The chaos surrounding OpenAI, its former CEO Sam Altman, and Microsoft has implications beyond the tech world. Sam Altman was forced out as the CEO of OpenAI on Friday, setting into motion a weekend of chaos for the company.Jack Guez/AFP via Getty ImagesSam Altman was forced out of his position as the CEO of OpenAI on Friday.The announcement kicked off a weekend of chaos involving Altman, Microsoft, and the firm behind ChatGPT.Here's why you should care, even if you aren't in the tech world. On Friday afternoon, the tech world reverberated with news that Sam Altman was being pushed out as the CEO of OpenAI, the artificial intelligence firm behind ChatGPT.Throughout the weekend, phones pinged, tweets were fired out, and group texts lit up as more news came: OpenAI's president Greg Brockman quit; the firm tried to bring back Altman; and in the wee hours of Monday morning, Microsoft announced that it had hired both Altman and Brockman.Now, nearly every single employee at OpenAI has signed a letter saying they will quit if Altman and Brockman are not brought back. Some outlets have reported that the pressure campaign to reinstate Altman may be working.So what's the big deal? Why should you care so much about the chaos happening at a company you may not have heard of one year ago? Why is it so important that OpenAI and Microsoft figure it all out?Beyond the existential fears of OpenAI developing potentially dangerous technology, the events of this weekend amounted to more than corporate mishegoss: The fate of ChatGPT — the AI chatbot that more than 100 million people use on the job, at school, and at home — is on the line.Just look at Microsoft's stock over the past few days, or Altman's recent post on X, which reveals how important ChatGPT and OpenAI's other AI tools are to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and a whole host of other constituents."Satya and my top priority remains to ensure openai continues to thrive," Altman wrote on Monday. "We are committed to fully providing continuity of operations to our partners and customers the openai/microsoft partnership makes this very doable."To back up: Since 2019, Microsoft and OpenAI, which was founded as a nonprofit dedicated to artificial intelligence research, have worked together. Microsoft invested $1 billion that year, wrote another check in 2021, and this year upped the ante, committing $10 billion to OpenAI.But the deal was about more than just cash. OpenAI relies on Microsoft's cloud computing infrastructure and Azure data centers to run its large language models and AI tools such as GPT-4, ChatGPT and DALL-E 3. The startup probably spends most of the money it got from Microsoft on cloud services from its main benefactor, in a kind of circular deal.Without Microsoft's supercomputers, OpenAI is basically a really well-made, technologically advanced boat without a paddle. While Microsoft is working on its own in-house large language model, it doesn't have one yet; without OpenAI's, the tech giant has some great paddles, but no boat.The two work symbiotically. If nearly everyone at OpenAI jumps ship and heads to Microsoft, what can they bring with them? Likely not ChatGPT and the large language model behind it. So that could require Altman, Brockman, and whoever else joins Microsoft to develop their own AI models from scratch, which would take at least several months and whole new pile of money.In that scenario, would Microsoft keep supporting OpenAI with all that expensive cloud infrastructure? If not, where would OpenAI go to get the chips, servers, networking and data centers to deliver ChatGPT and its other services to the masses?Even if you don't use ChatGPT as a homework helper or personal assistant, the shockwaves could be significant.There are hundreds of AI startups that have, with OpenAI's blessing, built themselves around ChatGPT. Major firms like Canva and JetBlue have integrated its AI enterprise software into their businesses.However this chaos gets resolved, the episode has done serious damage to OpenAI and has put a question mark over the future of its incredibly popular services.If this all continues to goes south, get ready to learn about Claude, Google Bard, and other rival AI offerings.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
The best wine opener should be simple to use and cleanly remove the cork. These are the top corkscrews we tested for opening a bottle of wine. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn moreAn easy-to-use wine opener makes quick work of even the most stubborn corks.Connie Chen/InsiderOne moment, you're anticipating a delightful glass of wine and the next, you're wrestling with a stubborn cork. There's nothing quite like the disappointment of cork bits floating in your favorite vintage or the sinking feeling when you have a half-opened bottle and a broken corkscrew in hand. It's a frustrating experience, but it can easily be avoided with the best wine opener corkscrew.To find the best wine openers out there, we consulted numerous wine experts and personally tested a dozen corkscrews. We narrowed down our top five based on price, materials, ease of use, and wine-drinking habits. Our top pick, the Le Creuset Waiter's Friend Corkscrew, stands out for its unparalleled blend of elegance, functionality, and durability. For those on a budget, the Truetap Double-Hinged Corkscrew is a colorful alternative that gets the job done.Our top picks for the best wine openersBest overall: Le Creuset Waiter's Friend Corkscrew - See at AmazonThe Le Creuset Waiter's Friend Corkscrew is a beautiful wine key that's comfortable to hold and provides the leverage to pull both natural and synthetic corks out with little resistance.Best winged: OXO Winged Corkscrew with Removable Foil Cutter - See at AmazonWith a built-in foil cutter and substantial design, the OXO Winged Corkscrew is comfortable to hold and simple to use.Best lever: Rabbit Vertical Lever Corkscrew - See at Bloomingdale'sFeaturing stainless steel construction and a comfortable, textured grip, the Rabbit Vertical Lever Corkscrew makes removing corks easy with a single pulling motion. Best budget: Truetap Double-Hinged Corkscrew - See at AmazonIt's not the most comfortable to hold, but the Truetap Double-Hinged Corkscrew removes corks smoothly and effectively. It comes in many different colors so you can find one that fits your personal style.Best electric: Secura Electric Wine Opener - See at AmazonThe sleek, fast-charging, and cordless Secura Electric Wine Opener can pull out 30 corks on one charge. All you do is push a button and it does the work for you. Best overall: Le Creuset Waiter's Friend CorkscrewThis wine key has an easy-grip handle and an effective nonstick screw for hassle-free cork removal.Connie Chen/InsiderMaterial: Wood, stainless steelDimensions: 1 x 2.2 x 6 inchesWeight: 0.01 ouncesPros: Durable construction, attractive, nonstick screw inserts easily, provides strong leverage to remove cork Cons: Hand wash only Wine pros love wine keys because they're compact and easy to carry around, and they have everything you need to pull a stubborn cork out, including a smart, simple leverage system and a built-in foil cutter. Le Creuset's wine key is functional and beautiful to boot. Made from sturdy stainless steel, with a wooden handle, the best corkscrew feels substantial, looks great, and was the most comfortable to grasp of all the wine keys we tried. The sharp, serrated foil cutter cuts through foil easily. The screw, which is coated in a nonstick material, works well on a variety of corks and doesn't leave a mess once inserted or removed. The hinges throughout the wine key have just the right amount of give — they're not too tight or loose — and the two boot lever notches (the parts that rest on the lip on the bottle) sit comfortably on the bottle opening. They won't slip off as you're pulling the cork out. There's even a helpful "push" etching to remind you how to use these levers.Best winged: OXO Winged CorkscrewOXO thoughtfully designed this winged wine opener with a detachable foil cutter and a comfortable grip.TargetMaterial: Alloy steelDimensions: 2 x 4.5 x 10.25 inchesWeight: 12.8 ouncesPros: Comfortable to hold, fits securely over bottle opening, built-in foil cutter Cons: Not as sturdy as other winged models We loved that this model has a clever, removable foil cutter that detaches from the bottom. It's comfortable to hold and removes corks smoothly. The main drawback is that it feels less substantial and sturdy than the KitchenAid model that was our previous pick. Unfortunately, the KitchenAid corkscrew is tough to find in stock.The most unique feature is the built-in, removable foil cutter. You place it on top of the bottle and twist to pierce the foil. It reattaches to the base of the corkscrew when you want to store it. Foil cutters are nice to have but not strictly necessary, so we like that it's not an extra accessory you have to hunt for. We found the wide body of the corkscrew comfortable to hold and the knob easy to turn. It cleanly pulled out corks without incident. While this is a comfortable and efficient corkscrew, we also know that winged openers often break after a lot of use, so we're continuing to test this and all of our picks for the best openers for long-term durability.Best lever: Rabbit Vertical Lever CorkscrewThe Rabbit Corkscrew has a durable lever and a non-slip grip that lets you smoothly handle any cork.Connie Chen/InsiderMaterial: Stainless steel, zincDimensions: 2.5 x 5.5 x 6.25 inchesWeight: 1 poundPros: Textured handle grip, comes with a foil cutter, durable Cons: Struggles with synthetic cork, hard to see whether it's inserted in the middle of the cork Using a lever corkscrew is only a matter of two steps: place the corkscrew into the cork, then squeeze the bottom of the opener and pull the lever upwards to remove the cork. It might not be the best design for visual people, since the cylindrical opener covers the entire bottle top and it can be hard to tell when the cork has been removed if you're a beginner.via GIPHYStill, Rabbit makes using the best corkscrew with a vertical lever nearly foolproof. Even if you don't insert the screw right in the middle, it pulls the cork out smoothly, and the lever feels sturdy and durable. It does struggle more with synthetic corks, though, and you might experience some resistance while pulling. In addition to the smooth operation, the cushioned and textured grip on the handle was a standout feature. This made pulling on the handle much more comfortable and gave me confidence that my hand wouldn't slip.Best budget: Truetap Double-Hinged CorkscrewThis sleek, all-metal design comes in multiple colors so you can coordinate your wine and wine opener.Connie Chen/InsiderMaterial: Stainless steelDimensions: 4.75 x 1 x 0.5 inchesWeight: 0.14 poundsPros: Good value, nonstick screw inserts easily, provides strong leverage to remove cork, comes in many colorsCons: Foil cutter is difficult to get out, less comfortable to grip than the Le CreusetThe Truetap corkscrew is metal all around. It's slim and light, with a thinner grip than the Le Creuset corkscrew. Because of this design, I found it less comfortable to hold as I removed the cork. I also had trouble pulling out the foil cutter, which was frustrating. However, the overall effectiveness of the corkscrew is still there, which is why it's one of the best wine openers. All the hinges operate smoothly and aren't too tight or loose. The boot lever notches sit securely on the bottle lip and the screw is coated in a nonstick material, letting me pull out both synthetic and natural corks with no problem. It's hard to find a corkscrew that's both this affordable and effective, plus it comes in more than two dozen colors. You could easily stock up on a few of these openers and they'd still cost less than a nice bottle of wine.Best electric: Secura Electric Wine OpenerA clear viewing panel lets you monitor the cork's progress as the Secura Opener does all the work.Connie Chen/InsiderMaterial: Stainless steelDimensions: 12 x 2.7 x 7.5 inchesWeight: 1.2 poundsPros: Cordless, rechargeable, requires much less physical effort, comes with a foil cutter, has a viewing window Cons: Bulkier than other types of openers, must be chargedMost kinds of wine openers require some physical effort and hand mobility. An electric wine opener is much more accessible. To use Secura's wine opener, all you need to do is press and hold the "down" button and it will insert the screw into the cork and take it out of the bottle. When you press the "up" button, it pushes the cork off the screw. One tip is to hold the bottle as the opener does the work, or else the bottle will also spin. Other than that, the opener is user-friendly and efficient. There's a clear plastic section on the bottom so you can watch the screw enter the cork and make sure it's removing the cork effectively. And, the included foil cutter is very sharp. It takes eight hours to charge, and the accompanying charging base is compact and unassuming. Since it's made mostly from stainless steel, this best wine opener looks sleeker and feels a lot more substantial then another top competitor, Oster's electric opener.What to look for in wine openers and corkscrewsBudget: Wine openers range in price from $5 to hundreds of dollars for luxury brands. Most are under $50 (like all of our top picks) and average around $20 depending on what type you choose. Plastic corkscrews are usually the most affordable option, but they can break easily, especially with tougher corks. Materials: The material directly affects the best corkscrew's durability and performance. Look for durable materials like stainless steel, rather than plastic, and a nonstick coating on the screw. Not only do these materials make it easier to take the cork out, but they're also easier to care for and will last much longer. Comfort: Some wine opener designs require more hand strength and dexterity, while others — like electric openers — are more ergonomic and can do all the work for you. Your physical abilities and preferences can help you narrow your search. Some of the best wine openers feature padded grips or handles shaped to conform to your fingers, reducing strain during use.How often and where you drink wine: Your wine consumption habits will affect what kind of opener you like, how many to buy, and how much you're willing to spend. For example, you can buy a lever corkscrew to keep in your kitchen drawer in addition to a compact waiter's key to take out on picnics and vacations.How we tested wine openers and corkscrewsConnie Chen/InsiderI tested each wine opener on four bottles of wine: two bottles of Barefoot Wine, which uses synthetic cork, and two bottles of Trader Joe's Charles Shaw (aka "Two-Buck Chuck"), which uses natural cork. In this initial round of testing, I opened 36 bottles of wine.Ease of use: I rated each opener on how smoothly and easily it pulled out the cork, while noting the comfort, compactness, and design features that added or detracted from its use. Durability: I also washed each opener to evaluate the ease and comfort of washing and any specific care instructions. Finally, I dropped each opener from hip level onto the ground five times to test durability.Wine opener FAQsConnie Chen/InsiderWhat's the best wine opener for beginners? All our experts recommend the double-hinged wine key. "You basically insert the screw into the cork, then twist and use the bottle as a leverage point to remove the cork" in one piece, said Alison Rodriguez, a winemaker for The Hess Collection.Help! The cork is stubborn and won't come out. How do you get it out? Take it slow and be firm with it. "Good old careful muscle is the best way to get out a stubborn cork," said Jordan Salcito, founder of wine brand Ramona and former beverage director at Momofuku. The screw placement is also important. It needs to be centered and deep in the cork. "I hold the screw at an angle to the bottle and poke the tip into the cork and then move the screw vertical before screwing it in," said Mondavi, Jr. Lastly, don't be afraid to take the task to the ground (really!). Mondavi, Jr. said, "Though not very graceful, it's functional for very stubborn corks: place the bottle on the ground between your feet. Firmly hold the neck of the bottle down and pull straight up on the corkscrew handle. Once the cork is 'broken loose,' you can bring it up to the table to finish the job."Which corkscrew is easiest to use?Double-hinged wine keys and lever openers are simple to use but may be difficult for some with arthritis or similar concerns. An electric wine opener does most of the work, so it might be an easier option.What is a two-prong wine opener called?An "ah-so" wine opener has two prongs and can be tricky for beginners to use. Because of its design, an "ah-so" opener is actually ideal to use on older bottles of wine when a traditional corkscrew would cause the cork to split or crumble. To use it, wiggle the long prong in between the cork and bottle. Then wiggle the shorter prong in, and twist the handle slowly to remove the cork. Read the original article on Insider.....»»
