When Sarah Palin booked a flight to Europe, the French immediately surrendered.

calendar   Wednesday - August 19, 2020

Follow Me !

One of the benefits of our universally computer driven modern world is package tracking. Mated with theoretically optimized routes and warehousing, we now can get our deliveries much faster than in decades past. For the impatient, most of the deliver services allow you track your boxes or letters step by step as they wend their way in your direction. [ OTOH, this also allows you to watch the Post Office send your stuff all over the country willy-nilly, leave it at distribution centers for days or weeks at a time, and sometimes take days to move something just 7 miles from one center to the next, and then take a full week to deliver it a whole 42 miles away. Sorry, my pet peeve, after recently pulling my hair out when a letter took more than a month to get delivered. Just wait until the whole country tries to vote by mail this November. Guaranteed disaster. ]

Now UPS has brought out “Follow Me”, a real time, self-updating, GPS driven mapping application, that let’s you see the big brown truck driving all over with your package in it. Not sure if this is going to help or hurt, because most people won’t realize that there are 300 other boxes in that truck, and yours is almost guaranteed to be last in line. It was already a bit frustrating just following the data, watching my box go from Florida to Edison NJ in hardly over a day, but then on to Allentown PA, right past my home, and then have to go on to another truck to come back to NJ days later and to get delivered ... later today?  Maybe. “Out for delivery” for 3 days? Oy vey.


Posted by Drew458   United States  on 08/19/2020 at 09:22 AM   
Filed Under: • Big BusinessDaily LifeHigh Tech •  
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calendar   Monday - November 17, 2014


So bmews … whatcha think of this headline?

G20 summit: Cameron promises to fire ‘rocket boosters’ under controversial EU-US TTIP trade deal

Yawn? Really?

OK.  Does anyone (besides LyndonB who will know) have a handle on this thing?  Bet not.


TTIP is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
So far so good? Okay.  Besides some eurocrats, who is behind this deal that might happen?  If it secretly hasn’t already in some form.

It was officially launched by Obama AND … the European Commission President in June of 2013.

So what else makes it controversial?
Well, companies could challenge and ultimately overrule decisions made by elected governments.  Nothing to worry about. Right?

The EC bmews. EC.  A ruling body within the EU. As in, EU!
The European Union.

So then, and cos I do understand I am not the brightest spark on these matters,
something I have banged on about for how long now, is getting closer.

While the story here comes from a left leaning paper, and the comments by readers are generally anti USA, that does not make it less worthy of your attention.  Many of our critics make the claim that America only does that which is in its own best interests.  Well darn don’t that beat all?  And I guess we’re the only people, the only country on the planet, that has any self interest.

Just a heads up guys so ya know what’s in store.  And it is.

I’m not clear on the argument re. foods, the suggestion being that the folks here will import unhealthy food from the USA, where everyone is is grossly overweight. 

I can not imagine what kind of food the ppl here would be lost without. They already have more variety due to imports from Europe and a vast improvement in their own cookery, and much better supermarkets then are found where I’m from in Ca. Especially the German owned markets which btw, are killing the Brit ones on both price and a match on quality often surpassing the home grown.  What I’m trying to say is … the Brits really don’t have any huge or urgent need of imports from the USA.  I do of course, because there are still some things American I have trouble getting if at all. But I’m not starving and not unhappy with what is available.

One thing they do worry about here is their national health being sold off to private American concerns. 

Do a bit of research on this.  You’ll find differing arguments naturally. But I’m a bit narrow in my approach to things.  Pres.Barry is leftish, so are the folks of the EU, big business aside.  That’s what I focused on.  If we do really more serious trade deals with the euros, will we eventually have to sign up to other eu mandated things that just are not a part of American culture?

Critics claim Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership would put the NHS at risk of being sold off to American health companies and lead to lower food standards.

David Cameron has promised to fire “rocket boosters” under a controversial EU-US trade deal that he believes could be worth £10bn to the British economy.

But the Prime Minister admitted that he needed to persuade the public about the merits of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Critics claim the deal would put the NHS at risk of being sold off to American health companies and lead to lower food standards, allowing less healthy US products into the European market.

Mr Cameron dismissed the criticisms as “weak” and any threat to the NHS as “nonsense”, saying: “It’s our NHS, it’s in the public sector, it will stay in the public sector, it will remain free at the point of use.” He insisted the deal could enhance, rather than undermine, “decent and robust” food and environmental standards.

But he added that it was vital for supporters of the deal to take on the criticisms before they gained enough traction to threaten public acceptance of an agreement. Public protests against TTIP were held last month in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

Mr Cameron, speaking after a meeting between EU leaders and the US at the G20 summit in Australia on Sunday, said that there was agreement to accelerate what have proved to be drawn out negotiations.

The Prime Minister insisted that TTIP will be “good for Britain, good for jobs, good for growth, and good for the British economy”. However, there have been criticisms that the discussions have been highly secretive, leading to fears that the terms might not be as advantageous to the UK as the Government has insisted.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, said: “David Cameron is riding roughshod over the people of Britain by refusing to listen to their concerns over the threat this trade deal poses to the NHS.”

