by prosecutors.  Their purpose is to obtain an indictment with the blessing of the community as represented by the jurors.  A prosecutor typically would not convene a grand jury unless he wanted to get an indictment.  No defense is presented.  All that the jury needs to decide is that enough evidence exists to suspect that a crime may have been committed and that a full and open public trial is warranted.  Normally the prosecution’s success is about 95%.

If the prosecutor’s purpose is to bring an indictment, the standard of evidence is so low and the success rate is high, it begs the question as to why no indictments were returned in the cases of either Michael Brown or Eric Garner.  After all, there were dead men on the street and reasonable evidence to suspect at least police malfeasance.

Many Americans believe the reason to be race; that a White cop can shoot an unarmed Black man with impunity.  However, in Seattle a white cop punched a white woman in the face while she was handcuffed in the back of his squad card.  Once again the officer escaped indictment.

I will not deny that racism exists in America and some people are racist.  However, I do not believe that White cops are on the hunt for Black men.  Something else is at work here.

In a New Republic article, Brian Beutler, blames a too cozy relationship between prosecutors and police.  Beutler hypothesizes that “prosecutors and police departments are too tightly linked for due process to mean anything”.  Prosecutors depend on friendly and cooperative relationships with local police in order to get their jobs done.  Because of this he asserts that it “isn’t the quantity or quality evidence” that prosecutors have at their disposal that results in botched indictment.  Rather it is that officials “so freely disregard it”.

Who is to say that in any of the aforementioned cases that the prosecutors deliberately tanked the indictment the indictment process?  However, the apparent consistency of favorable outcomes for the police is enough to raise eyebrows. 

The story of David and Absalom reveals no change in the human condition in the past 3,000 years.  When people sense that justice is denied then anger, rage, violence and chaos are inevitable.  When those who are duty bound to uphold the law place themselves above it, there is lawlessness.

Two plausible suggestions have been forward to recuse local prosecutors from cases involving their police force partners.  There may be others.  The first to appoint special independent prosecutors.  The other is to defer to state attorneys general.  Neither are beholden to local police departments.

In any event, something needs to be done.  When people lose confidence in law enforcement we all become less safe.

Related Posts:

Who You Gonna Call?
The Wisdom Of The Ancients

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"Half the people are stoned and the other half are waiting for the next election.
Half the people are drowned and the other half are swimming in the wrong direction."  
- Paul Simon

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Beware of the White Democrats




Back when the Trayvon Martin case was the outrage du jour, the media, most notably CNN and the New York Times, saw fit to identify his shooter, George Zimmerman, as a “white Hispanic”.   Was this to brand Zimmerman as some sort second rate, inferior type of Latino?  Was it to lump him in with what Dr. Leonard Jeffries would call the “ice people” who are "pathological," "dirty," "dastardly, devilish folks"?

Who’s to say?

However in the spirit of fairness and consistency, let the record show that not only is St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch who handled the Michael Brown investigation a Democrat, he is, like George Zimmerman, a White Democrat.

People of color, fear the White Democrats.  I do.

White Democrats were the party of slavery.

Following slavery, White Democrats were the party of the Klan, lynchings and Jim Crow.

White  Democrats resisted the Civil Rights Bill and old LBJ had to call on Republicans to get it passed.

White Democrats were the patrons of Organized Labor, who systematically excluded African Americans from high paying jobs for generations.

White Democrats illegally interred thousands of loyal, innocent and law abiding Japanese American during the Second World War.

Contemporary White Democrats like to say that they have put their raciest past behind them.  Really?


"I have to tell you that there has been systematic racism, institutionally in state government for decades, including my own state party. So what we are looking at right now is a symptom of racism that has been swept under the rug for decades. And I am so glad now that the truth is out, and I'm very grateful to your network for telling the truth in reporting the truth of what's going to go down in the coming days."
"As it was said earlier today, and because of the systematic racism that we have in our state government, and our state party, and we do not bring the truth to bear, then we will not recover from what we are going on.