On the eve of Tesla"s next major release, Elon Musk gave a bizarre, long-winded interview about everything but the Cybertruck
The Tesla CEO's 90-minute interview featured an at-times confrontational Elon Musk, who raged against advertisers who left X. Elon Musk sat down for a long-winded rollercoaster of an interview on Wednesday, during which he barely mentioned Tesla's Cybertruck.Michael M. Santiago/Getty ImagesElon Musk didn't have much to say about the Cybertruck during an interview the day before its launch.He did have words about pretty much everything else, including telling advertisers who fled X to "Go fuck yourself."Here's a look at Musk's 90-minute interview that was at times confrontational, thoughtful, and bizarre.Tesla has its biggest product launch in four years on Thursday — the Cybertruck delivery event — and you'd never guess that if you listened to Elon Musk's hour-and-a-half-long interview at the DealBook Summit on Wednesday evening.The interview, which was at times philosophical, confrontational, and political, barely touched on the new vehicle.Musk has previously called Cybertruck Tesla's "best product ever," and millions of fans have been waiting for the launch since 2019."It will be the biggest product launch of anything by far on Earth this year," the billionaire told the conference's host, journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin. (Musk has previously attempted to temper expectations, and a Tesla exec said the company will only release 10 Cybertrucks at the delivery event on Thursday.)That was more or less it for his thoughts on the electric pickup truck — though he had plenty to say on everything else.Musk's panel started nearly 15 minutes late, leaving the audience — including the likes of hedge fund titan Bill Ackman and X CEO Linda Yaccarino — waiting.Even before he arrived, he was a topic of conversation, looming over the summit, which featured Vice President Kamala Harris, Disney CEO Bob Iger, and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon as guests."I'm not here to talk about people," Harris quipped when Sorkin mentioned Musk."He's obviously a brilliant human being and making unbelievable contributions to mankind. But he, you know, comes with pluses and minuses," Dimon responded when Sorkin asked his thoughts.When the man of the hour did arrive, the mood on stage quickly turned tense.Sorkin — whom Musk called both "a friend" and the misnomer "Jonathan" in the same sentence — brought up X's recent advertiser exodus, which followed Musk's post that seemed to endorse antisemitism on X.Musk immediately got confrontational and hot-headed — a version of the billionaire that is all too familiar to the readers of his recent biography."Go fuck yourself," he said to the advertisers, including Disney, IBM, and Apple, who have fled the platform, adding that he did not care if the advertisers withheld their dollars and "killed" the company he bought for $44 billion only one year ago."Is that clear?" Musk asked. "I hope it is. Hey, Bob," he added, singling out Disney CEO Iger, who had been asked about pulling advertising from X earlier in the day.Musk later apologized for his tweet, calling it "foolish," but he never backtracked on his feelings toward advertisers — nor did he say sorry to Yaccarino, who has to clean up the mess.But after more than 20 minutes of defensive posturing, his mood shifted when Sorkin brought up Musk previously calling his mind "a storm."Thoughtful and somber, the 52-year-old paused before pointing to his "difficult childhood" and a lifelong struggle to find happiness."I did have this existential crisis when I was around 12 about: 'What's the meaning of life? Isn't it all pointless? Why not just commit suicide? Why exist?'" said Musk, who has previously commented on the tenuous relationship he has with his father and being the victim of bullying.The introspection made way for a discussion about the foundations of his philosophy — "one should not read Nietzsche as a teenager" — before he turned to a couple of his greatest hits, like extending life beyond Earth, figuring out the meaning of the universe, and opining about the dangers of technology.One of those technologies is artificial intelligence, about which Musk, a cofounder of OpenAI, has previously expressed worry. While Musk said he doesn't know why Sam Altman was ousted as CEO of the firm, he's "concerned" that the company discovered "some dangerous element of AI.""I have mixed feelings about Sam. The ring of power can corrupt," Musk — who had avoided questions about his own accumulation of power just minutes before — said.The CEO and richest man in the world ended the talk with some politics — he's still bitter about not being invited to the White House for the electric vehicle summit and is against unions — and a sidebar about how neuralink, his mad-scientist brain chip company that has faced criticism from an animal rights group, has built a "monkey paradise."Elon the fighter, philosopher, and questionable friend may have showed up on stage Wednesday. But Elon the Cybertruck hypeman seems to have been MIA. Maybe that's what X is for.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
9 Things The Australian Government Can Do To Reduce Living Costs Authored by Graham Young via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), The federal government is belatedly recognising that some of its economic policies are contributing to the inflation that the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is trying to stamp out by raising interest rates. People shop at a market in Sydney, Australia, on April 27, 2022. (Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images) Since April 2022 when rates first started to increase, it’s as though we’ve been in a car with two drivers—one with its foot on the brake, the other with its foot on the accelerator. Now, at last, the driver with his foot on the accelerator is showing signs of understanding that they’re going to damage the engine of growth if they keep pulling it in two directions. So they’ve determined to cut spending on road and rail projects after a blowout in costs on the $120 billion (US$78 billion) portfolio of current and proposed projects of $38 billion—more than 25 percent. Cutting road and rail projects is not where I would necessarily start. Good road and rail projects actually add to the productivity of the country. Think of all the trucks that go between Brisbane and Sydney. The upgrades of the Pacific Highway have so far cut the time to travel between the two major east coast cities by 2.5 hours, or somewhere around 20 percent. That’s a huge lift in productivity, and as logistics are a significant proportion of retail prices, a huge decrease in prices. It is therefore anti-inflationary, as well as helping truckies maintain their real earnings. Not that all transport projects are that productive. Former Victorian Premier Daniel Andrew’s Melbourne Suburban Rail Loop and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Cross River Rail are both products that provide negative benefits. They therefore increase costs and are pro-inflationary. The federal government should step away from funding projects like these. What else should it do? Here’s a short list. 1. Reduce Immigration Immediately Australia has apparently taken in 630,000 new immigrants this year—that’s eight regional Toowoombas. In a population of 26 million, this puts too much pressure on infrastructure and is substantially responsible for the current housing crisis. While immigration could help with various skills shortages, there is no evidence that is what the current surge in migration is actually doing. And anyway, a skill shortage is a signal that either the education and training system needs to adapt, or the economy is exhausting its ability to fulfil all wishes with current resources. A baggage handler can be seen loading a suitcase onto a plane at Perth Airport, Australia, on Oct. 26, 2023. (Susan Mortimer/The Epoch Times) 2. Produce Budget Surpluses Going Forward, Not Just This Year The government is less efficient at spending money than the private sector, partly because large bureaucracies, whether public or private, are inefficient, and partly because when it’s not your money, you tend to be less careful. Producing surpluses, without increasing taxation, means a decrease in the size of government and an increase in productivity. Surpluses would mean they would need to control rapidly increasing costs in health, aged care, and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). That should be relatively simple. The NDIS should have always been means-tested, and restricted in what it was available for. Aged care is a centrally micro-managed mess where most of the problems could be fixed by the government stepping away, and also requiring better-off retirees to meet more of their own costs. In health, we spend proportionately around 50 percent more than countries with similar health outcomes like Israel and Singapore. We’ve got a generally good health system, but it could be better and cheaper. Taking these steps would also increase productivity, and therefore reduce upward price pressure. 3. Reform Taxation Delivering the Stage 3 tax cuts should absolutely happen. This is part of downsizing the government and putting resources in the hands of those who will use them most efficiently. There is also a list of more radical reforms that should be implemented to raise the productivity of business. Australia’s productivity has been dropping partly because business has not been investing in productive capacity, and most investment in the economy actually comes from companies. One easy way to boost investment is to allow businesses to accelerate the rate at which they write off assets. Fast-growing companies are always chronically short of capital, and we exacerbate this by taxing them even when they are not cashflow positive. Accelerated depreciation helps with this, and while it temporarily decreases government tax revenue, over the long run it should increase it as greater wealth is generated. Shoppers walk through the Royal Arcade in central Melbourne, Australia, on Oct. 27, 2023. (Susan Mortimer/The Epoch Times) They could also look at abolishing company tax altogether and taxing profits entirely in the hands of shareholders. They should also look at abolishing Capital Gains Tax (a tax that only came into being in 1985). It is part of the reason there is a shortage of rental properties at the moment, which is increasing living costs for the 31 percent of Australians who rent. Once a homeowner doesn’t pay capital gains tax, they have a big advantage over investors when it comes to purchasing a house. 4. Withdraw the 'Closing the Loopholes' Bill This is a brutally misnamed bill that will make casual and self-employed work marginal. It strikes at the heart of ambitious Australians who want to do things for themselves and will make our workforce significantly less flexible, increasing costs all around. In fact, this bill ought to be known as the “Enabling Greater Union Power and Screwing the Small Business Sector” Bill. The “loopholes” that it claims to close are in fact, not bugs, but features in what has been a remarkably flexible and productive workforce. The Uber logo is seen at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles, California, on May 8, 2018. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images) 5. Reform Environmental Protection Laws The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act is strangling the growth of projects in Australia and urgently needs review. It gives too much power to objectors, who in many cases are environmental groups (not conservation groups) set on sabotaging wealth creation rather than protecting the environment. There is enough sovereign risk in Australia these days without amplifying it. 6. Stop Capping Prices When prices go up the government’s first impulse appears to be to control the price. They’ve certainly done this with gas which, in the long-term, actually sends prices up. High prices are a signal to businesses of where to invest, and price caps are a signal of where not to invest. 7. Moderate the Energy Transition The inflation in rail and road infrastructure projects is nothing compared to what is about to happen in the area of power generation. It is already diverting labour and resources from everyday necessities like housing, but there is a looming shortage of the components that make up renewable energy and power networks. In addition, proceeding without adequate storage is going to increase the need for gas-fired power generation, which is only going to get more expensive because of government policies making it difficult to start new gas projects. Wind turbines can be seen on the skyline in Albany, Western Australia, on Aug. 8, 2023. (Susan Mortimer/The Epoch Times) 8. Reform Federal-State Relations Not all the fault for inflation lies with the federal government, a lot of it lies with the states who have borrowed profligately. The Commonwealth either needs to reintroduce borrowing limits, as used to be the case under the Loans Council, or make it clear to lenders (and voters and governments) that they will not bail out state governments that can’t repay their borrowings. 9. Nominate a Minimum Range for Interest Rates A large slab of our problem is that the RBA pushed interest rates too low—to a historically unparalleled rate. It should be clear to the RBA, and to voters, that official interest rates should never fall below, say 3.5 percent. The record-low rate of 0.1 percent was absurd for a number of reasons. Risk-averse investors, such as pensioners, need to have an asset class that gives them a reasonable return, and which is liquid. That is cash or bonds. While an asset could wear a return of 0.1 percent if there was a reasonable chance of capital gains, at that rate there is a more than reasonable chance of a capital loss. In fact, the RBA is apparently sitting on around $45 billion of unrealised losses because it invested in its own paper at this absurdly low rate. A pedestrian walks past the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) head office in Sydney, Australia, on March 1, 2022. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi) The rate is also important because the government bond rate tends to be priced off it, and the return on government bonds is used as a hurdle rate by investors to gauge the return they need from an investment to make it viable. When the official cash rate is too low people, businesses and governments invest in too many marginal projects which add nothing to national productivity and income, and often freeze out riskier, but ultimately more profitable, ones. I wish I could say it is likely the government will pick up even one of these ideas, but it isn’t. Just a few days ago Treasurer Jim Chalmers boasted, “We’ve seen the highest quarterly wages growth in 26 years under an Australian Labor government. Real wages started falling under the Coalition due to a decade of deliberate wage stagnation and high inflation. We're turning it around.” Except they’re not turning it around at all. He’s quoting nominal wages against real wages, and ignoring the fact that labour productivity has just suffered a record fall. Those wage hikes aren’t good for the economy, they are inflation in action. If you can’t see it when you stub your toe on it, in the end, you’re unlikely to be able to do anything about it. Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times or ZeroHedge. Tyler Durden Wed, 11/22/2023 - 20:00.....»»
I pay $1,550 in rent and spent more than $13,000 renovating my NYC apartment. Before and after photos show why it was worth it.