He asked: “If TTIP is not a threat to the NHS then why doesn’t David Cameron just make an explicit commitment to use his veto in Europe to get the NHS out of TTIP? The Government spent months trying to brush the threat of TTIP under the carpet but massive public pressure has forced the Government to admit the NHS is part of the deal. When you see the links that the Tory Party has to private healthcare you have to ask who is this Government really working for?”


Here are a couple of reader examples but ,,,, I’d like to hear from our LyndonB on the subject, cos far as I’m concerned, what he thinks on the subject will be the correct one.

GRINDELOW 6 minutes ago
Neither Cameron or any other UK politician or MEP has any influence on the TTIP negotiations which are between the US and EU bureaucrats. Some MEPs have said they haven’t a clue what’s going on.
I’ve no doubt Germany will be in on negotiations but as the the rest - forget it.
The EU works on behalf of big business which is why there are more lobbyists than bureaucrats with over 20,000 bureaucrats.
Today virtually all new wealth accrues to the richest 1%. The TTIP will create about 0.5% more growth but at the price of downsides in terms of more unemployment and loss of taxation inside the EU.

In today’s world this translates to more profits for big companies which will feed directly to the richest 1% whilst the hollowed out middle class will be left further and further behind.
The richest 1% believe in trickle down economics because they know it works fine for them because it there is no trickle down.

MONTY 30 minutes ago
The USA does not go into trade deals to benefit any other country. The benefit has to be for America.
The really troubling section of TTIP is the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)this is a tribunal set up to allow companies to sue governments for loss of profits or future profits. The hearings are held in private, in international courts at the World Bank in Washington DC, this bypasses the legal system of the country being sued, meaning details are often impossible to uncover.
The NHS can be exempted from this treaty but our present government does not plan to do this.
Under ISDS it would be possible for corporations to sue governments for changing work regulations or increasing the minimum wage. It is OK to have trade treaties but it is very worrying to have ISDS as part of such a treaty, this smacks of corporations trying to control governments and the citizens of a country.


Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 11/17/2014 at 04:25 AM   
Filed Under: • Big BusinessInternational •  
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calendar   Friday - October 03, 2014

company boss (brit) declares France a place where nothing works, as in kaput.

I don’t know if John Lewis Stores operate in the USA under another name.  John Lewis may not be at all familiar to folks outside Europe, or here in the UK. But they are large.  I guess you could say think Wal-Mart except upscale. They have a very interesting family history and like many ventures in business, it started with the family and I believe it remains there to a large degree. 
The company continuously scores high in customer satisfaction in surveys that matter.  So what I’m saying is that they are not at all minor league.
The family are also landowners on a major scale. So naturally, when I saw a headline first thing this morning quoting their managing director who declares that, France is KAPUT.  Well ..........

Take a look.

France is finished says John Lewis boss: Astonishing attack on nation where ‘nothing works’

Managing director of John Lewis, Andy Street, said France is ‘finished’
He described Paris as the ‘squalor pit of Europe’ where ‘nothing works’
Mr Street made the remarks after visiting Paris earlier this week
John Lewis insisted that Mr Street’s remarks were ‘tongue in cheek’

By Emily Kent Smith for Daily Mail


The boss of John Lewis has launched an astonishing attack on France – describing it as ‘finished’ and advising investors to take their money out of a country where ‘nothing works’.

Managing director Andy Street made the controversial remarks after visiting Paris earlier this week to pick up an international retail award.

Speaking to entrepreneurs yesterday, Mr Street labelled the country ‘sclerotic, hopeless and downbeat’.

Paris is often referred to as the most beautiful city in the world, but Mr Street described one of its main stations as the ‘squalor pit of Europe’.

‘You get on the Eurostar from something I can only describe as the squalor pit of Europe, Gare Du Nord, and you get off at a modern, forward-looking station [St Pancras],’ Mr Street told a conference in London.

He added: ‘I have never been to a country more ill at ease… nothing works and worse, nobody cares about it.’

Last night John Lewis insisted that Mr Street’s remarks were ‘tongue in cheek’.

The comments, reported in The Times newspaper, also included an unflattering reference to the ‘plastic’ retail award given to the company in the French capital as ‘frankly revolting’.

He said that the award would be a permanent reminder of the decline of the country, adding: ‘Every time I [see it] I shall think, ‘God help France’.’

Mr Street’s Eurostar train back to London from the World Retail Congress was delayed. He also blasted French hospitality, saying that the wine and food were better at a London event.

He did, however did give the French credit for their service which he described as ‘incomparable’.

The comments are nonetheless highly embarrassing for Mr Street.

They come less than a year after the retail giant launched a French-language website.

Last night the French embassy told The Times: ‘France is the fifth biggest economy in the world, the second of Europe, and is the country with the fifth largest stock of foreign direct investment in the world, so obviously many foreign businesses do not seem to share Mr Street’s view.

‘Also, saying that nothing works in France shows how wide of the mark those comments are.’


Simon, Farnham_UK,

So the Paris branch of Jean Louis won’t be opening up any time soon! Pha...sacre Bleu!


Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 10/03/2014 at 02:16 AM   
Filed Under: • Big BusinessFRANCE •  
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calendar   Sunday - August 24, 2014

bugatti ,,,, a french car ….. owned by Volkswagen, birthed by italian, welcome to globo-world

I suppose purists will lament the fact that Bugatti is no longer the supreme Italian glamour car.

The papers say it’s French now, but, it’s owned by Germany’s VW.

Howz that for globalisation?

Why wouldn’t it be made in Germany I wonder. ??
Doesn’t really matter. You know the old saying.


Not to let an opportunity slip by them like they did at Dunkirk,
(weird and stupid peiper joke)

Bugatti has launched a line of clothing, and is setting up shops …
around za verld.

See?  Told ya.

H/T CTV News

Bugatti launches exclusive clothing line

The Bugatti Legends Capsule Collection is as exclusive as the cars on which it is based. So much so that only 36 people in the world will ever get the chance to add a piece of it to their wardrobes.

A year ago, the German-owned hypercar company set out to create six limited edition Bugatti Veyrons. Each of the six models would be inspired by a person who was crucial to shaping the car company’s history; each car would have a €2.35 million price tag and each of the special models would be strictly limited to three examples.

And, despite the astronomical fee, every single model has sold out before its official launch, including the latest and final edition, the “Ettore Bugatti” Legend, which only made its debut at Pebble Beach in California today. Sunday, August 24.

To celebrate this success and to make ownership of one of the cars even more special, Bugatti has created a line of his and hers clothing bespoke to each of the six special edition cars that will be offered exclusively to their owners.

“Authentic and with attention to detail, this Bugatti Legends capsule collection is one of the first tailor-made lifestyle projects the brand has dedicated to its customers,” explains Massimiliano Ferrari, Managing Director of Bugatti International and in charge of Brand Lifestyle.

And by authentic, that means that the jackets, t-shirts, belts, driving gloves and clutch purses that make up the collection have been made from the same buffalo, deer, calf and cordovan hide that adorn the cars’ interiors and feature the same production techniques.

For all you fashionistas out there, here’s a link.



Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 08/24/2014 at 10:04 AM   
Filed Under: • Big Business •  
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calendar   Friday - August 15, 2014

Betting The Future On A FLiNG

Shell Petroleum is building the largest ship the world has ever known. It’s the first of it’s kind, one of many to come, so naturally they named it the Prelude. The ship is so large that you could fit our biggest aircraft carrier inside the thing with ease. It’s so large that the construction of even little pieces of it make international news. It is so large that it’s existence will change the military strategies of nations in the area. Yet it’s massive engines will likely be used only twice. Once to sail the ship out to sea, and then 25 years later, to sail her back. Welcome to the future ... and talk about “offshoring” your assets!

FLNG Turret For Prelude Moves Towards Korea


The largest piece of the turret for Shell’s Prelude Floating Liquefied Natural Gas (FLNG) facility has set sail from Dubai for the Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard in Geoje, South Korea, where the facility is under construction, informs Shell.

The turret is part of a mooring system designed to ensure Prelude FLNG can operate safely in the most extreme weather conditions. At almost 100 metres high, it is the largest in the world.

The turret will run through the front of the facility and connect to giant chains that will keep it moored securely over the Prelude gas field. The turret mooring system will allow the facility to turn slowly in the wind and with currents – ensuring it can remain safely at its location through the most powerful cyclones.

“Prelude FLNG combines our many years of experience in shipping and in managing complex LNG and offshore projects. It’s great to see our innovative designs and technologies become a reality as we reach significant project milestones like this,” Matthias Bichsel, Projects & Technology Director at Shell said.

“Designed in Monaco, built in Dubai, shipped to South Korea and for use off Australia, the turret is an example of the truly global nature of this project.”

100 meters tall. And really, it’s basically just a hose swivel.

This is going to be one damn big ship. No. It is going to be the biggest thing afloat ever built by the hand of man. By far. A 600,000 ton ship. 600,000 tons!!! 1601 feet long; nearly half a kilometer; 88 meters longer than the biggest container ship. 243 feet wide; 74 meters; 3 meters wider than the wingspan of a 747. That’s a whole lot of boat!



Horry Clap!

FLNG (or FLiNG) means Floating Liquified Natural Gas. The ship is going to be a factory. It will be positioned right over the undersea gas fields, take in what the wells produce, and process that to make what we call natural gas. That gas will then be offloaded onto LNG ships and sent around the world. Prelude is expected to produce 3.6 million metric tons of LNG per year. Which means Shell is going to make billions.

See More Below The Fold


Posted by Drew458   United States  on 08/15/2014 at 08:47 AM   
Filed Under: • Big BusinessOil, Alternative Energy, and Gas Pricesplanes, trains, tanks, ships, machines, automobiles •  
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calendar   Friday - July 11, 2014

Gypsies I Could Live With

Badges? We Don Need No Steenking Badges!

Lyft, a Transportation Networked Service, vows to roll onto the streets of New York City today, despite not having “taxi badges” (medallions) purchased for tens of thousands of dollars each from the NYC TLC (Taxi and Limousine Commission, perhaps the 2nd most corrupt quasi-government in America, behind the NYC Port Authority).