In order to demonstrate that to white middle class voters that he was not beholden to Black interests, White Democrat Presidential candidate, Bill Clinton, deliberately picked a fight with rap artist Sistah Souljah.  In doing so, Clinton embarrassed Jesse Jackson at his own Rainbow Coalition convention in 1992.  Clinton calculated, cynically and correctly that Black voters, including Jackson himself, would get over it and fall in line with whomever the Democrats nominated.


To enhance her street cred among minorities and garner special consideration from schools and employers, White Democrat, Senator Elizabeth Warren falsely asserted that she was of Native American ancestry for years. 

VP & WD Joe Biden:  Explaining why schools in Iowa are performing better than those in Washington, D.C., Biden told the Washington Post, “There’s less than one percent of the population of Iowa that is African American. There is probably less than four of five percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you’re dealing with.”  What’s up with that?  What’s that supposed to mean?

Modern WDs, Chris Matthews gushed over then candidate Barack Obama as he came off as damn near White in his speech and mannerisms. 

Matthews:  “You know I was trying to think about who he was tonight and it's interesting... he is post-racial by all appearances. You know I forgot he was black tonight for an hour.”

Reid: a "light skinned" African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one"

Frederick Douglass was asked what America should do for its former slaves.  He answer was to do nothing but set them free.  Any additional meddling would only cause them more misery.

What shall be done with the four million slaves if they are emancipated? ... What shall be done with them? Our answer is, do nothing with them; mind your business, and let them mind theirs. You’re doing with them is their greatest misfortune. They have been undone by your doings, and all they now ask, and really have need of at your hands, is just to let them alone. They suffer by every interference, and succeed best by being let alone.

White Democrats ignored Douglass’ advice.  In doing so they have created a patronage class that is beholden to them and dependent upon the state “benevolence” for food, shelter, healthcare, protection, education, etc., etc., etc.

One White Democrat, Daniel Patrick Moynihan broke ranks with his clan, pointing out how state paternalism was destroying Black families, thereby condemning generations to come to lives of fatherlessness, poverty, criminality and despair.  He prophesied that it was a cancer that would only grow worse and more debilitating over time.  He was correct, and for speaking the truth he was pilloried by his peers.

Earlier this year, Wall Street Journal reporter and African American, Jason Riley, called upon America to heed Douglass’ wisdom and to correct that errors that Moynihan saw.  In his new book, Please Stop Helping Us:  How Liberals Make It Harder For Blacks To Succeed, Riley methodically dissects the welfare, exposing how it destroys Black self-determination and poisons the culture.


Be it well-meaning but misguided help or a cruel plot to breed dependency, African Americans need to free themselves from the economic and political patrimony of White Democrats.  This is not a call to vote Republican, not at all.  It is a call to opt for the freedom, liberty and independence that Frederick Douglass demanded over a century and a half ago.

Liberty and reason know no race.  They are the essential condition for lasting peace and prosperity.

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Poking Holes In the “Anti-War” Left

 

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"Half the people are stoned and the other half are waiting for the next election.
Half the people are drowned and the other half are swimming in the wrong direction."  
- Paul Simon

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Clinton is no racial healer BY SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN

SALON | CONTACT US | ARCHIVED ARTICLES | TABLE TALK


Clinton is no racial healer

The president likes to position himself as a model of racial enlightenment. In fact, he's a hypocrite who played the race card to win election -- and has done nothing to help struggling Americans, black or white.

BY SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN
whatever else Bill Clinton has lacked as president, he has never wanted for calumnies: he's been branded a sex addict, a liar, a creeping socialist on health care, a closet reactionary on welfare.
Through the entire barrage, however, one facet of Clinton's character has enjoyed nearly uniform admiration. As a child of the Jim Crow South who transcended its dogma of segregation, he is perceived as the ideal healer of America's continuing racial rift. The ease and camaraderie he displays in the pulpits of black churches is genuine.

Just days ago in Salon, Clinton's fellow Southerner and former handler James Carville hailed him as "without doubt the wisest and bravest white man I've ever known" on matters of race.

Now, more than halfway through a presidency undefined by any single achievement, Clinton seeks to seal his place in history by reconciling the races through honest, engaged dialogue. This campaign for posterity's favor -- orchestrated out of the White House -- began with Clinton's speech at the Shea Stadium ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's first game in the major leagues. Noting in his address that "we've been trying to catch up ever since," the president served notice he would be returning to the topic of race frequently.