This apartment rents for $6,055 a month. The Brooklyn unit got a custom bookshelf, bar, and bathroom sink in a nearly $14,000 renovation. See photos. Joe Yatco (left) and the renovated bar in his apartment (right).Arnav Somani; Joe YatcoJoe Yatco is an architect in New York City who pays $1,550 per month for his Brooklyn apartment.Yatco spent more than $13,000 renovating the apartment, including building a bar, bookshelf, and new sink.He said it was well worth it to build a space he loves for him and his friends.This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Joe Yatco, a New York City-based architect whose apartment renovation recently went viral. Insider has verified his rent and renovation expenses. The essay has been edited for length and clarity.I've always been building things since I was a kid or just taking things apart and figuring out how they work.I was in pre-med for two years in college and then transferred into architecture. But the first big project I did was for Eagle Scouts when I was 17. I decided to build a hockey rink. My uncle taught me everything about basic wall construction and curving plywood. Fairly complicated stuff, but that's the kind of thing that once you learn it, it's with you.I always built things in my dorm rooms and would customize everything. The work was really shoddy, but you get better each time you do it. My thought was always, "Well, somebody built this. I can figure this out."For my current apartment, I visited a friend who lived there and when I saw the place, I knew there was so much potential. I immediately asked if there were any rooms opening up.It's a four-bedroom in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and is about 2,000 square feet. It's leased by room and I pay $1,550. The whole space is $6,055.I've lived here for two years and basically started making changes a week in. It's not that I'm compelled to build, more so I am bothered by bad design. So I just start disassembling things.I've spent about $14,000 renovating it and have zero regret about it.View of the shared living space facing Yatco's bedroom, including the area he decided to build a bar.Joe YatcoThe bookshelf is Yatco's favorite part of the renovation. He used both wood and concrete for the bar.Joe YatcoEvery time I renovate a place, I get better at itMy dean of architecture once told me it's better to ask for forgiveness than for permission. I figured if I'm putting a little bit of my own money in here to improve the place and the landlord is getting a free professional architect to renovate his apartment, he wouldn't care.He came in for an insurance inspection and I was kind of terrified, thinking it's probably going to go one of two ways, and they're not good: He hates it and he's pissed off at it, or he loves it and he raises my rent. Luckily, he loved it and hasn't changed the rate of raising my rent.The cost of renovating the apartment was all material. Design and labor were free because I was doing all of it. We lived in a job site for a very long time. I think I burned a little bit of capital with my roommates. Every time I come up with a new design, they're like, "What is this going to do to us?"A photo from Yatco's first night in his bedroom, when he hung Picasso's Guernica before he even had a bed.Joe YatcoYatco's bedroom. The photo of the cowboy is Yatco's father in the Philippines in the 1960s.Joe YatcoI probably drew 60 different versions of everything in that apartment. I 3D model everything. I try to get the most realistic view of how it'll come out, and I use professional programs for designing buildings. Other times I was just shooting from the hip.Pouring a concrete bar I just figured out on the fly. I'd spend 16 hours in a weekend working on it, just to see if I could do it. It was stressful but it was a good kind of stress.My personal favorite is the bookshelf, because that's the first thing that I've built from the ground up.When our bathroom sink came off the wall during a New Year's party, my roommates were all freaking out but I was very low-key excited, because I hated that sink. I would just be in the shower thinking about how I would design it. When it broke, the next day I modeled it in my program and literally just went out to go buy the materials and started doing it.I usually design around whatever emotion I want to convey. I wanted to make it a home. When people walk through the door and see it for the first time, almost always their jaw drops like, "Where the hell am I?" The fact that people want to be there is very fulfilling to me.The bathroom sink after it broke off during a New Year's party.Joe YatcoThe new bathroom sink, taken eight days after the previous photo.Joe YatcoI enjoy building a lot, and every time I renovate a place, I get better at it. This is the first time that I have done a renovation where I would absolutely put it in my portfolio. This was just a culmination of years of practicing and having the right roommates.This is my hobby, borderline my profession, so regardless if I got kicked out, I'd still have the joy of having built it. I always tell people that men would rather build a bar in their apartment than go to therapy.Renovating a rental is worth itSome people are all upset, like, "Why would you spend $14,000 not on your own place?" I did it because I enjoy it, and I did it for my friends, to give them a place to enjoy. And most of what I've spent is furniture that can be moved.When you move into a place, you're just inheriting what it is, and a lot of people don't make changes to their place and it doesn't truly reflect them. This place was designed to reflect me and how I could see myself living and what is my dream apartment.Honestly, I would pay double for how happy I am now.View from the bar area towards the kitchen and entryway.Joe YatcoThe updated kitchen area. The metal security bars in the window bothered Yatco, so he covered them with wood slats to give the feel of a Japanese screen.Joe YatcoIn my mind, we're all on borrowed time. So I'm going to enjoy it and not think about how this may not be the right financial decision. I've done the responsible things with my 401K and investments, and now I'm at a point in my career where felt I'm making enough. Let's do some irresponsible things.The only way to get good at it is to start doing it. You're going to mess up. That's fine. As long as you're willing to learn and take each mess up as a learning opportunity. You just slowly get more interested in it and over time all of a sudden you're good at it.Even I could be doing so much better. It's something I want get better and craft over my lifetime.Yeah, it's slightly irresponsible, but you only get one life. I'm done putting money into this, and now I get to live fairly cheaply in an amazing space because I was just willing to take the risk.Do you have an interesting home, apartment, or van renovation you'd like to share? Email Kelsey Vlamis at firstname.lastname@example.org.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
Dollar General faced claims in Ohio that it overcharged customers at checkout. Now, it's paying $1 million in a settlement. Dollar General has reached a settlement with the State of Ohio after the state's attorney general said that the chain overcharged customers at some stores.Scott Olson/Getty ImagesDollar General is paying $1 million in a settlement with the state of Ohio.Ohio's attorney general said last year that Dollar General overcharged customers for items like groceries.It's the latest sign of operational trouble for the dollar store chain.Dollar General has reached a $1 million settlement with the state of Ohio after an investigation suggested that the chain had charged customers more for some items at checkout than on-the-shelf prices.Under the settlement, Dollar General will pay $750,000 to the office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. The money will go to food banks and other groups that distribute food and personal care items to those in need.Another $250,000 will cover a penalty and investigative costs, according to a copy of the settlement filed in a Butler County court in September. Dollar General doesn't admit to any wrongdoing, according to the document.The settlement was reported earlier by Columbus TV station NBC4."This is a win for Ohio consumers," Hannah Hundley, a spokesperson for Yost's office, told Insider. "We are in the process of finalizing how those funds will be distributed to local communities."A Dollar General spokesperson told Insider the company "is committed to providing customers with accurate prices on items purchased in our stores, and we are disappointed any time we fail to deliver on this commitment. When a pricing discrepancy is identified, our store teams are empowered to correct the matter on the spot for our customers.""We have appreciated the constructive approach to resolving this matter with the Ohio Attorney General's office," the spokesperson added.The settlement comes nearly a year after Yost's office filed a lawsuit against Dollar General over the price discrepancies last November.A county auditor's review of prices at 20 Dollar General stores in Southwestern Ohio in 2022 found that between 16.7% and 88.2% of the products at individual stores were priced incorrectly. Ohio law only allows an error rate as high as 2%.In its own investigation last fall, NBC4 found several items that rang up for more than their shelf tags indicated at Columbus-area Dollar Generals. A can of Spaghetti-O's, for example, cost $2.25 at the register instead of the $1.50 listed on the shelf.Under the settlement with Ohio, Dollar General agreed to provide enough staffing coverage to keep shelf prices up-to-date. For customers who find an item that costs more than the price listed on the shelf, Dollar General has to honor the shelf price and fix the tag within 24 hours.District managers also have to conduct random price checks "no less than every 45 days" at individual stores, according to the settlement.Dollar General has faced a variety of complaints about its stores from workers and customers. The chain settled another lawsuit, this one from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, that it took back job offers from applicants who had high blood pressure or bad eyesight.Employees have told Insider that Dollar General often staffs stores with just a single worker, making it impossible to unpack items, restock shelves, and serve customers at the same time.Many Dollar General stores are so cluttered with merchandise that fire marshals have ordered them to close.The mess at some stores has attracted rodents and caught the attention of local health departments, Insider previously reported.The Tennessee-based chain has also racked up millions in fines from the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, only a fraction of which it has paid.Executives said in August that they were trying to clean up their stores. Dollar General is taking $95 million in write-downs on surplus merchandise as well as deploying "smart teams" to stores that need cleaning up.Do you work or shop at Dollar General and have a story idea to share? Reach out to this reporter at email@example.comRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»
We moved our family of 4 into a tiny, remote cabin we bought sight-unseen. Everything was a mess at first, but now we"re closer than ever.
The Elderkins were tired of California and downsized to Pennsylvania. The move was a disaster and the cabin was in disrepair. "We embraced it." The Elderkin family.Courtesy of Mike Bloom. Danielle Elderkin and her husband grew weary of the grind of life in Temecula, California. In 2019, their family packed up and headed to Pennsylvania but arrived to a cabin in disrepair. The experience bonded them: They spend more time together and have money for family vacations. This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Danielle Elderkin, who, along with her husband and two sons, left Southern California for Pennsylvania in 2019. The essay has been edited for length and clarity.My family and I lived in Temecula, which is between San Diego and Orange County. For a long time, we loved it there. We enjoyed the food and being close to the beach and mountains. But there were a lot of downsides to living in the city.There was a large transient community and I would have to keep my office locked. I was on a first-name basis with the local police department because of incidents that happened. We really didn't want our kids living in that type of environment.We also felt like the cost of living was outrageous and we were always working. Despite that, we still didn't feel like we were getting ahead in life. We didn't have extra money for vacations and we had to live very simply.Eventually we stopped loving the area. The Elderkins' California home.Courtesy of Danielle ElderkinMy sister lives in the Poconos. There are many abandoned, rundown cabins in the area. In the fall of 2018, I visited her and I had a lightbulb moment: My husband and I could buy a cabin cheaply, fix it up, sell it, and buy another one. We could really have a fresh start.So, that's what we did. In 2018, we found a 760-square-foot, 1960s cabin online and purchased it for $65,000 — we didn't even see it in person. In February 2019, we sold our 1,900-square-foot California home and moved to the Poconos.We encountered a disaster in the moving process Our California home was large, so we had a lot of stuff. Since our Poconos cabin was smaller, we decided to get rid of almost everything — we really didn't care about a lot of our possessions.I have a good friend who sells stuff on eBay. We gave her two U-Hauls full of our things and just took basics like dressers, beds, and our couch. We decided to take one car with us and sell the other. We really downsized.My husband and I hired a moving company — the type where they drop off the van, you fill it yourself, and then they move your belongings. It cost us around $8,000. On the way to Pennsylvania, our moving van flipped over. About 80% of our stuff was destroyed. For a week, we had no idea how bad or minimal it was, and if we were going to be able to salvage our stuff. It was kind of devastating. The items we were most worried about were art and our kids' memories. Those were irreplaceable.Luckily, right before we left, I called my insurance agent to ask if we were covered for the miles between California and the Poconos. He gave us a short-term policy that covered everything, it cost only $15.When our stuff arrived in the Poconos, we had to go through everything and make a list of our items and look up pricing. Nothing that really mattered to us was destroyed. It really put into perspective how much stuff we really needed in life.The Elderkins' moving van.Courtesy of Danielle Elderkin.We did deal with inconveniences. Our couch was broken in half and our dressers smashed. My husband had a lot of light construction equipment like saws that were damaged. We basically got the purchase price for everything that was destroyed. I think it was like $15,000. We were lucky, the moving company was only going to pay us 10 cents a pound no matter the item.We arrived to a cabin in a state of disrepairMy family and I drove down to the Poconos in a vintage camper that we bought in 2016. It was so late at night when we finally arrived in town, but we wanted to see the house right away. We had only seen photos.When we got to the house, it was around 9 p.m. and pitch dark. It did not have any power, so we had to use flashlights to get around. The man that had lived in the home prior was a chain smoker, and we discovered yellow film on all the windows. He also had a wood-burning fireplace and the stove was not ventilating properly, so the carpet was stained and a different color in every room. It was horrific. We just sort of laughed about it. We were like, "What the heck can we do?" We were still excited about the potential of the home and knew we could make it nice. We embraced it as a part of the adventure.Kyle Elderkin working with an electrical saw.Courtesy of Niv Rosenberg.It was not in condition for us to move in right away and live in. It needed to be cleaned a lot, and the carpet had to be torn up. So we stayed with my sister for a couple of weeks, while my husband did some initial demo work. Since our first date, my husband and I have always talked about wanting to renovate houses. We knew we were going to update this cabin and incorporate all things that we really love.We made the kitchen bigger and included more cabinets. We kept the bedrooms pretty much the same and painted the paneling and brightened the rooms up. We renovated two bathrooms, which were really fun to do. We installed a vintage clawfoot tub and fun tile. It took us about three and a half years to renovate the cabin.Within that time my husband had a full-time job working in construction at a local resort, and was renovating the cabin on the side. During that time, we also bought a second cabin, renovated it completely, and sold it.In December 2022, we moved from the first cabin into the third cabin we bought. For now, this is our house, at least until our boys graduate from high school. But we definitely are planning on acquiring more properties. Right now, we're looking at the short-term rental market.It took time to adjust to a smaller living spaceLiving in a smaller space, you have to get really creative with using every inch of the house in a useful way. You can't just throw things in a giant closet, because you don't have that. Everything is super organized.At first, the boys hated sharing a room. They're 19 months apart and territorial and competitive. As they got older, they just really wanted their own space. A cabin that was purchased by the Elderkins.Courtesy of Niv Rosenberg.My husband and I actually loved downsizing. Being trapped in our house during the shutdown, we really made the most of it. Looking back, those were some of the best times that we've all had together.We played a lot of board games, watched movies, and took cooking classes online. We were trying new things all the time. One of my sons learned to juggle and the other did magic. It was just really good bonding time for us all. We're spending more time together as a family It's so different living in the Poconos. Though we're still living pretty simply, money isn't so much a focus for us anymore. When we sold our first cabin, we went to Disney World. If we were still living in California, we wouldn't have been able to afford that vacation. My sister lives close by, so my sons have their cousins who are close in age to them. But because we moved towards the beginning of the pandemic, for a while, they didn't have any interaction with anyone except Zoom. It was challenging because the boys missed their friends. Danielle Elderkin and her husband, Kyle.Courtesy of Niv Rosenberg.Once they went back to school, they really got to know people. They're now in sports, band, and drama. My older son is in a bunch of AP and honors classes. My family definitely spends more time together, especially living in a smaller space. But I do miss my family that still lives in California. Even still, I think we are probably going to stay in this area and keep it as our home base. The dream was for us to have more time together as a family, and to focus on renovating houses. I think the timing of everything worked out perfectly. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
Whether you're in the market for a robot vacuum or a classic upright, Amazon's Prime Day has discounts of up to 40% on major vacuum brands. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn moreAmazon Prime Day brings with it major discounts on top vacuum brands like Shark and Bissell.Amazon/InsiderAmazon Prime Day is the perfect time to level up your floor care with a powerful, deeply discounted vacuum. The Prime Big Deal Days October sale is in full swing with impressive deals on popular vacuum brands, like Dyson, Bissell, Shark, and more. The deals are only good while supplies last or until October 11 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific, so act now to avoid missing out.Many vacuums we've tested for our guide to the best vacuum cleaners are marked down. The Shark Vertex DuoClean Cordless Vacuum does an outstanding job of picking up debris on any surface. It's $150 off at Amazon, close to an all-time low price. In our guide to the best carpet cleaners, the Hoover FH52000 SmartWash Automatic Carpet Cleaner is our pick for tackling pet stains. It's $189.99 at Amazon, the lowest we've seen in months.We will update this article as more vacuum deals go live. In the meantime, follow our liveblog for the best Prime Day deals in all departments.Top 5 vacuum deals Shark Vertex DuoClean Cordless Vacuum $429.99 $279.99 at AmazonHoover SmartWash Automatic Carpet Cleaner $279.99 $189.99 at AmazoniRobot Roomba s9+ Robot Vacuum $999.99 $599.99 at Amazon Bissell Cleanview Swivel Pet Vacuum $118.44 $106.44 at AmazonBlack+Decker Dustbuster Cordless Handheld Vacuum $49.99 $34.99 at AmazonThe best Prime Day cordless vacuum dealsThe best Prime Day upright vacuum deals The best Prime Day handheld vacuum deals The best Prime Day robot vacuum deals The best Prime Day carpet cleaner dealsHow to choose the right vacuumCordless vacuums are becoming increasingly popular for their convenience, whether cleaning your car or making quick work of a small mess. In our best cordless vacuum guide, the Shark Vertex IZ462H DuoClean Cordless Vacuum, on sale for $280 at Amazon, is our top pick because it makes cleaning under furniture a breeze and has strong suction.Robot vacuums automate cleaning your floors. They are great for daily light vacuuming, especially if you have pets that shed. The iRobot Roomba s9+ is one of the best robot vacuums you can buy. It has strong suction and a self-emptying dustbin. Right now, it's $400 off at Amazon. Check out our full Roomba S9+ review.Upright vacuums plug into your wall, translating to more power and longer runtime than their battery-powered counterparts. They also tend to be more affordable and have larger dustbins. They're ideal for cleaning your whole house. The Bissell Cleanview Swivel Pet upright vacuum is the best cheap vacuum cleaner we've tested. It's marked down to only $106 at Amazon.Handheld vacuums quickly clean up small messes in hard-to-reach places, though they lack the suction and capacity to handle larger tasks. The best handheld vacuum we've tested is the Black+Decker Dustbuster Cordless Handheld Vacuum. It did well picking up debris on carpeting, hardwood, and in the car. Right now, it's on sale for just $35 at Amazon.Carpet cleaners use water and detergent to deep-clean your carpeting. While you should vacuum every week or so, carpet cleaning is a less frequent task: One to three times per year is usually enough. We recommend the Hoover SmartWash Automatic Carpet Cleaner for dealing with pet stains. It was one of the only machines to remove Sharpie in our tests. Pick it up for $189.99 at Amazon.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