Good for them. Sometimes the best way to break a system is just to ignore it. If you’re willing to pay me to drive you around in my car, that’s between the two of us, and the nanny state can go suck eggs.

Despite being chastised by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), which declared quasi-taxi firm Lyft as an “unauthorized” firm, the startup says it will go ahead with its scheduled Friday evening launch.

Lyft is a San Francisco-based startup that allows its users to book rides from drivers via its smartphone app, effectively acting just like a taxi service.

In a statement sent to Ars on Thursday, the commission said that the firm had “not complied with TLC’s safety requirements and other licensing criteria to verify the integrity and qualifications of the drivers or vehicles used in their service, and Lyft does not hold a license to dispatch cars to pick up passengers.”

The TLC also noted that “drivers who sign-up with Lyft are at risk of losing their vehicles to TLC enforcement action, as well as being subject to fines of up to $2,000 upon conviction for unlicensed activity.”

Presuming that Lyft drivers go forward, they would not have traditional TLC taxi medallions, and would be effectively considered like the city’s myriad of unauthorized taxis, sometimes known as “gypsy cabs.”

In a statement, Katie Daily, Lyft’s spokeswoman, told Ars that the company was still moving forward despite the commission’s actions.

“Where we differ with the TLC is that we do not believe its licensing and base station rules apply to the Lyft ride sharing model,” she’s said. “We put safety first, and we have made this clear in our conversations with the TLC.”

In NYC, taxis without the official medallion are known as gypsy cabs. Lots of them out on the streets, looking for fares. Are they clean? Are they safe? Are they insured? Tens of thousands of people don’t really care; they cost less. Actually, almost anything costs less than a 10 minute ride in a NYC cab. And they expect a nice fat tip too.


In September 2013, the California Public Utilities Commission, the agency responsible for regulating taxis in the Golden State, created an entirely new class of transit firms, known as “Transportation Networked Companies” (TNCs). This move legitimized Lyft’s operations in California months before New York stymied the startup.

See? It’s only an actual taxi if it’s out on the street prowling for fares. If it’s all arranged ahead of time, by any means at all IMHO, then it’s somebody compensating somebody else for doing them a favor. And the TLC can go take a flyer off of one of the many rotting ferry piers along Manhattan’s west side, all put out of business ages ago when the Port Authority took over all the bridges and tunnels in the city, along with all the ferrys. I think, if they time it just right, one of those piers will be pointing at the moon.

PS - these days, the tolls to cross the bridges or tunnels into Manhattan - $13 for a regular car - are so steep that swimming is starting to look like a good option. Except that the PA has power over every place you’d crawl out of the water, if you made it across. 


Posted by Drew458   United States  on 07/11/2014 at 02:12 PM   
Filed Under: • Big BusinessFREEDOM •  
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calendar   Friday - June 27, 2014

No Longer Cheaper Than Dirt

Newest Cash Crop In Midwest: Sand

Farm? What’s a farm?

It’s not a gold rush, but a sand rush that is taking place in the Midwest, where a rare type of sand used in the energy extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing is exclusively found.

The smooth, round, very strong white sand known as “Northern White” or “Ottawa White” is pitting neighbor against neighbor, and neighbors against sand mining companies. The sand is 99.5 percent pure silica,

“This sand has excellent chemical properties, very low iron, very low aluminum,” said William McTee, regional manager for Unimin corporation, a company that’s been mining sand around the country for decades.

The special sand is sold to the hydraulic fracking industry for use as a proppant in the drilling process, which forces fossil fuels from deep within the earth. When the hydraulic pressure is relieved from the well, the sand is pumped into the well to hold open the small fractures in the rock while allowing oil and gas to pass up to the surface.

Sand and water are used in that process and the particular sand in the Midwest is the best the industry can get. Its smooth round shape makes it “act like BBs, letting oil and gas pass through” McTee said.

With horizontal drilling, even more sand is needed because the borings travel extend farther. That’s made the ultra pure Ottawa White sand became much more valuable. As a result, nearly a dozen companies set up shop to mine for sand among the farmlands in La Salle County, Ill., Tunnel City, Wisc., and places in Minnesota and wherever the sand is found.

So, I wonder ... does the bulldozer driver speak English?

Railroad operators are carrying boxcars filled with sand to shale fields including the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico, the Bakken formation of North Dakota and the Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvania.

While some of these places might seem to have plenty of sand of their own available, many fracking outfits prefer Wisconsin white sand, which is bigger and has rounder grains better suited for holding open larger pathways.

Union Pacific Railroad shipped 94,000 railcars of frack sand in the first half of the year—a 20% increase over the same period of 2012. Canadian National Railway Co. is spending $68 million over three years to upgrade and restore

more than 100 miles of track in Wisconsin so it can boost sand shipments out of state.

U.S. Silica and BNSF Railroad are building a sand distribution hub south of San Antonio, at the edge of the oil-rich Eagle Ford shale. U.S. Silica will ship more than 1 billion pounds of sand each year there from Ottawa, Ill., 85 miles southwest of Chicago, and Sparta, Wis., about 250 miles to the north.