Sadly, Clinton has shown himself to be just as hypocritical on this issue as on, say, middle-class tax cuts. And the inconsistency owes to the same root cause: the obsession with winning election. That was nowhere more clear than during the 1992 campaign, when Clinton showed he could play the race card with expertise.

It started in the weeks leading up to the New Hampshire primary. Clinton's campaign was reeling from disclosure of his alleged affair with Gennifer Flowers. Paul Tsongas was providing unexpected competition. Yet in the midst of such pressures, Clinton flew back to Arkansas to preside over the execution of a convicted murderer named Ricky Lee Rector.

True, Clinton had always favored capital punishment. And true, Rector had slain two men 11 years earlier. But after shooting them, he had turned the weapon on himself. As political reporter John Wordock of Bloomberg Business News recounted in his masterful study of race, poverty, and the 1992 campaign, "Where The Trail Didn't Go," the bungled suicide had doctors scraping bullet fragments from Rector's brain, leaving him essentially "lobotomized." One of Rector's lawyers, Wordock noted, personally informed Clinton of the convict's condition to try to stave off execution.
Too late. Rector, dispatched by lethal injection, could not be exploited against Clinton's campaign as the black felon Willie Horton had been against Michael Dukakis by George Bush in 1988. Clinton, the New Democrat, would not let himself look similarly soft on crime.

Clinton's 1992 campaign was largely guided by Stanley Greenberg's polls and focus groups of working-class white ethnics in Macomb County, Mich. Those studies revealed that such swing voters saw the Democratic Party as beholden to blacks, and saw blacks, in turn, as the embodiment of social chaos. And Willie Horton had first been turned into a political symbol not by Bush but by the 1988 Democratic presidential contender who became Clinton's running mate in 1992 -- Al Gore.
A few months after Rector's execution, and only six weeks after the devastating Los Angeles riot, Clinton again performed a brilliant bit of political theater to demonstrate his independence from black interests. During an appearance before the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition, Clinton made a startling rebuke of Jackson for having included the controversial rapper Sistah Souljah in a coalition panel.

"Her comments before and after Los Angeles were filled with a kind of hatred that you do not honor today and tonight," Clinton said. "Just listen to this, what she said. She told the Washington Post about a month ago, and I quote, 'If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people? ... So if you're a gang member and you would normally be killing somebody, why not kill a white person.'"

But Clinton took the quote totally -- and one must assume deliberately -- out of context. In the offending interview, Sistah Souljah had been asked to speculate as to why feuding black gangs in South Central had struck a truce during and after the riot. Her answer reflected her surmise as to what the Bloods and the Crips were thinking. Such a nicety was lost on the president and all those who applauded his apparently spontaneous outburst.

In fact, there was nothing spontaneous about it. The Clinton campaign had planned the confrontation to show Clinton's independence -- not from an obscure rap singer but from Jesse Jackson, the latter-day incarnation of what in the 1960s was routinely referred to as a "black militant."

The strategy worked. Jackson's profile in the 1992 convention and the fall campaign was the lowest in a decade. Clinton captured enough votes from places like Macomb County to triumph in a three-way race. And once in office, with Ricky Lee Rector and Sistah Souljah consigned to the footnotes of history, Clinton flourished his bona fides as a racial mediator. Few commentators doubted them, even as he was signing the punitive welfare bill during the 1996 campaign.

But it was Jackson, released from political quarantine one night during the 1996 Democratic convention in Chicago, who offered a real vision of transracial politics. He spoke of the class-based economic issues he had propounded in his own bids for the presidency. He reminded the self-satisfied audience that it was dancing the Macarena on the edge of the vast, largely black West Side slums, which not so long ago had throbbed with tens of thousands of jobs at Sears, Western Electric and other businesses -- all of them by now relocated or closed.

These people, too, along with the white "Reagan Democrats" of Macomb County, were supposed to have benefited from Bill Clinton's pledge in 1992 to restore "good jobs at good wages" for the American working and lower classes. But as any informed American knows -- and the recent books by Dick Morris and Robert Reich confirm in grim detail -- Clinton has turned his back on the poor and blue-collar families who have been suffering from America's hidden Depression for the past quarter-century.