Big Tech is promising AI assistants straight out of "Iron Man" in an attempt to tackle our endless lists of "crapmin"
Tech companies leading the development of AI are pushing forward AI assistants that aim to solve our time-consuming tasks, much like Tony Stark's Jarvis. Tony Stark relied heavily on AI assistant Jarvis for a variety of tasks.MarvelMicrosoft, Meta, and more are touting AI assistants that are far more advanced than Siri and Alexa.They are starting to put AI tools in people's pockets that feel a lot like Tony Stark's Jarvis.These AI assistants have the potential to deal with tedious digital tasks, or "crapmin."There's an AI vision of the future that's starting to emerge, which looks a lot like something straight out of Iron Man's Stark Industries. Let's call it AI's Jarvis moment.From Microsoft to Meta, tech companies leading the charge in AI are starting to make clear what the future of AI looks like to them. Instead of buzzy chatbots that go "brrr," they're promising powerful tools that serve as do-it-all assistants like Iron Man's trusty AI companion.Microsoft introduced Copilot last month as an "everyday AI companion" spanning multiple devices, one that promises to be at your every beck and call through what CEO Satya Nadella described as a "single unified experience centered around you."Mark Zuckerberg is attempting to pull off something similar at Meta by resuscitating his struggling augmented-reality glasses idea as AI-powered Ray-Bans, which will start giving you information, writing text, and more upon hearing the magic words "Hey Meta.""If you want to build an AI assistant that really has access to all of the inputs that you have as a person, glasses are probably the way that you want to build that," Zuckerberg said during Meta's Connect conference last week.Tony Stark's Jarvis was, of course, an AI assistant who helped Marvel's ironclad superhero defend Earth against universe-level threats – who eventually became the vibranium-based android Vision. Jarvis was also a trusty companion who managed digital chores, offered advice, and managed online systems with ease.At a time when more of people's everyday life is consumed online by tiresome and dull tasks we'll call "crapmin," a Jarvis-like tool could confirm AI as the superpower tech companies so desperately want it to be.Sorting out the 'crapmin'Digital life in 2023 can be pretty time-consuming. Working through endless work and personal emails, managing bills and appointments, trawling through clunky websites for vacation planning, and setting reminders for key dates can all take more time and energy than necessary.Tech companies have made efforts to release products, which aim to solve some of these issues, like Alexa or Siri. But they've often felt either gimmicky, limited in scope, or outright amateurish. Siri often struggles to understand context, while Alexa has previously been described as "a colossal failure of imagination."In the age of generative AI that's taken shape this year, tech companies are starting to see the very real potential for AI to be your reliable Jarvis.In Microsoft's case, Copilot will have a place across its full suite of products, whether that's helping to make coding more efficient with GitHub, boosting productivity during use of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, or enhancing the search experience through Bing.In a blogpost announcing Copilot, Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft corporate vice president and consumer chief marketing officer, wrote how the AI assistant could use your search history to personalize responses for you.For instance, "If you've used Bing to track your favorite soccer team, next time you're planning a trip it can proactively tell you if the team is playing in your destination city," Mehdi noted. Copilot will aim to help with things like shopping too, by providing "more tailored recommendations."During Meta Connect, updated smart glass was presented as an "advanced conversational assistant" that does your bidding by simply responding to your voice.Here's a scenario Meta offers to showcase the handiness of an AI assistant. Say you're in a group chat with friends attempting to plan a trail walk in California. Meta's AI assistant "surfaces options directly in the chat, so you can decide as a group which location to explore."These use cases, in effect, makes AI much more than assistants: they hold the potential to become a trusty superpower that can be depended on to understand your personal needs before helping clean up a mess and make hard work seem like no sweat at all.There is a chance that none of this pans out. Existing AI tools like ChatGPT have, at times, sparked concern over inaccuracies and hallucinations, as well as deeper issues around biases resulting from data.Letting an AI assistant take care of all aspects of our "crapmin" will require a lot of confidence in its capabilities. After all, a powerful ally like Jarvis harbors the potential of turning into an evil Ultron at any moment.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
I quit Disney Cruise Line after just 4 months because of intense burnout. Here"s what working on a cruise is actually like.
Gianna Alexis quit working on the Disney Dream Cruise line because of burnout. She says it wasn't worth the stress or pain — and she was making less than minimum wage. Gianna Alexis worked at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on the Disney Dream cruise ship.Gianna Alexis Gianna Alexis worked for Disney Cruise Lines on the Disney Dream ship when she was 24. She quit after just four months because of burnout and long working hours. Alexis said she had to work at least 70 hours a week and was paid less than minimum wage. This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Gianna Alexis, a former crew member of Disney Cruise Line. The following has been edited for length and clarity.I was three years old when I sailed on my first Disney cruise, and I thought it was the coolest thing. It was the best vacation ever, so I went every few years after that.I had always been excited about working for Disney, so I applied for a job at Disney Cruise Line in 2017. When I found out I got the job, I was so excited I cried.Before work started, Disney took us through a training that was designed to get us excited about the work. On the last day of training, we were told to get ready at 4 a.m. Then, the company had a sniffing dog to smell our suitcases, which I didn't expect at all — it all seemed so different because the only experience I had embarking on a cruise ship was from a guest's point of view.I was first hired as a merchandise person to work in the shops, then the company moved me to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, which was a total dream of mine. This boutique is the place where kids between three and 12 get makeovers — we do their hair, makeup, and nails.A lot of girls that I did hair for would come back the next day just to see me. In their eyes, I was like their fairy godmother — that made me feel it was the most magical job that I've ever had. In addition to that job, I also helped workers bring food, merchandise, and toys to the shops. I didn't know the job would be physically demanding — I thought I would just be doing kids' hair, makeup, and nails.I quit after just four monthsAs a young 24-year-old, I went into this job blindly and wasn't fully prepared.I worked from 8:30 a.m. until 9 or 10 p.m. Before starting this job, I didn't, or couldn't, conceptualize what an 80-hour work week without a day off would look like, at all. There was no work-and-life balance.I had so little time to myself. In my downtime, I didn't even want to watch TV or movies. Once I got 30 minutes into watching, I'd rather just sleep because I was so tired — sleeping had become my priority. The only "me time" I would have for myself was a quick sheet mask in my room and that's all. My room was so small that I could nearly touch both walls with outstretched arms. I got a stress fracture in one of my feet from standing 80 hours a week in my costume shoes — it got so hard for me to stand. With a normal job, you can call in sick if you're not feeling well. But for me, if I didn't show up to work, my manager could come downstairs from the shop to see me what was wrong, how long I would need off, and if I needed medical attention, or if I was faking it. Working on the cruise ship meant my living space was also my workspace. Managers and coworkers could spot us whenever we were out at night. I had to be "on" a lot of the time, and it played a big role in how quickly I burned out.In the fourth month of my contract, I felt defeated and exhausted to the point where I decided to quit. The Disney Dream cruise ship at sea.David Roark/photographerI was making less than the minimum wage I worked a minimum of 70 hours weekly and got paid $423 a week, so it was about $6 an hour. There was no overtime rate at all.We do receive benefits, including shipboard medical care, complimentary Disney theme park admission, discounts at selected resort hotels, and Disney merchandise at worldwide Disney locations.Many cruise members come from all over the world. They're making US dollars, and sometimes even making more than doctors or lawyers in their home countries. One girl from Portugal had worked on the ships for 10 years. She loved it because she was making a great living for herself and for her family overseas — she regularly sent them money.The cruise life was totally worth it to her, but for me, there were other higher-paying jobs I could have easily applied to. Some crew members on the ship thought I was taking a job from someone for whom it could have been more beneficial, like someone who needed to support their family in another country.We don't eat the same food as the guestsThe crew members eat in the crew mess, a large cafeteria where breakfast, lunch, and dinner is served. There is a small salad bar and some cooked options. For breakfast, I usually ate hard-boiled eggs. For lunch and dinner, I ate veggie burger patties (I was a vegetarian at the time). During holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, we had specialty food items like cake and ice cream.Sometimes the company threw parties for us. For example, if our service got high marks on guest surveys and feedback, that's when we got to have the better-tasting guest food. I remember they brought jalapeno poppers one time.The Buena Vista Theatre inside the Disney Dream cruise ship.Matt Stroshane/photographerNot everyone on the ship has the same freedomsNot everyone has the same freedoms in what they can do or where they can go on the boat. Everything above the deck we lived on was a "privilege" — we weren't allowed to roam the ship freely.If we wanted to go to spots like the movie theater, we had to call our manager beforehand and get it approved in writing. If the cruise was very full, we might need to free up room for guests. I worked in the shops, and our team was a small group of 30 crew members. We were able to go to more places on the ship easily.Typically, the larger teams weren't able to get clearance. The dining-room team, for example, is a 300-person team. If their manager gave everyone on that team permission to roam the ship, guest areas would become too crowded.I had a friend who was a server in the dining room. She wasn't able to go to the movie theater or the pools like I could. She was only allowed on the floor that she lived on and a spot called "Deck 14," which is a small outdoor smoking deck.I left the boat and was almost put on Disney's 'no rehire' listWorking on the ship for a few months took a mental toll on me. One week after giving my 30-day notice, I told my manager that I'd get off the boat the next time we ported.I remember being told that leaving before the 30 days might mean I wouldn't be able to work for Disney or any of its affiliate companies like ESPN and ABC.That was a scary thought because Disney was the only company I've ever worked for as an adult. But my foot pain and burnout were so severe that all I cared about at that point was getting off the ship. So I left after four months.Working on the cruise ship wasn't all badWorking at the boutique was so much fun. I also had a wonderful roommate and made great friends with the people living in my hallway. It felt like living in a college dorm, and we all became close friends in a very short amount of time.The unique cruise line experience was a bonding opportunity that brought us all closer. Those who haven't lived on a cruise line just wouldn't understand. In all, I cherish the friendships I formed with my coworkers.Disney did not respond to a request for comment.If you've worked on a cruise line and want to share your story, email Aria Yang at firstname.lastname@example.org.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
CVS And Cigna Charge $6,000 For $55 Generics By Mish Shedlock of Mishtalk Health insurers dramatically mark up prices of generics and pharmacies are in on the scheme. Generic Drugs Should Be Cheap But Sometimes They Aren’t The Wall Street Journal reports Generic Drugs Should Be Cheap, but Insurers Are Charging Thousands of Dollars for Them The cancer drug Gleevec went generic in 2016 and can be bought today for as little as $55 a month. But many patients’ insurance plans are paying more than 100 times that. CVS Health and Cigna can charge $6,600 a month or more for Gleevec prescriptions, a Wall Street Journal analysis of pricing data found. They are able to do that because they set the prices with pharmacies, which they sometimes own. Across a selection of these so-called specialty generic drugs, Cigna and CVS’s prices were at least 24 times higher on average than roughly what the medicines’ manufacturers charge, the Journal found. The prices at UnitedHealth Group, which also owns a large health insurer, were 3.5 times as much, according to the analysis of data compiled by 46brooklyn Research, a nonprofit drug-pricing analytics group. Price Gap Cigna’s prices were 27.4 times higher than Cuban’s on average for 19 generic drugs. CVS’s prices were 24.2 times higher on average for 17 generic drugs. UnitedHealth’s prices were 3.5 times higher than Cuban’s on average for 19 generic drugs. Cigna can charge roughly $6,610 a month for Gleevec, the Journal’s analysis found. CVS Health can charge more than $7,000 a month. United Health can charge $218. A prescription for generic Tecfidera, a multiple-sclerosis therapy, costs $54 a month through the Cuban pharmacy, compared with nearly $1,215 through UnitedHealth. (Cigna and CVS didn’t submit prices for the drug to Medicare.) A monthly prescription for prostate-cancer drug Zytiga costs about $118 on Cuban’s website, compared with $4,195 through Cigna, $2,056 through CVS and $205 through UnitedHealth. Kudos to Mark Cuban for Increasing Competition On August 22, I wrote Kudos to Mark Cuban for Lower Priced Drugs and Increasing Health Care Competition Big Win For Consumers Fortune called it a big win for Cuban. I suggest it’s a big win for everyone. It also strikes at the heart of precisely what is wrong with Medicare for all and single payer setups. When government picks up the entire tab, there is no incentive for consumers to shop around for better deals. Those without health care coverage and those on high deductible plans are the biggest winners. Some of the savings on CostPlus are amazing. Just a Start We need to go far beyond drug pricing into health care services. Each year, millions of US residents travel to another country for medical care because of cost. The practice is called medical tourism. Congress Investigates How Pharma Middlemen Affect Drug Prices The WSJ reports Congress Investigates How Pharma Middlemen Affect Drug Prices House Republicans have launched an investigation into the companies that manage drug benefits, dialing up the scrutiny of the middlemen who play an important role in how much medicines cost. The House Oversight and Accountability Committee said Wednesday that it has sent letters to CVS Health Corp.’s CVS Caremark, Cigna Group’s Express Scripts and UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s OptumRx—the largest pharmacy-benefit managers—seeking documents about the drug-price rebates they negotiate and fees they charge. The committee also said it has sent requests to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and other federal agencies asking for their contracts with the PBMs. Medicare for All Isn’t the Answer Hello Bernie Sanders, socialists, and progressives, Medicare for all is not the answer. Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamcare have fostered a system of collusion, graft and outright fraud. Companies that are allegedly independent collude with each other to charge the most that they can. Everyone suffers but the companies in on the fraud. No Skin in the Game Customers who have already reached their max out of pocket deductibles have no skin in the game. And that’s a huge problem. According to Medicare.Gov “No Medicare drug plan may have a deductible more than $505 in 2023. Some Medicare drug plans don’t have a deductible. In some plans that do have a deductible, drugs on some tiers are covered before the deductible.” Once deductibles are reached, sometimes in one month, consumers have no incentive to shop around. Other customers, unaware of cost differentials, fill prescriptions on the basis of convenience, that being the nearest pharmacy. In my recent experience, a doctor warned me not to go to CVS or Walgreens but rather Costco to get a prescription filled. Not many doctors do that. The worst doctors are in bed with pharmacies or insurers to not use generics. Some receive illegal kickbacks and/or a steady flow of customers for their efforts. As long as we are going to have Medicare, and no politician will ever get rid of it, It would behoove Medicare and insurers to require the cheapest cost alternative on all drugs. That would force competition and eliminate fraudulent collusion. US consumers are subsidizing the rest of the world. I would put an end to that by allowing drug imports. Composition of Outlays for Major Health Care The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says “Spending on Medicare is projected to account for more than four-fifths of the increase in spending on the major health care programs over the next 30 years.” What are we going to do about that? The Right to Die It’s an uncomfortable topic, where demagoguery about “death squads” abounds, but we need to have a talk about the right to die and how much money we spend prolonging a terminal patient’s life, in massive pain, for a few weeks or months. I have made my wishes known. I do not want to be kept alive by heroic means if the quality of my life is expected to be grim. That’s a personal decision. At the national level we must face this very uncomfortable question: Should we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars keeping someone alive whose life expectancy is 3 months? 6 months? a year? A review of US demographics, debt, and deficits puts a spotlight on those questions. Debt to GDP Alarm Bells Ring, Neither Party Will Solve This Debt-to-GDP image from the Congressional Budget Office, annotations by Mish. The CBO projects net interest will rise from 10 percent to 23 percent of total outlays. Major Health Care programs, of which Medicare will comprise about 80 percent, will increase from 27 percent to 38 percent. The total of Major Health Care and Interest is 23 percent + (38 percent * .77) = 52 percent. Social Security is another 28 percent * .77 = 22 percent. That makes the total of Major Health Care + Interest + Social Security 74 percent of total outlays, leaving 26 percent for everything else. Good luck with that. For discussion, please see Debt to GDP Alarm Bells Ring, Neither Party Will Solve This The solution to this mess is not politicians and certainly not Medicare for all. Free market competition coupled with meaningful “skin in the game” individual actions is the only hope. Tyler Durden Thu, 09/14/2023 - 10:20.....»»