“It takes 25 railcars of sand, on average, to frack one well,” said Bryan Shinn, U.S. Silica’s chief executive.

Silica mining stocks are up about 60% over the past two years.

But ... OF COURSE ... it’s going to harm the environment and pollute everything and we’re all gonna die!!!


Posted by Drew458   United States  on 06/27/2014 at 09:16 AM   
Filed Under: • Big Business •  
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calendar   Tuesday - January 21, 2014

‘It is time – for a Guinness’

Caught this today in morning paper ..... found it of interest.  Nothing else to say about it.

Guinness planned to advertise in Nazi Germany with posters featuring Zeppelins and Swastika flags

Campaign drawn up by company in 1936 - the year of the Berlin Olympics

Pictures featured Berlin stadium with Swastika flags and a Nazi soldier

Guinness’ London office vetoed the plans, but Irish office asked for posters

The artwork, which is now thought to be worth £1.2million, was never used

By Chris Pleasance and Chris Brooke


These days, it’s known as the quintessential Irish drink and is a firm favourite in British pubs. But Guinness almost faced a very different fate – as the tipple of choice for Nazi Germany.

These draft posters, found by former brewer David Hughes and dating back to 1936, reveal the firm’s planned advertising campaign for the Third Reich.

Drawn by John Gilroy, who produced most of the company’s classic advertising, the collection was produced in 1936, the same year as the Berlin Olympics.

The images, which were never used, include a smiling German soldier holding a pint of stout with the slogan ‘It is time – for a Guinness’.

One picture features a Wehrmacht soldier holding a pint with the caption, ‘It’s time for a Guinness’, while another features toucans with beer glasses balanced on their beaks flying above the Olympic stadium which is draped in Swastika flags.

The paintings are all originals, made using oil on canvas, and would have been used to mass-produce poster copies, but were never actually used.

The images, which are now thought to be worth £1.2million, feature in a new book, Gilroy Was Good For Guinness, written by former Guinness brewer David Hughes.


In the book is a memo from executives at the drink maker to SH Benson, their longtime advertising partner, which shows that the Irish and London offices did not agree on the campaign.

It says: ‘Dear John. Another hot potato, I’m afraid. This one comes from St James’s Gate [Guinness’s Dublin headquarters], who are busy wooing an importer in Berlin.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Hughes said he believes it is unlikely that Guinness, SH Benson and Gilroy were aware of the true horrors of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.

He said: ‘In 1936, people were a bit naïve about Nazi symbolism and what it came to mean.

‘People were starting to believe the Germans were dangerous. Guinness in London did not favour getting into the German market but in Ireland there was a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards Nazi Germany.’



Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 01/21/2014 at 06:58 AM   
Filed Under: • AdvertisingArt-PhotographyBig BusinessHistory •  
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calendar   Friday - September 20, 2013

been there


Yup, them was the days. 16 month project that started in Red Status and never left. World’s heaviest data model. Overhead? Ha, even the metadata was more than the client server network could pass around efficiently. 70-80 hour weeks for months at a time. Required. Paid overtime? What’s that??

And yeah, we had hourly status meetings when things got really bad. Because when you’re really behind the 8 ball, and need every minute to try and meet some idiotic schedule, nothing makes you try harder than walking 10 minutes across a giant building to go to a 15 minute meeting every hour to report on your completion status.

The beatings will continue until morale improves.

And testing? NOBODY ever budgets enough time or money for decent testing. As one uppity keyboard savant put it, “You don’t need to test my code; I wrote it.” And the whole damn company shared that attitude!

Oh, I don’t miss those days at all.


Posted by Drew458   United States  on 09/20/2013 at 04:28 PM   
Filed Under: • Big BusinessComputers and Cyberspace •  
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calendar   Saturday - August 03, 2013

Get Rich Quick Scheme Not For Me

I was approached yesterday by an old friend who has become a sudden, rabid believer in the secondary energy supplier sales machine called Ignite. Ignite is the sales arm for a Texas based energy provider called Stream Energy. In states that have not be deregulated, local gas and electric companies enjoy territorial monopolies. You get service from them, or you don’t get service at all. A number of states have deregulated at this point, NJ among them. You can now sign up for an alternate service provider, which can save you money. Sometimes. Generally you still get a bill from the old power company, which owns the pipes and the wires; they now split the bill into a generation part and a delivery part. You still have to use their gas pipes and their wires to get your energy, so the theoretical savings are in the generation part. And you can save hundreds of dollars on your energy bills. I use one, and the savings are real.

There are more than 75 alternate providers operating in NJ.  Alternate provider energy is not a scam. You can save considerable money. Sometimes. Almost all of these companies give you a discount of several cents per Kwh (or cubic foot or whatever for gas) compared to your original provider. Some make you sign a contract for a couple years. Some promise a very low rate to begin with, with an adjustable rate later on, rather like an APR mortgage ... and we all know how dangerous that can be IF you don’t get out of it soon enough. Caveat emptor.