It is dispiriting enough to recognize the chasm between the soothing rhetoric on race Clinton now offers and the cunning use of polarization he practiced to first gain the presidency. Worse still is the realization that the issues he should tackle in order to heal Americans of all races have by all available evidence been abandoned.

April 25, 1997
Samuel G. Freedman is the author of "The Inheritance: How Three Families and America Moved from Roosevelt to Reagan and Beyond" (Simon & Schuster), a finalist for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize. He is also the author of "Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church" (HarperCollins, 1994). He is a frequent contributor to Salon.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Liberty Uber Alles



“A man’s home is his castle”.  In today’s politically correct and gender inclusive society we might say “A person’s home is his/her castle”. Whatever.

The formal name for this axiom is the Castle Doctrine.  It derives from English Common Law and is the basis for both the Third and Fourth Amendments in the Bill of Rights.   These protect Americans in their places of residence.  The British honored and respected the inviolability private living spaces.

"The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail; its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storm may enter; the rain may enter; but the King of England cannot enter - all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!"
William Pitt 1st Earl of Chatham
Speech in Parliament against an excise tax on perry and cider – 1763

Our Constitution and the ancient legal traditions that precede it acknowledged the sanctity of the home so much so that the world’s most powerful man cannot enter uninvited.  If that be so, then it should also stand the householder should be able to invite whomever he so chooses into his home and to determine the conditions of entry.

He may throw a pot-luck party and require all who enter to bring a dish.  He may throw a masquerade ball and insist that all guests come in costume.  He may permit his adult children to live in his home but demand that they pay rent or contribute to the payment of bills.  He may allow his kids’ boy/girl-friends to sleep over but not in the same room.  He may forbid alcohol consumption or indoor smoking.  He may respectfully ask those with whom he disagrees to leave.  He may in engage in any sort of erotic escapades that float his boat with one or more consenting adults.

To a limited extent, the protections that an American enjoys in his home are also extended to his motor vehicle.  He is protected from unreasonable search and seizures.  He may allow any consenting adult whom he so chooses to ride as a passenger in his conveyance.

It would seems as plain as day that an owner may invite whomever he pleases to stay in his home or to ride in his car.  One would think.   However, songstress Cyndi Lauper, was dead on in singing that money changes everything.



The emergent sharing economy is under fierce attack from local monopolists and the politicians that protect and profit from them.

The sharing economy empowers everyday people to make a buck from assets that they own that are just lying there doing nothing – things like empty bedrooms and the car sitting in the driveway.  However, rather than posting a handmade sign on community bulletin boards, mobile apps have created and coordinated a marketplace of millions of buyers and sellers.  Airbnb is the leader in the residential space, Uber in ridesharing.


In city after city, cabbies, limo drivers and hoteliers are turning their friends in government to squelch the average guy and gal in the street from competing with them.  The main claim of established licensed operators is that they are subject to regulations and taxes that ride and room sharers bypass.

On the surface this seems like an unfair advantage that the sharing economy players have over their traditional rivals.  However, it is essential to understand that regulation, licenses and fees are only barriers to keep small, underfunded and under-lawyered startups on the sidelines.  They only masquerade as “consumer protection”.

America’s Founding Fathers were students of John Locke who taught that sole purpose of government was to uphold individual liberty by protecting private property.  He wrote:

“The supreme power cannot take from any man any part of his property without his own consent: for the preservation of property being the end of government, and that for which men enter into society.”

By barring average citizens from disposing of the spare rooms in their homes and empty seats in their cars as they see fit, the government nullifies its raison d’etre of defending property rights in order squelch competition for its A-List clientele.

Uber and its drivers, Airbnb and its innkeepers are doing more than making money on underemployed assets.  They are fighting for the essential liberty that America was founded to preserve.  They are defending our little castles from being overrun by crony kings and two-bit tyrants.

Liberty before all!  Liberty above all!  Liberty Uber Alles!

Related Posts:

The Hook Up Truck
Burgers and Bullets
 

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"Half the people are stoned and the other half are waiting for the next election.
Half the people are drowned and the other half are swimming in the wrong direction."  
- Paul Simon