In the ever-shifting digital universe, a war rages to shield our technology from adversaries. Amid this tumult, a formidable ally ... Read more In the ever-shifting digital universe, a war rages to shield our technology from adversaries. Amid this tumult, a formidable ally emerges – the ethical hackers. These intrepid souls unveil and remediate cybersecurity frailties, all for the greater good. In this article, we plunge headlong into ethical hacking, peeling back the layers to reveal the practices of penetration testing, responsible disclosure, and proactive security measures. The Ethical Hacking Process In the online world where dangers hide and bad people hunt, the white hat brigade fights for good, always watching and protecting. These heroes of the internet are called ethical hackers, experts who use their skills to find and fix problems in the systems they test. Ethical hackers go where bad hackers go, looking for weak spots in our online security. But their goal is not to destroy; it is to make our security stronger. At the heart of their mission lies "penetration testing" – a simulation of real-world attacks, but without the crippling blow. It is the laboratory of battles yet to be fought, where the ethical hacker becomes the cunning adversary, pushing systems to their limits to see if they'll bend or break. Responsible Disclosure As an ethical hacker, you wield the power to unmask hidden vulnerabilities that threaten our precious data fortresses. But ethical hackers have the ethical imperative that separates the heroes from the villains. Imagine this: you’ve found a problem in software that many people use that could be used by bad people to steal or damage things. You’ve got the information, and you want to tell everyone about it. But there’s more to it than just shouting it out loud on the internet. You have to be careful and respectful. Responsible disclosure is like sending a secret tip to the good guys before the bad guys can ruin the party. But you can’t just drop that vulnerability bomb without a care, that’s why it’s considered a stressful endeavor. But here's the twist: responsible disclosure isn't just about sparing the users. It's also about building bridges with the organizations that may see you as a threat, not a savior. By playing nice and giving them time to fix the mess, you're proving that you're not the enemy – they can trust you. The Role of Proactive Security Measures We've talked about the art of ethical hacking and how it helps us stay one step ahead of the bad guys. It's time to go beyond the surface and dig deeper into fortifying those digital walls. You may have heard of the tools that could help you remove sites from Google search results in case you published something out there that you shouldn’t have. But first and foremost, the measures that help you keep and share your data securely are essential for an ethical hacker. Think of proactive security measures as the trusty guards that patrol the virtual corridors of your systems. These guardians don't wait for trouble to knock on the door – they seek out potential threats and stop them dead in their tracks. Continuous monitoring is your cyber security crystal ball. It's like having a sixth sense that warns you when something's amiss. With this watchful eye, you can spot suspicious activities, unusual patterns, and hacking attempts. It's your early warning system. But why stop there? Let's talk about threat hunting, where you become the hunter, not the hunted. Armed with knowledge, you actively seek out potential adversaries rather than waiting for them to strike. It's like being a detective, following the breadcrumbs left behind by hackers and dismantling their wicked plans. And let's not forget proactive patching – keeping your defenses up-to-date against known vulnerabilities. Patching ensures there are no weak spots for the enemy to exploit. The High Price of Negligence Imagine a thriving company with endless possibilities, all set to achieve great success. But hidden within the complex web of servers and networks, a dangerous vulnerability lies unnoticed and underestimated. Then, like a thief striking under the cover of darkness, cyber attackers exploit this weakness, wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting organization. The consequences are devastating – financial losses mount into the millions, customers lose faith, and the once-promising brand is tarnished. How could this happen to a company on the brink of greatness? The answer is simple: negligence. Ignoring the importance of cybersecurity and essential tools, such as VPNs and secure cloud storage left the door wide open for disaster. Valuable and sensitive data, meant to be safeguarded, slips through their fingers like sand. This serves as a harsh reminder that no business, no matter how successful, is immune to the constant barrage of cyber threats. Ethical hackers, armed with their skills and principles, could have intervened. They could have searched for weak points and ensured that the company's sensitive data remained safe from unauthorized access. Secure cloud storage would have provided a fortress, a safe haven for critical information, accessible only to those entrusted with its protection. With encryption, multi-factor authentication, and strict data access controls, its walls would have been fortified, effectively repelling any malicious attempts to breach its defenses. Let this cautionary tale serve as a wake-up call to all organizations. May it urge them to embrace ethical hacking and proactive security measures. In this fast-paced digital jungle, ethical hacking shields us from lurking predators. From penetration testing to responsible disclosure, these white-hat warriors wield their tech prowess to keep our digital habitats safe......»»
On Saturdays we catch up with the non-finance related items that we didn’t get to earlier in the week. You can check... AutosHonda ($HMC) is adopting the Tesla charging standard. (theverge.com)Tesla ($TSLA) is going to install charging stations at Hilton Hotels in North America. (cnbc.com)Why you may end up with a EV at the car rental desk. (wsj.com)New cars are a data privacy nightmare. (theverge.com)EnergySolar is winning the energy transition. (noahpinion.blog)Putting solar panels on self-storage buildings is a no-brainer. (thecooldown.com)Where floating solar panels are a winner. (thecooldown.com)How to get EV owners to charge their vehicles during off-peak hours. (papers.ssrn.com)Offshore wind has a big cost problem. (wsj.com)FireWe need better technology to identify fires. (wsj.com)Wildfires are transforming southern Europe. (washingtonpost.com)Maui will have to refocus on land management. (modernfarmer.com)EnvironmentExtreme heat is cutting recess for kids. (npr.org)The manatee die-off seems to be slowing down. (miamiherald.com)Some plastics can be broken down by enzymes. (knowablemagazine.org)Plastic recycling labels are a mess. (nytimes.com)TravelA lot of things are working against a return to normal for airlines. (vox.com)More cities are pushing back against cruise ships and their many passengers. (wsj.com)New York City is set to start cracking down on short term rentals. (wired.com)Social media isn't making flying any easier. (whyisthisinteresting.substack.com)Archaeology Archaeologists really don't know who the Druids were. (aeon.co)Humans almost went extinct 900,000 years ago. (nature.com)ScienceWhy human brains are shrinking over time. (wsj.com)On the relationship between our brains and tongues. (quantamagazine.org)BehaviorAccess ketamine treatments is beyond the reach of many. (statnews.com)Another disorder than psilocybin could potentially treatment. (statnews.com)Why there is no good treatment for anorexia. (theatlantic.com)How does ECT work? Nobody really knows for sure. (undark.org)CovidEmily Oster, "The pandemic phase of COVID is over. We’ve entered the maintenance phase." (emilyoster.substack.com)Covid cases are on the rise, due in part to waning immunity. (vox.com)We don't really know the impact of Covid reinfections. (nytimes.com)HealthAmerica has a primary care doctor shortage. (washingtonpost.com)Obstetricians are fleeing states with abortion bans leaving all pregnant women at risk. (nytimes.com)Obesity is playing a bigger role in cardiovascular deaths. (statnews.com)The prostate cancer death rate has flattened out. (wsj.com)How AI could help speed drug discovery. (vox.com)On the non-Western origins of smallpox innoculation. (slate.com)How voluntary storage of guns, off-site, could help people in crisis. (npr.org)Why you should be skeptical of the 'Blue Zones' data. (marginalrevolution.com)FarmingHow small and medium sized farms are getting squeezed. (modernfarmer.com)How Market Wagon is bringing farm produce to people's front doors. (modernfarmer.com)Where strawberries can be successfully cultivated is shifting. (modernfarmer.com)FoodWhy our attitudes towards meat are changing. (wggtb.substack.com)Food service is only getting more complicated at college dining halls. (nytimes.com)Gatorade is getting into the functional water business. (cnn.com)Filipino food is gaining ground in the U.S. (insidehook.com)Why In-N-Out Burger loves palm trees. (slate.com)EntertainmentThe 'John Wick' franchise' shows why the future is unknowable. (ritholtz.com)It's time to bring the 1990's style legal thriller back. (gq.com)SportsPickleball is creating a whole new industry. (washingtonpost.com)How hot is too hot for tennis? (klementoninvesting.substack.com)Do you know the 'triple crown of open water swimming'? (washingtonpost.com)CollegeGen Z thinks about college differently. (businessinsider.com)College graduates do better on a range of non-economic outcomes. (thecollegefinanciallady.com)Women are scarce at India's elite educational institutions. (wired.com)Declaring war on your state's colleges is shooting yourself in the foot. (fallows.substack.com)The system of tenure is broken. (betonit.substack.com)Earlier on Abnormal ReturnsWhat you missed in our Friday linkfest. (abnormalreturns.com)Podcast links: finding happiness at work. (abnormalreturns.com)Public predictions are exhausting. (abnormalreturns.com)Are you a financial adviser looking for some out-of-the-box thinking? Then check out our weekly e-mail newsletter. (newsletter.abnormalreturns.com)Mixed mediaWhy it is so hard to reverse the decline in fertility. (overcomingbias.com)When an artist dies it is a rare moment of shared memories. (economist.com)The future of local news is non-profit. (nytimes.com).....»»
I moved my family from California to Austin, Texas, and regretted it. Here are 10 things to consider before making an expensive mistake.