But for the most part, these alternate providers are on the up and up. “Energy” is pretty much a commodity, so they “buy” in bulk at wholesale, then “sell” to you a little every month at a competitive rate. It’s legit; this is how many of the late 90s phone companies made fortunes in the long distance market. They bought a few zillion minutes from AT&T, sold them to customers at a big discount, and made money. The problem for AT&T was that they had so much overhead (huge staff, giant computer systems, etc) that they couldn’t/wouldn’t match those rates, and eventually went under, being out-competed by other little companies selling their own product. This is not going to happen to the big power companies. Their infrastructure is leaner and simpler than what Ma Bell had, and most of them have modernized and minimized along with everyone else. Which is something AT&T would not/could not do. Plus they still get a slice of the pie from the delivery charges, so don’t fear that Con Ed is going under any time soon. Not going to happen.

BUT. Nearly all these secondary providers get new customers by advertising. Billboards, mailers, web sites. Stream, through it’s Ignite marketing arm, works differently. They use “multi level marketing”, MLM, where sales associates use a word of mouth campaign to sign up new customers. MLM has a dark side and is commonly known as a pyramid ploy or a Ponzi scheme. Technically those terms only apply if there is no end product for sale; I’m sure that Bernie Madhoff can explain this in detail from his prison cell. They are completely legal when and end product is for sale, as in this case. Energy.

BUT. These same sales associates spend as much, or far more, time recruiting new sales associates to “spread the word” as they do getting people to sign up to get their energy from this secondary provider company. And the part that makes my eyes cross is that you have to buy in to become one. Riight. They charge you more than $325 for the right to become one of their worker bees. And you get no territory, no sales area, that is exclusively yours. But it’s so easy! Just switch over your own house and convince a few friends and family members to do that too, and you’ve earned your initial investment back. In less than a day! I sat and watched the digital presentation, heard all about how “regular folks just like me” are making tens of thousands of dollars per week, how this was a “ground floor” opportunity, yadda yadda. And every time I asked about that the discount rate was I got cut off and told that it didn’t matter, that I was “stuck in the weeds” and not seeing the forest for the trees. I spent an hour an a half watching the videos, looking at the web pages, hearing about all the fantastic success stories. And I decided this was not for me.

Oh, I could become a believer. I could. IF. I accept that this is a legitimate business model; it isn’t a Ponzi scheme, a pyramid ploy, because there is an actual end product for sale. So it’s not just a shell game. But the emphasis seemed to be 95% on the shells, and only 5% on the hidden pea under one of them. Seriously, I must have heard “energy, schmemergy” 30 times. As if it didn’t matter. Heck, I was told a dozen times that it didn’t matter at all.

No. It does matter. Just about every one of those secondary providers here in NJ will sell you electricity for about a nickel less per Kwh than the big boys charge. And just about every one of those providers offers you a rate that is at best only a few hundredths of a cent less than that nickel discount. In other words, even the secondary providers are a commodity. So why bother? Oh, I should transfer to Stream to a)help a buddy out, b) get in on this life changing opportunity myself, and c) stick it to big business who doesn’t care about me. Hey, you know what? I like our power company. The power here is pretty darn reliable, and when it isn’t they have crews out working hard day and night to fix things. Yeah, they charge a bit much, but I’ve already signed up with another secondary provider, 2 year contract I think, and I’m getting that nickel discount. So not only is there no financial incentive for me to switch from my current secondary to this one, I couldn’t do it for another year even if I wanted to.

So, why didn’t I want to become one of their salesmen, and get in on this “ground floor opportunity” to get rich myself? Well, NJ has been deregulated for several years now. Stream/Ignite has been working in NJ for nearly two years. To be a successful salesman, they want you to complete the “3 and 10” sales model in 30 days: sign up 10 people as customers, and also sign up 3 new people as salesmen. And then the money will just start flowing in automatically. And the more new sales folks you get on board, the more impressive your job title becomes, the bigger your slice of pie grows, and the faster your race to fame and fortune. By merely passing along the good word to your friends and by helping other folks get on board this solid gold train to the promised land.

Hmm. A year has 365 days. That’s 12 30 day periods. If I join in, and make my “3 and 10”, and every new salesperson I sign up does the same ... in one year that’s 3^12 new salesmen. 531,441 to be exact. And 5,344,100 new customers. In just one year. All of them under my own personal hierarchy. Fantastic!! Cha-ching $$$!!!  Except that a) NJ has a population of 8.9 million living in 3.4 million households, b) Ignite has already been playing here for nearly two years (3^24=282 billion, 35 times more than the earth’s population), and c) since the salesmen aren’t territorially limited, and since Stream Energy already has several hundred thousand sales people ... you do the math. Sure, you can probably make a little money doing this. But I would be flat out amazed if it amounted to more than a couple thousand dollars per year, no matter how much effort you put in. This isn’t the ground floor. It’s the 3000th floor. The market is super saturated with sales chumps already.

This is a great marketing effort for Stream Energy. They get themselves a gigantic sales force at almost no cost to themselves. Not a cent spent on any traditional advertising. And many/all/most/lots of their sales people are also willing to pay $25/mo for access to the company web page with all it’s sales secrets and motivational videos, and to get their very own boilerplate promotional web page too! So Stream has a nice fat cash cow there as well. Outstanding. And it isn’t actually a con. No, because some very select few are getting rich here. And hope and greed are the best motivators out there.

It isn’t a real shell game, but it can’t be anything other than mostly a shell game. Not for me, I’ll pass.


Posted by Drew458   United States  on 08/03/2013 at 10:52 AM   
Filed Under: • Big BusinessEconomics •  
Comments (3) Trackbacks(0)  Permalink •  

calendar   Tuesday - July 16, 2013

Buyer Beware

Oh noes, the cable TV bill was due yesterday! Quick like a bunny, I jump online, log in, and pay the bill. It was quite a bit more than last month’s bill, but I knew I was getting hit with a refundable surcharge for hanging on to the old cable box for too long. Hey, I’ve been sick ya know? And I had called to ask their guy to stop by and pick it up - which was an option their Send Us Our Stuff Back letter said I could do - but he never showed up. It’s not like he has a big route to cover; 85% of Union Township is right here in my double condo park, more than 500 units in a half square mile. So I see the cable guy and his truck going up and down our one main road every single day. He pretty much lives here. Whatever. I’m feeling better now, and I found the return shipping label, so I can just box up the old box and drop it off at the UPS store in town. But I digress.

The bill seemed high, but I paid it anyway. Then (stupid Drew) I went and looked at the actual bill. They charged me $30 to do an installation. On my self-installed new cable box. Sneaky bastiges! A quick and only moderately annoying call to Customer Service ("para Inglés, pulse uno") and that got remedied quickly. And I’ll get credit for the surcharge. But still ... if I hadn’t gone over every line of the bill, I never would have noticed this extra $30 fee hiding deep on page 3.

You gotta watch these companies like a hawk.


Posted by Drew458   United States  on 07/16/2013 at 09:52 AM   
Filed Under: • Big Business •  
Comments (1) Trackbacks(0)  Permalink •  

calendar   Wednesday - May 29, 2013

bye bye bacon

China to buy Smithfield for $4.72 Billion

All your pork products belong to us!

Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd., China’s biggest pork producer, agreed to acquire Smithfield Foods Inc. (SFD) for about $4.72 billion to boost supplies for the nation that’s the biggest consumer of the meat.

Closely held Shuanghui, parent of Henan Shuanghui Investment & Development Co. (000895), will pay $34 a share for the Smithfield, Virginia-based producer, both companies said today in a statement. The offer is 31 percent more than yesterday’s closing share price.

China’s consumption of pork is rising with the expansion of its middle class while there are questions being asked about the safety of the country’s food supply. Smithfield’s livestock unit is the world’s largest hog producer, bringing about 15.8 million of the animals to market a year, according to the company’s website. It owns 460 farms and has contracts with 2,100 others across 12 U.S. states.

The takeover is valued at $7.1 billion including debt, which would make it the largest Chinese takeover of a U.S. company, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The deal is likely to face scrutiny by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., said two people familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

“On the one hand, pork is not directly an issue of national security, as defense or telecom might be,” Ken Goldman, a New York-based analyst for JPMorgan Chase & Co. who has a hold rating on the shares, said in a report today. “On the other hand, if CFIUS comes to believe that Chinese ownership of the U.S.’s largest hog farmer and pork supplier presents a food supply risk, then it may have a heightened concern.”

Darn shame. Smithfield always made really good bacon and their hams were top notch too, for mass produced agri-business meat.

And thus we have a perfect Chinese solution: their own farmers can’t bring pigs to market without horrible diseases, so now they’re using the money we sent them to take food right off our own plates. So smart. Hey, let’s all run to Walmart and buy some more crap from China, and send even more of our money to the communists.

16 million hogs a year. Yeah, and if any Smithfield stuff does stay on the US market, expect the quality to drop like a rock once foreign management takes over. And of course, when half (whatever) the US hog supply goes oversees, the price of pork here will skyrocket.

All that glorious bacon ... turned into pork fried rice. Sigh.


Posted by Drew458   United States  on 05/29/2013 at 01:50 PM   
Filed Under: • Big BusinessFine-Dining •  
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calendar   Wednesday - February 20, 2013

The One Thing Worse Than A Union

Is a French Union.

“Keep Your So-Called Workers,” U.S. Boss Tells France

Tire firm will NOT be relocating to Fwance

The CEO of a U.S. tire maker has delivered a crushing summary of how some outsiders view France’s work ethic in a letter saying he would have to be stupid to take over a factory whose staff only put in three hours work a day.

Titan International’s (TWI) Maurice Taylor, nicknamed “The Grizz” for his negotiating style, told the left-wing French industry minister in a letter published by media on Wednesday that he had no interest in rescuing a plant set for closure.

“The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three,” Taylor wrote on Feb. 8 in the letter in English to the minister, Arnaud Montebourg.

“I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!” Taylor added in the letter, which was posted by business daily Les Echos on its website and which the ministry confirmed was genuine.

“Titan is going to buy a Chinese tire company or an Indian one, pay less than one euro per hour wage and ship all the tires France needs,” he said. “You can keep the so-called workers.”