Brett Alder says Austin is not the "California of Texas" and now sees the Golden State in a new light. Brett Alder.Brett Alder Brett Alder moved to Austin, Texas, for work and regrets the choice. He says there are negatives like pricey utilities, oppressive heat, and a lack of public space. Alder also says that Austinites are rude. A lot of people, including myself, move from California to Austin because of the hype and the perception that California and Austin are reasonably comparable in lifestyle. My family and I found that to be far from the case.Here's what we learned, or 10 reasons that Austin is not the "California of Texas." But first, what does Austin have in common with California?Austin, like California, is not affordable.The thing that California and Austin definitely have in common is that they're both very expensive. Austin is not cheap. Let the words sink in. Austin is not cheap; it's actually quite expensive.We moved from San Diego in 2015 (owning a 2,000-square-foot house on a one-third acre) looking for a boost in lifestyle. If you're looking for great schools, the southwest and northwest sectors of Austin are the main options. The only caveat is that NW Austin (Travis County) is some of the most expensive real estate in Texas.So we bought a 4,000-square-foot house in Bee Cave (an affluent suburb of Austin) with "great schools." We heard Austin was extremely hot so we got a place with a pool. When you look at a 3D affordability map, these are the factors we discovered people are not taking into account:Taxes: We all know property taxes are high in Texas. They actually weren't that bad for us and ranged from 2% to 3% depending on the neighborhood. We bought a home at 2.1% and, with the homestead exception, were paying at 1.79% (vs. 1.25% in California). Don't buy at 3%; you won't be able to sell and your house won't appreciate.Power: Energy is incredibly expensive. You want a big house, and they're so cheap, but then it costs a fortune to heat and cool. We were paying $400 per month during the summer and winter and we were uncomfortable (our thermostat was set to 79 degrees F in the summer, and 65 degrees F in the winter). To be comfortable would have cost us $700 to $1,000 per month.Water: Water is also shockingly expensive. In NW Austin they pump water from Lake Travis, which is only a few miles away, but that doesn't stop greedy water collectives from shaking you down. We paid $89 per month just for the privilege of being connected to city water (using 0 gallons). And they just jacked that base rate to $97. We had a well for landscape watering, but otherwise our water bill for a young family, watering about 10,000 square feet of grass would have easily been $300 to $400 per month. New sod? Try $1,200 per month, for water. Our water in San Diego (and now San Jose) was cheaper, during a drought, and we got it from like two states away.Services: We thought living in Texas, stuff would be cheap, but with so many people moving to Austin, the service industry is in red hot demand. Expensive pool maintenance, expensive landscaping services, expensive home repairs, expensive dining and movies.Travel: For reasons described below, most anyone who can leaves Austin for a month or two during the summer to escape the heat. That's expensive since to get anywhere interesting involves flying and hotel stays. Budget another several thousand dollars per year.Weather: Texas weather is hard on houses. Hail storms will ruin your roof, torrential rain and scorpions will get inside. We spent tens of thousands on unexpected home repairs and remediation, and talking to other people, it wasn't uncommon.Finally — key point — lifestyle: Although we doubled the size of our house (and kitchen and yard), we felt more cramped and cooped up in Austin than San Diego or San Jose due to the bad weather and lack of public spaces. A 2,000-square-foot house with a yard in Austin is cheap compared to the same house in San Diego, but offers nowhere close to the same lifestyle because your yard in San Diego is living space and in Austin it's not.1. The weatherSure, you've heard it's hot and humid, but how bad could it be? It's just weather, right?Wrong. First of all, Austin is wet, getting almost 90% as much rain as Portland, Oregon. That sounds great, and the greenery looks great, but it comes at a cost. Expect all of the problems that come with a wet climate: mold, allergies, mosquitoes, and water penetration. And the rain comes in a handful of days, often pouring inches in a single night. More on that later.Humidity is great for your skin, but causes food to spoil fast, towels to get mildewy and drastically limits the temperature range where you feel comfortable. For me, 32 degrees in high deserts like Nevada or Utah is not that bad, just chipper. Fifty degrees in Austin is butt cold, not cozy, snuggle up cold, but annoyingly cold.And Austin is hot. It's not California hot; it's Texas hot. California heat is weak by comparison. In much of California the temperature cools down at night. You can open windows, breathe fresh air, and drastically limit your utility bill. In Austin, it would only get down to a smothering 80 degrees at night during the summer. This means your AC will be running all day and all night. Evening walks are less than refreshing when it's 11 p.m. and you're sweating. It's hard to describe how oppressive it is.Although we had a huge yard and our own half basketball court, we really only felt like going outside about three to four months of the year. The rest of the time it was too windy, too hot/cold, too mosquito/horse fly/fire ant ridden or pouring. Often the kids would go outside anyway and come back with heat rashes and bug bites.Compare this to San Jose or San Diego where you can enjoy being outside pretty much every day (at least during some part of the day).2. No public landThink about public land much? Yeah, me neither. On the West Coast, we take public land for granted. Soaring Sierra Nevadas, sandy beaches, public space canyons, and even trails along creeks are standard fare in the West — not to mention Yosemite. Not so in Texas.Because of Texas' history and lack of natural barriers (mountains, oceans) to settlement, most all of the land around is private and flat or rolling hills. Yes, there is a lot of land in Texas, but it all has barbed wire fences and no trespassing signs on it. Even creeks are parceled up as private property.So even though Austin is supposed to be outdoorsy, there are very few places to go, and because there is a very limited number of public spaces serving such a large population, good luck getting in.One example, we drove 90 minutes to visit Enchanted Rock, a granite rock outcropping that would largely go unnoticed on the West Coast. We visited on a Saturday and met a three-mile-long line of cars waiting to get in. Running out of gas, we grabbed lunch at a nearby town and tried again later. No dice, the parking lot was full and closed.We've now christened the site Disenchanted Rock: three hours of driving and no hiking. What's even more annoying is when you consider how much land is in Texas and the state didn't build a big enough parking lot. We confirmed it was very common not to be able to get into other public attractions on weekends and holidays.Even our neighborhood creek was divvied up as private property. So much for the kids exploring and catching crayfish.3. Nowhere to goAside from the fact that everything is private, where are you going to go, anyway? There are no snowy mountains, no raging rivers, and no soaring arches. If you live in Austin, things don't change much in a huge seven-hour-drive radius. Since we love the outdoors — exploring, climbing, rafting — Austin was not our cup of tea.4. DishonestyThink about integrity much? I didn't. I've worked with hundreds of companies and thousands of people in California. Sure, there are bad apples, but by and large integrity is a default way to treat people here. It's not even something we talk about. Not so in Austin.First it was the people we bought the home from. They lied about the cause of a leak, failed to disclose well water quality issues that made us sick, lied about how much stuff cost to repair, etc. But it didn't stop there.We hired a guy with a five-star rating on Yelp to pull up flooded carpet who completely and very obviously busted our closet doors while removing them and never said a word about the damage. Or whose carpet cleaner made a foot long burn mark upstairs and left without a word. Or the mover (also five stars on Yelp) we hired who offered to help sell our leather sectional and $600 ping pong table and split the proceeds with us.We never heard back from him. We're not holding our breath.Talking around we realized that our experience wasn't exceptional. People are used to it there and know to do extra due diligence — more inspections, more testing, more distrust. But for us coming from California, it was a big shock and disappointment, not to mention financial setback.5. YelpYes, there is good food in Austin, but you can't trust Yelp to find it because it doesn't work in Austin.We drove 40 minutes for good Southern Indian food at a four-and-a-half-star rated establishment. It was one of the worst service experiences of my life. Notice the tear drop stains on this post? In general you couldn't trust Yelp as much, which was so disconcerting, especially for a new person.6. RudenessI'll probably take the most heat for this one, but Austinites are rude. We met some amazing people in Austin (like my work colleagues and church congregation) and even bumped into Matthew McConaughey at our kid's flag football game. There are some very wonderful, friendly people, but we also met more than our share of the others.Exhibit A was the dad (also at a kids' flag football league) wearing the "Don't move to Austin" T-shirt, a play on "Don't mess with Texas." Let me get this straight: I uprooted my family, moved across four states, and that's the welcome I get? And the worst part of it all is that it's not even funny. There's a bumper sticker in the West: "Montana sucks. Tell your friends!" Same message, but with some humor.And then there are the native Texans, usually older, who stick pretty closely to the stereotypes. I've never been told so often what to do and what not to do, and the delivery is in a "this is just the way it's done" tone that is completely oblivious to any other viewpoints on the matter.Our friends from Tennessee also confirmed that Austin does not conform to the notion of Southern hospitality, but I will say that most younger Texans were really cool.Austin drivers are also terrible, I mean, reptilian brain terrible. They don't yield to pedestrians on crosswalks unless forced, will inexplicably tailgate and illegally pass you on a double yellow just to drive 30 feet in front of you for the next 10 minutes on open roads, and they may be conservative, but not with their horns. I drive all over the country and hands down, Austin has the worst and most inexplicable driving I've experienced.The service is also generally awful. Doesn't matter if it's a rental car company, a restaurant, you name it. We found a few exceptional waiters and hosts, but Austin is generally the worst service I've experienced nationwide. I mean, you're at the Austin airport with two pieces of luggage and you just ordered six items. They don't even ask if you want a bag, you have to initiate the request, and even then they just hand you the bag.7. Not quite a conservative UtopiaIf you ask people from other parts of Texas, they'll say that Austin is not representative (despite that most people moving to Austin are from Texas) of all of Texas. That is probably true, but here are a number of messed up things about Travis County/NW Austin:A lot of the newer developments are built on converted ranch land, which may be distant from other developments. Despite the fact that Texas leads the nation in natural gas production, they don't mandate that modern utilities be run to these new developments. In one affluent neighborhood, Belterra, the residents are suing the developer for signing a 30 year, auto-renewing contract for captured propane that leaves residents with $600 per month heating bills in the winter. Is this a sick joke? Greed run amok.There's also little public school choice. In California there are charter schools, two day schools, public schools, cash/combo charter school/home schooling, you name it. In west Austin, just public schools. Don't know why, but I heard that the high school football industrial complex opposed charter schools.And then there's water, again. Austin will literally have water restrictions in place while it's flooding. "Can't you just take some of the water from here and … never mind." And your Texan neighbors will call you out for having a green lawn, even if you water from a well, which is a possibility they can't quite seem to imagine.8. MonocultureI love getting to know people from other cultures. In California we've had Vietnamese neighbors, Iranian neighbors, Filipinos, Palestinians, you name it. We love it.In parts of Texas it's not just a monoculture, but a monoculture that doesn't seem to be aware of its own blandness. Think about it: Are you ready to have your son judged based on his suitability for a future career in football? Are you ready to network by attending the local high school football game with the guys? Because that's a thing in Texas.And it's not just that. The lack of openness to diverse ideas leaves you with the feeling that you traveled 15 years back in time technologically moving there. They voted out Uber and Lyft and think that's not a big deal because — wait for it — they have a ride-sharing Facebook group. Yeah, that should be great for out-of-town visitors.They also don't have a lot of the options we enjoyed in San Diego like "game-only soccer leagues" for kids. The car washes were lame. You just couldn't trust things to be as well thought-out and executed as in California.9. Punitive, militaristic schools and sportsWe had three kids in the local elementary school, rated 9 out of 10. For sure, some of the teachers were excellent and very caring, but the school was run like a micromanaged military academy.Our kids complained most about the PE and music teachers. (Aren't they supposed to be the fun ones?) We heard stories about kids running laps or missing recess just because they didn't sit "criss-cross applesauce." Who thought of taking away recess? And it seemed the more ignorant the coach or teacher, the more he insisted on being addressed as "Y'Sir" — which is still the norm, even in Austin.There was a massive emphasis on conformity that was good for teachers, bad for kids. I went to read to my kindergartner's class and felt like I'd landed in a dictatorship. They had aides making sure all of the kindergartners faced forward while marching in line to the cafeteria. Kindergartners.We withdrew our children. Our school may have been particularly bad, but it's something to look out for.10. Cedar allergiesThere's a good chance you'll be sick the whole first year in Austin being exposed to a new set of pathogens. We were, and it's not uncommon.Then we heard that after a few years it is also common to develop cedar allergies, if you don't already have them.They're so bad that we knew at least two professionals going through subcutaneous immunotherapy (shots over a period of years) because their allergies were ruining their lives. Allergy treatment centers are very common. There are really only two types of trees in Austin, cedar (really juniper) and oak, so no getting away from the cedar.11. (I couldn't stop at 10) Big luxury home obsessionI'm guessing because of the lack of public land, terrible weather, etc., that Austinites get really into their houses. We saw some unbelievably ornate homes — castle-esque.And there's pressure to keep your house immaculate. You can buy a home that is really nice by California standards (updated kitchen, crown moldings) only to find that everyone else's house is much nicer than yours, which we didn't care about until we found that no one wanted to buy our less-than-luxurious home.Moral of the storyIt would take a lot of money to buy a "California-like" lifestyle in Austin. If you're moving to Austin, make sure it's because of the things that it offers (downtown lifestyle, BBQ, football, live music, nice houses, professional opportunity) and that you won't miss the things you're leaving behind (good weather, public spaces, etc.).It was an expensive mistake, but my family and I now see California in a completely new light. We feel very fortunate to be living in the Bay Area.You're welcome.Brett Alder is a sales executive working in the semiconductor industry based out of San Jose, CA.This post was originally written in 2016 and published on Quora by Brett Alder.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
Luongo: BRICS Summit Proves Geography Trumps Currency Authored by Tom Luongo via Gold, Goats, 'n Guns blog, The older I get the more time I spend asking the question, “Why does someone want me to know this?” Our media is so compromised that questioning the editorial bias of every issue is a full time job. And I know that it is done on purpose to distract us from the real issues in some instances while advancing an agenda in others. In 2023, the topic of de-dollarization has been all the rage. It’s been a non-stop barrage of hype and hyperbole. The din of de-dollarization talk became so loud in the lead up to the recent BRICS Summit that it drowned out what was really on the agenda for those few days. This talk came from all sides, from the BRICS leaders themselves as well as the western press dominated by both British and Davos interests. People fell all over themselves talking up the “BRICS gold-backed currency” trying to edge each other out in being ahead of the curve on this issue. After a while it became another moment to ask who benefits from all of this amplification? I’ve been writing about these things for years, knowing that those who control the production of commodities would ultimately get tired of the wealth extraction schemes operated by the financialization masters in New York, London, and Zurich. It was only a matter of time before they would make their move. And I can tell you for real that I’ve never been amplified on any subject like this until such time as people in Moscow, Brussels and Beijing wanted this commentary out there. Don’t take this for grousing, because it isn’t. It’s just an observation born of years of experience. I’ve come to understand what a lack of amplification means; that this is the story no one wants to be told. So, this begs the question, why do they want it told now? In many ways this is how I know I’m usually on the right track with respect to a particular issue. It’s my forever internalizing the baseball great Wee Willy Keeler who famously said that baseball is an easy game, “Just hit ’em where they ain’t.” So, a lot of important someones wanted us to know about de-dollarization this year. They had their reasons to promote this concept. And, as always, it has to do with influencing global capital flow while distracting the commentary from what was really on the agenda. For Davos de-dollarization is just another attack vector on the United States. By playing up the problems the US has domestically as well as geopolitically they create uncertainty. Capital hates uncertainty. Throw in a purposefully-belligerent and incompetent “Biden” administration and you have a perfect cocktail of uncertainty which keeps capital markets globally distrustful of both the near-term policy mixed with the long-term trends. Conclusion? The US is FUBAR. Russia is at war with the West, so, of course, Vladimir Putin will talk his book on de-dollarization. He is the point man on the BRICS being “anti-dollar.” There’s only this one little problem with all of this: The US dollar itself and the lack of alternative infrastructure for ditching it. Despite all of the jawboning and, frankly, propaganda on this subject, the reality is far, far different. While everyone is talking de-dollarization, the real currency losing it’s position in global trade is the euro. But no one is talking about de-eruoization. I guess it doesn’t roll off the tongue as well? According to the latest data from the SWIFT RMB Tracker, there is no currency that has lost more ground in global trade than the euro. In just over two years the euro has fallen from 39.5% of global payments outside the euro-zone to just 13.6%. The dollar absorbed most of those payments with the British