Socialist President Francois Hollande might take some comfort in Taylor’s view of his own country’s business policies: “The U.S. government is not much better than the French,” he said, referring to a dispute over Chinese exports.

Yeah, but, we’re not talking about governments Fwanz-wah. We’re talking about businesses. Factories. You know, real jobs making real stuff and paying real taxes.

Taylor’s comments are the latest blow to France’s image after verbal attacks last year by Montebourg on firms seeking to shut ailing industrial sites prompted international mockery.

Combined with concerned over plans for a 75% “millionaires tax”, Montebourg’s antics drove London Mayor Boris Johnson to remark to an international business audience that it seemed France was being run by left-wing revolutionaries.

Montebourg has also lashed out at cheap imports of manufactured goods from low-wage countries like China and last year told the boss of Indian steelmaker ArcelorMittal he was unwelcome in a spat over a shuttered plant in France.

Despite having per-head productivity levels that rank among the best in Europe, economists blame France’s rigid hiring and firing laws for a long industrial decline that has dented exports. Many also fault the country’s 35-hour work week.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s (GT) Amiens Nord plant employs 1,250 workers, who have been battling demands that they work more shifts or accept layoffs. The government said in January that the site faced imminent closure.

Talks with Titan over a possible purchase of the plant’s farm tire section fell through last September after a failure to reach a deal with the CGT union on voluntary redundancies.

… Wall Street analysts have dubbed Taylor “The Grizz” for his tough negotiating style.
“Sir, your letter states that you want Titan to start a discussion. How stupid do you think we are?” he wrote. “Titan is the one with the money and the talent to produce tires. What does the crazy union have? It has the French government.”

Ouch. That’ll leave a mark.


Posted by Drew458   United States  on 02/20/2013 at 08:44 PM   
Filed Under: • Big BusinessEUro-peonsUnions-Labor •  
Comments (3) Trackbacks(0)  Permalink •  

calendar   Wednesday - January 09, 2013

Life Here In Upside Down World

They say you better listen to the voice of reason
But they don’t give you any choice
‘cause they think that it’s treason.
So you had better do as you are told.
You better listen to the radio.

I wanna bite the hand that feeds me.
I wanna bite that hand so badly.
I want to make them wish they’d never seen me.

-Elvis Costello, Radio Radio

AIG Considering $25 BILLION Lawsuit Against Government

For $182 BILLION Bail Out

As American International Group Inc. weighs whether to join a lawsuit against the government that spent $182 billion to save it from collapse, U.S. lawmakers have a message for the insurance behemoth: “Don’t even think about it.”

In a letter to AIG Chairman Robert Miller, U.S. Reps. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Michael Capuano, D-Mass., characterized the insurer as the “poster child” for Wall Street greed, fiscal mismanagement and executive bonuses.

“Now, AIG apparently seeks to become the poster company for corporate ingratitude and chutzpah,” the letter read. “Taxpayers are still furious that they rescued a company whose own conduct brought it down. Don’t rub salt in the wounds with yet another reckless decision that is on par with the reckless decision that led to the bailout in the first place.”

In widely reported comments, former inspector general for the financial industry bailout Neil Barofsky said AIG joining the suit would be a “giant middle finger” to the American taxpayer.

AIG said Tuesday its board of directors will weigh whether to take part in a shareholder lawsuit against the U.S. over the government’s $182 billion bailout of the insurer.

If AIG decides to join the complaint, which seeks $25 billion in damages, it would pit the company against the government that rescued it in 2008 from collapsing under the weight of huge losses on mortgage-backed securities and other toxic assets.

AIG said that its directors will take up the matter on Wednesday and expects they will have a decision by the end of the month.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said it was “simply outrageous” that AIG officials would even consider such a lawsuit.

I admit to being a bit confused here. Ordinarily, my response to such amounts of gall would include copious quantities of large caliber artillery fire, but if whack-a-doodle-do Maxine thinks it’s wrong then I have to step back and give it some thought. The shareholders got screwed royally here, so they are suing. If AIG joins the suit on their side, then it’s a CYA effort that will keep them from being named on the other side of the lawsuit. Better to be the plaintiff than the defendant when death is on the line when billions are involved, so this might be a smart move for them. 


Posted by Drew458   United States  on 01/09/2013 at 10:12 AM   
Filed Under: • Big BusinessEconomicsStoopid-People •  
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Not that very many people ever read this far down, but this blog was the creation of Allan Kelly and his friend Vilmar. Vilmar moved on to his own blog some time ago, and Allan ran this place alone until his sudden and unexpected death partway through 2006. We all miss him. A lot. Even though he is gone this site will always still be more than a little bit his. We who are left to carry on the BMEWS tradition owe him a great debt of gratitude, and we hope to be able to pay that back by following his last advice to us all:
  1. Keep a firm grasp of Right and Wrong
  2. Stay involved with government on every level and don't let those bastards get away with a thing
  3. Use every legal means to defend yourself in the event of real internal trouble, and, most importantly:
  4. Keep talking to each other, whether here or elsewhere
It's been a long strange trip without you Skipper, but thanks for pointing us in the right direction and giving us a swift kick in the behind to get us going. Keep lookin' down on us, will ya? Thanks.


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