pound, Japanese yen and, yes, the Chinese renminbi taking up the rest. So, the great distraction about de-dollarization is, in part, about paying no attention to the rapid demise of the euro and the emerging sovereign bond crisis that ECB President Christine Lagarde works everyday to paper over. I’ve talked about this so much people are getting sick of it. (Here, Here, Here, and Here) Eventually, however, no matter how hard they try to game the math, paint the tape and make deals to keep up appearances, markets are simply smarter than central planners. So, with this in mind I fully expect over the next couple of months for the bond vigilantes to return with a vengeance now that Jerome Powell has everyone’s attention. He can further up his street cred with another 25 basis point raise in September, but honestly, he may not have to. BRICS in the Wall But, back to the BRICS. If de-dollarization wasn’t the point of the Summit this year, then what was? Expansion. And not just expansion for the sake of expansion, but geographically strategic expansion. The BRICS formally added six countries — Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Egypt and Ethiopia. They could have added others and almost added Algeria if not for a last-minute veto by India on behalf of France. Algeria is symbolic of the fight between Italy and France for access to African oil and gas. There can be no Ital-exit from the EU without Italy minimizing France’s influence in North Africa, shoring up its energy needs as collateral for a return to the lira. Thankfully, with the help of Russia and China, the Africans are taking care of the Italians’ French Problem all on their own. If there is one common theme beyond the geography (more on that in a bit) with all six of these countries it is their relationship with the supposedly former British empire. From the Arab states and Egypt to those that defied the Brits in the past — e.g. Iran and Argentina — these additions represent a power shift that is profound. One look at the world map should make this point crystal clear. Countries in Red are members of the alliance. Those in green have formally applied for membership and yellow are those that have openly expressed interest. But it is the 5 countries clustered around the center of global trade that should grab your attention. Because all talk of a BRICS common currency are nothing more than theatre if there isn’t a fully developed alternative financial supply chain to capture the profits and minimize currency risks and friction for all the members. Taking them one by one let’s discuss. Iran So, let’s start with the easy one. Iran, in my book, has been the “I” in BRICS for years. Because with India constantly keeping everyone off-balance, much like Erdogan in Turkey, that incentivized Russia and China to invest heavily in Iran, as a counterpoint, making it the key to both China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Russia’s long-desired International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). India dragged their feet for so long on their contracted work on the Iranian port at Chabahar, that Iran nullified the contract, handed it to China, who then finished the work in less time than it took for Iran to get India on the phone to complain about it. This is the kind of pivot that gets results. China and Russia have pledged hundreds of billions in investment and sales to Iran, supporting them after Former President Trump tore up the JCPOA and put on sanctions which didn’t work, unless Trump’s goal was to ensure what has transpired since. This is further proof Trump doesn’t play 4-d chess. Both the ports at Chabahar and Bandar Abbas now serve to get Asian trade, especially coming from Russia, exits beyond the choke points around the Mediterranean, Red, and Black Seas. So, Iran was always going to be the first country added to the bloc. It quickly put India on notice to stop playing games. Saudi Arabia Adding Saudi Arabia and the UAE weren’t on anyone’s radar back during the Trump Interregnum, because Trump understood how important the Saudis were to the US maintaining its presence in the region. The problem for Trump was that the Saudis knew he wasn’t a long-term solution in the US. All during his presidency events occurred that trace a line straight back to Obama’s foreign policy. Undermining Trump was the sole focus of Obama’s shadow government, especially our relationship with the Saudis. With the successful intervention by Russia in Syria, and their own disastrous results in the War in Yemen, it was only a matter of time before Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) came to his senses. Saudi Arabia’s future was with the BRICS not the remnants of the British empire. As an aside here, I talk about Neocons all the time and the best way to think of them, beyond their hatred of pretty much the rest of the world, is to see them as the inheritors of the British empire’s foreign policy. The US adopted this foreign policy a century ago under Woodrow Wilson (see my podcast with Richard Poe). Since then it’s been the one thing, aside from ruinous spending, that unites the Uniparty on Capitol Hill. Empire or bust. Looking at the ruin of our finances and domestic politics, “Bust” was the obvious outcome. Saudi Arabia had no other option than to go along with its OPEC+ partner, Russia, if MbS wants the country to survive the end of its oil reserves. UAE The UAE addition is definitely part of the currency discussion. Dubai and Abu Dhabi have rapidly become centers for strategic commodities trading with very successful and deepening gold and oil trading. Dubai has its own crude oil benchmark. Even Moscow doesn’t have one of those (yet). As Vince Lanci and I talked about at length in a recent appearance on Palisades Gold Raio (parts I and II here), in order to even talk about some form of gold-backed trade settlement system, there has to be a deep and liquid supply chain and financial industry in place to facilitate both that settlement and minimize the storage risks to gold and currency risks of the alliance members trading bilaterally without the dollar as the intermediate. So, adding Dubai as one node in that network outside of China’s control was important to building trust there. Having multiple exchanges, vaults, and refineries simplifies everything. And, with that, minimizes the ‘convenience premium’ of using the US dollar and maximizing members’ use of local currencies with gold acting as the universal trust layer and a blockchain for back office and auditing functions. So, first, you add the financial center, then you start really talking the whole “Gold-Backed BRICS Currency.” Order of operations matters folks. The UAE was necessary to get India to even consider going along with Russia and China on this idea, which is why the UAE dirham will be the settlement currency between India and Russia on oil sales, and not the ruble. It both creates validity for a third party while also keeps India free from directly contravening US sanctions on buying Russian energy. Argentina It shouldn’t be underestimated how much the IMF and European corruption have wreaked havoc in Argentina over the years. This is another resource-rich country that has been kept under constant upheaval which now has the opportunity, like Egypt, to get out from underneath the IMF’s thumb, depriving vulture capitalists all across the west the opportunity to plunder the country one more time. Adding Argentina should see the development money necessary to build out its significant shale reserves at Vaca Muerta make its way into the country. This stabilizes its foreign exchange reserves and access to the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) gives it an alternative to the IMF loan sharks. The upcoming elections could quickly become a referendum on IMF requirements and capital controls. Egypt and Ethiopia Egypt is a fascinating turn of events, because Egypt’s financial weakness was the very thing to create a strategic opportunity for Russia and China to make President Al-Sisi a great offer. Use our New Development Bank and stiff the International Monetary Fund if they won’t negotiate a debt write-down. Like what’s in front of Argentina, Egypt now has leverage in negotiations they didn’t have before. Either way the IMF loses here, because Egypt has an alternative lender it can force a write-down by the IMF for the first time ever or they can just default. China is already willing to forgive $8 billion in Egypt’s debt while the IMF is holding fast only to restructuring. And if you think Egypt doesn’t have this leverage here let’s not forget that the Suez Canal still handles 12% of global trade daily. The BRICS bloc now have a political ally that controls the Suez. With Ethiopia, along with Russia’s deft diplomacy with both Eretria and China’s with Djibouti where they have port access, the BRICS now has effectively unfettered access to the Red Sea. The pressure will mount for Eretria and Djibouti to make peace with Ethiopia, thus opening up trade in eastern Africa. Access to or circumventing the historic chokepoints to global trade has been a long-held goal of both Russia and China. And it looks like with these additions to the BRICS bloc, they have finally achieved that. Meet the New Boss? In my last article on geopolitics, I brought up the importance of physical collateral for the future of the West’s financial dominance, especially that of Europe. The main reason why I keep harping on why Europe is in such trouble is because it’s obvious now that those with physical collateral, including the US, are no longer interested in selling that collateral to a colonial-minded Europe at cut-rate prices. Russia, under Putin, was happy to court the EU as energy partners because he thought it would secure Russia’s future from potential war with Europe. He was willing to sell Europe cheap gas to maximize the total profit to Russia, not directly measurable in things like GDP or trade balances. Some capital is political. Some profits are social, despite crappy Marxist commentary to the contrary. This is why he went along with Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s plea to build Nordstream 2, knowing it would incense the US/UK Neocons. The peace dividend to Russia was just too big not to make a run at. Merkel’s betrayal of Putin over NS2 and the Minsk agreements are why we are in the mess we’re in today. The Neocons struck geopolitical gold with blowing up Nordstream, depriving Germany and France of much needed gas. Things are so bad in Germany that they are now quietly dismantling their wind farms to rebuild coal-fired plants, going back to the one energy source they have in abundance in Europe. Now Africa is in revolt against France. Last month it was Niger. This month it is Gabon. There is no way France can respond to all of these revolts on their own. They need outside intervention and it doesn’t look like it’s coming. Queen Warmonger Vicky Nudelman went to Niger and was rebuffed. Reports are now circulating that she and her staff were caught completely by surprise with events in Africa and had no solutions, offers or even credible threats to bring to bear. Pretoria was well aware of Nuland’s hawkish reputation, but when she arrived in Pretoria, the official described her as “totally caught off guard” by winds of change engulfing the region. The July putsch that saw a popular military junta come to power in Niger followed military coups in Mali and Burkina Faso that were similarly inspired by mass anti-colonial sentiment. Though Washington has so far refused to characterize developments in the Nigerien capital of Niamey as a coup, the South African source confirmed that Nuland sought South Africa’s assistance in responding to regional conflicts, including in Niger, where she emphasized that Washington not only held significant financial investments, but also maintained 1,000 of its own troops. For Nuland, the realization that she was negotiating from a position of weakness was likely a rude awakening. If you map Nuland to the UK/US Neocons who are not necessarily aligned with Davos then this report should shock you, because it tells us that neither are capable of moving into the power vacuum left by these juntas seizing power. It says, with little equivocation, that all of the colonial powers of Europe are paper tigers. What started in Burkina Faso and Mali is spreading like wildfires set by Climate Change arsonists in Canada across Africa. French President Emmanuel Macron can only scream impotently in Paris, Nuland can shake her fist screaming, “You’ll rue the day…,” and the US Dept. of Defense stands by and says exactly nothing. At the same time clashes between Syrian Arab Army troops and US occupying forces east of the Euphrates River are back under the headlines. Do you get the picture yet? The fight for physical collateral is dovetailing perfectly with capturing control of the major trade routes. While the UK and their Neocon quislings are hell bent on starting WWIII over Ukraine, c.f. drone strikes on Russia’s Pskov airport from Latvia, the BRICS bloc understands that their best course of action is to continue building new relationships, networks, and pressuring the centuries-old colonial networks that have financed their power. Staying out of a direct hot war simply makes good strategic sense. Attrition is a bitch, energetically. Now they are being forced to expend their seed capital built up over these centuries on influencing events to their liking, and it’s clear they really don’t have the resources to do so for very long. Against that backdrop, de-dollarization is the least of their worries. It will be the thing that grinds away in the background, like Powell’s shrinking the Fed’s balance sheet, and will just emerge out of these events. The choice the West is now facing is at what point do they stop fighting this and finally come to the negotiating table. Some factions, like the US military and the banking sector, have already made their intentions clear. The others? Not so much. When facing extinction, that’s when you find out where someone’s true loyalties are. * * * Join my Patreon if you value loyalty Tyler Durden Sun, 09/03/2023 - 07:00.....»»
Busing Illegal Immigrants To Blue America Is Working Authored by Jarrett Stepman via The Epoch Times, Republican border-state strategy to send illegal immigrants to Democrat-run cities and states is paying off. On Thursday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul sent a letter to President Joe Biden begging for federal aid. Importantly, she finally acknowledged where the problem is coming from. “This is a financial burden the city and state are shouldering on behalf of the federal government,” Hochul, a fellow Democrat, said of the illegal immigrants pouring into New York. “I cannot ask New Yorkers to pay for what is fundamentally a federal responsibility,” the governor wrote. “And I urge the federal government to take prompt and significant action today to meet its obligation to New York State.” In a press conference following release of the letter, Hochul further complained about illegal immigrants released into the country by the Biden administration. NY Gov. Hochul complains the state has "shouldered the burden" of processed and released migrants coming from the southern border for "far too long," pointing to the billions of dollars they have spent to take care of the daily arrivals. pic.twitter.com/KUBSHwtKtM — Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) August 24, 2023 What happened to all are welcome, no exceptions? This is an interesting pivot from the New York governor. Until now, Democrat politicians mostly have been unwilling to criticize the White House in any way on the border security issue, or even suggest that the Biden administration is where the problem originates. If you want to know the reason for the sudden pivot, a new poll sheds light. The Siena College poll released Tuesday shows that New Yorkers are deeply discontented about the surge of illegal immigrants in their state and mostly blame Democrat leaders. “New Yorkers—including huge majorities of Democrats, Republicans, independents, upstaters and downstaters—overwhelmingly say that the recent influx of migrants to New York is a serious problem for the state,” Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said. Now, this may seem meaningless in the sense that New York is unlikely to become a red state any time soon. But keep in mind that the crime issue didn’t just swing seats from Democrat to Republican in the 2022 midterm elections, it likely also gave the GOP overall control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Discontent over lawless Democrat policies is much worse now, and New York voters are heaping the blame on Hochul, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and, most of all, Biden. Open borders and the idea that all immigration—whether legal or illegal—is a positive good is a matter of faith for Democrat Party activists. That’s less likely to be true with rank-and-file voters and independents. “There is no question in my mind that the politics of this is a disaster to Democrats,” said Howard Wolfson, a former deputy and political adviser to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in an interview with The New York Times. “This issue alone has the potential to cost Democrats the House, because it is such a huge issue in New York City and the coverage of it is clearly heard and seen by voters in all of these swing districts in the suburbs,” Wolfson said. He described the issue as a “ticking time bomb” for Democrats. I’d say the bomb already has gone off. Since Biden entered the White House in January 2021, a historic stream of illegal immigrants has poured across the U.S. southern border. This has had catastrophic consequences for many swamped communities in Texas and Arizona especially. They’ve shouldered the burden of the border crisis for years, so it’s a little rich for New York to be throwing a pity party. It obviously would be better if the federal government was doing its job and enforcing our laws, but until that time there’s little border states can do to “fix” the situation. All they can do is mitigate the damage. The Biden administration has done all it can to make sure that the border remains nice and open, er, “secure.” The administration’s actions have made it clear that Biden and his top officials want to flood the country with illegal immigrants. This is completely insane. Biden's DOJ is suing @elonmusk's SpaceX because they only hired American citizens instead of refugees and asylum seekers and wants to force them to give full back pay to non-citizens that they choose to not hire. pic.twitter.com/IzB3GVj252 — Greg Price (@greg_price11) August 24, 2023 And that’s where border-state busing comes in. Instead of carrying the entire burden of the Biden-led border disaster, Republican governors such as Greg Abbott in Texas, Ron DeSantis in Florida, and Doug Ducey in Arizona decided to ship illegal immigrants to places such as Chicago, New York, the District of Columbia, and, most amusingly, Martha’s Vineyard. This is hardly ideal. But if the federal government is going to foist open borders on the country, why not at least force the people who voted for this nonsense to pay more of the price for it? Of course, Democrats in those destinations pointed fingers at the Republican governors for their newfound troubles, and some left-wing political commentators tried to say that shipping illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard—a posh, liberal vacation destination—was akin to Nazism. Biden’s trusty allies in the legacy media have done all they can to “contextualize” the immigration issue to protect the president from criticism. However, much like with the crime surge, it’s hard to pull the wool over the eyes of the American people forever when they literally see the consequences of bad policies in their neighborhoods. Thanks to Biden, the bill for once low-cost, sanctuary-city virtue signaling has come due. I suggest that if Democrat politicians want federal aid to care for illegal immigrants, they should demand that the White House work to restore the policies of the previous administration and actually attempt to get control of the border. The excuses have run out, the border crisis has become a national crisis, and blame for this mess falls on the “big guy” in the Oval Office. Democrats’ demands for more money should be met with a resounding “no” until the actual problem is fixed at its source. Tyler Durden Fri, 09/01/2023 - 18:20.....»»
I"m a housekeeper at a hotel in San Francisco. Guests have stopped tipping and the work can be gross, but I love my job.
A Marriott housekeeper suggests that hotel guests leave a $5 to $10 tip every night, put used towels in one pile, and respect the space. A housekeeper makes a hotel bed (subject not pictured).Alistair Berg/Getty ImagesA hotel housekeeper who's worked at a San Francisco Marriott for 10 years says they love their job.The challenges are cleaning disgusting things and a lack of work when guests decline the service.They encourage hotel guests to accept the daily housekeeping service and respect the space.This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with a 60-year-old hotel housekeeper in San Francisco. Their name is being withheld to protect their employment, which has been verified by Insider. The conversation was conducted through a translator and has been edited for length and clarity.As a housekeeper at a Marriott hotel in San Francisco, I'm responsible for keeping the rooms clean. I've worked here for 10 years, and before this, I worked for a few months at another hotel. Before moving to California, I lived in El Salvador and worked as a secretary.Within an eight-hour shift, I usually clean about 14 rooms. I make a decent hourly rate as a member of a union, which is a big deal for me. But I earn a good salary only if I work 40 hours every week, which is becoming less and less common.My schedule depends on the occupancy level and whether guests want their rooms cleaned. I love my job — I just wish it was consistent enough to support my family.I've seen some disgusting thingsA normal workday involves making beds, taking out the trash, cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, removing dirty glasses, and so on. We also take care of amenities including shampoo and soap that need to be refilled.I've come across rooms with vomit, beds with blood on them, and bathrooms where someone has left feces in the bathtub. I've also had to clean rooms with a really strong odor left over from marijuana or cigars.One of the more-annoying tasks is cleaning up overflowing trash. Sometimes guests leave behind tons of bottles and takeout containers.Dogs can also be difficult. I adore dogs, but sometimes they leave so much fur behind that we have to shampoo the carpets.No one leaves tips anymoreWhen I began working at the hotel, guests would leave tips, but now most people don't leave anything.During my first years as a housekeeper, I could expect to make $1,500 to $2,000 a year in tips. It slowly got lower to maybe $200 or $300 a year. This is the lowest year yet, and I'm getting almost nothing.If you're staying in a hotel, I suggest leaving a tip of $5 to $10 a night. Don't wait until the end of the stay because a different housekeeper may clean your room each day.Uncertainty about getting called in makes life hardLately, I've been working less because there are fewer rooms to clean. I get fewer hours of work and earn a lower income. If the guests opt out of the housekeeping service, and their room isn't cleaned for two or three days, that means less work for us.On those days, the hotel might not call me in to work. It affects me economically to have my paycheck go up and down like that because I have to pay rent, buy food, and cover transportation. I also support my 90-year-old mom.A few weeks ago, I worked only one day the whole week, and on the other days, I was on call waiting to see whether there would be work for me.On a good week, I'm bringing in $850. But on a week when I'm called in for only a few days of work, I make about $500.I encourage hotel guests to get daily housekeeping because you have a lot of power to help us go to work and make money.Try not to leave the room too messy if you're staying at a hotelIt will make your housekeeper's life easier if you don't leave a big mess.People sometimes don't think about how they'll affect my ability to do my job, and they leave clothes or suitcases on top of the bed that I need to make. Or they leave heavy things, such as a luggage rack full of bags, in the way, and I need to move it to clean.The most painful thing for me is how often I need to bend down. Guests can help with that a lot, too. You can leave the towels in a single pile so I don't have to bend over many times to pick them up one by one. You can also put all the trash in the trash cans so I don't have to go around the room and bend over many times to pick things up off the floor.Honestly, I love my jobPeople sometimes ask why I don't change jobs, but I like it. I sincerely like this job better than my former job as a secretary.I love it when I feel like I've made someone happy by giving them a clean room. When a guest stops me in the hallway to thank me and tell me what a difference I made for their trip, there's nothing better.Are you a housekeeper who wants to share your story? Email Lauryn Haas at email@example.com.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
You can clean your TV screen or monitor with a dry microfiber cloth. You might need to lightly wet the cloth with distilled water. To clean a TV screen, you'll need a good cloth.PeopleImages/Getty ImagesIf you keep your TV or computer monitor in one place for a long time, it's bound to get dirty. Even the best TVs are magnets for dust in the air, which can cause glare and dull the picture. And laptops that constantly get stuffed into backpacks are bound to pick up grime.Depending on what kind of TV or monitor you have, the exact best way to clean it might change. But in general, these are the best ways to clean pretty much any display.How to clean a TV screen or monitorBefore you do anything, remember to be gentle. TV screens and monitors are both sensitive, and high-end TVs, like OLED and QLED displays, tend to scratch easily. Take care, or you risk causing problems bigger than just dirt and dust.Unplug your TV or monitor before cleaning it. Turning off and unplugging the screen reduces any chance of electrical damage, and the dark screen makes it easier to see dust, dirt, hair, and grime. If you can't unplug the display, just turn it off.Use a soft, dry cloth. Microfiber cloths are a great choice. You can pick them up cheaply online or in stores, and their soft material grabs dust and hair without scratching or leaving fibers behind. If a soft cloth came with your TV or monitor when you bought it, use that.Microfiber cloths are ideal for cleaning TVs without damaging them.AmazonSlowly wipe the screen in a circular pattern. If your TV is wobbly, you can hold the cloth with one hand and support your TV with the other. Again, be gentle: Don't apply too much force with the cloth or push on your screen.If you need to clean the screen more thoroughly, use a small amount of distilled water. Distilled water doesn't have any minerals in it, reducing the risk of scratching your screen. Don't ever pour or spray water directly onto your screen. Instead, dampen your cloth slightly and gently wipe the mess. For caked-on messes, you can use a tiny drop of mild dish soap on your cloth. And after you've cleaned it, go over the screen once more with a soft dry cloth just to be safe.Shining light on the TV might help expose dust.Chrissy Montelli/InsiderWipe the sides and back of the TV. Your screen isn't the only area that collects dust — wipe away any debris you can see on the frame and cables, especially in the back. You'll also want to wipe down the ports and plugs. If you're using any water, be sure to let everything dry before you start plugging cables in again.Don't use harsh chemicals. Harsh chemicals can damage your screen, and any moisture that drips into gaps in the frame can potentially cause an electrical fire. If you feel that distilled water isn't enough, you can try specially made screen cleaning solutions, like this cleaner from Austere.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
Graham Jones is a UPS feeder driver who will earn $140,000 this year and says drivers are paid well, but they work long hours. Graham Jones said his shifts are long, but he's grateful for his job as a UPS feeder driver.Courtesy of Graham JonesGraham Jones has been working with UPS for 10 years and earns about $4,000 weekly.Jones is a feeder driver and basically works 11 to 12 hours a day, 5 days a week.He said UPS feeder drivers are not overpaid; their shifts are long and they get time-and-a-half overtime pay.This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Graham Jones, a 47-year-old UPS semi-truck driver from Albuquerque, New Mexico. It's been edited for length and clarity.I worked as a UPS package delivery driver for seven years, and I've been a feeder driver for three years. I make about $4,000 weekly, driving the UPS semi-trucks in the feeder department, which means we deliver packages from major delivery hubs to other warehouses.I'm paid a bit more because I'm on the only sleeper run at my Albuquerque UPS location. Our income is high for a blue-collar job because our overtime is time-and-a-half, after eight hours, and our shifts are long. I've seen the posts about UPS workers earning $170,000 yearly and it's slightly misleading. That figure includes our pension, health care, and other benefits.After four years, UPS feeder drivers make an average salary of $140,000UPS feeder drivers make more than package delivery drivers, who earn about $95,000 a year after they've been doing it for about four years.We earn more than drivers who deliver packages because we work more hours — we work about 55 to 60 hours a week. The average package delivery shift is eight to 10 hours. Also, UPS pays about $1 per mile for some routes.My driving partner and I are on the road for five days at a time, driving for 11 to 12 hours a dayThe route I'm currently on pays per mile rather than hourly. Only the time I spend waiting on trailers and doing other things like fueling up or washing the windshield periodically are paid by the hour.On my route, I'm paired with another driver and we leave on Sunday mornings. We drive from Albuquerque to Louisville, Kentucky; Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, and back.There are bunk beds in the back of the truck. While one guy is driving his 11-hour shift, the other sleeps in the back — I do days, and my buddy does nights.I probably won't do this run again because it's harder than expectedDriving gets tiring and boring. It's a lot of coffee and energy drinks, but it's not too bad. I keep myself busy with podcasts, satellite radio, and music. Many guys talk on the phone with other drivers throughout the shifts.When I get back into town, I only have two days to get errands and all the house and yard work done. I don't even get to sleep in on my first day back, because I need to go to the gym. That's a big sacrifice, since I can only go a couple of days a week.Sleeping on a truck four nights a week is rough, but I wanted to try it out because it's lucrative. After starting this route in April, I decided I'd rather make $40,000 or $50,000 less yearly and be home more. Next year, I'll choose a route that allows me to do that.More package delivery drivers should become feeder driversPackage delivery is tough; you're in the heat, snow, rain, and wind. It's really hard on your body. You're in and out of the truck all day, with two or three steps going up into that package truck; many guys can mess up their knees and hips.It's also rough on your back. Twenty years ago, you couldn't buy a couch on Amazon, but these days people are buying huge bookshelves and sofas, and they live in third-floor apartments. It's only you and a dolly, and you've got to get it up there somehow.UPS paid for my commercial driver's license training. I don't understand why more package delivery drivers don't graduate to feeders.I'm happy I became a feeder driver, but there are certain things I miss about delivering packagesFirst, you have more human interactions with customers as a package delivery driver; second, it's more physical so the days go by faster; and third, the sense of accomplishment at the end of each day seems greater.But that physicality makes the risk of injuries higher, and it seems too daunting to consider doing hard physical labor in my later years.UPS feeder drivers are well paid, but I wouldn't call us overpaid; most people don't want to work 60 hours a week — but I'm so grateful for my job.Are you a UPS driver with an interesting story? Contact Manseen Logan at firstname.lastname@example.org.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
Presidential debates have always been political theater. Here are some of their most memorable moments.
The first Republican primary debate of the 2024 presidential election airs August 23 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox News. Donald Trump speaks as Dr. Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz look on during the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas on December 15, 2015.Mike Blake/Reuters On August 23, GOP presidential candidates will face off in the first debate of the 2024 election. Candidates who are able to deliver one-liners and not get rattled in the spotlight tend to dominate. Debates are political theater — they rarely do much to inform voters when it comes to policy. The first Republican primary debate of the 2024 presidential election airs August 23 at 9 p.m. ET on all Fox News-affiliated channels and will also stream on Fox Nation.In theory, presidential debates are meant to educate the public on the most important issues facing the country and how candidates would approach them. In reality, presidential debates are often little more than political theater, and largely an opportunity for candidates to show how well they can handle the spotlight and how good they are on their feet. A presidential candidate's charisma often far outweighs his or her knowledge of policy when it comes to performing well in a debate.Candidates who can speak in soundbites tend to perform better than those who can bloviate about complex topics. To put it another way, style typically matters more than substance in debates. Donald Trump repeatedly proved that by wiping the floor with his opponents in presidential debates during the 2016 campaign season. He tapped into his skill as an entertainer and focused more on making the audience laugh with insults and quips than offering in-depth takes on the issues. Trump will not participate in Wednesday's GOP debate. Instead, he will sit for an online interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that will air at the same time, The New York Times reported.This is not to say presidential debates are not consequential, though their overall impact on elections can be difficult to measure.Here are some of the biggest moments in the history of presidential debates.1960: John F. Kennedy versus Richard NixonKennedy and Nixon pictured after their nationally televised first of four presidential debates on September 26, 1960.APThe debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960 was the first ever televised presidential debate. Discussions on this debate have often focused on the fact Kennedy wore makeup during the debate but Nixon refused. Historians debate the extent to which this hurt Nixon, but the narrative surrounding this debate has been that Kennedy looked youthful and strong while Nixon looked gaunt and pale. Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, told Time in 2019 this set "the standard and creates the idea that debates are not simply about the substance, but also the presentation."Kennedy's performance in the first debate changed the history of presidential elections and candidates began to recognize the power of television and importance of appearance.Some candidates became so wary of how TV could impact an election that after the 1960 campaign season the next televised debate did not occur for another 16 years. Former President Lyndon B. Johnson, for example, refused to debate in 1964 — as did Nixon in 1968 and 1972.1976: Gerald Ford versus Jimmy CarterOn September 23, 1976, Ford speaks during the first of three televised presidential debates with Carter.AP"THE BLOOPER HEARD ROUND THE WORLD."That was Time's headline after President Gerald Ford in a 1976 debate versus Jimmy Carter declared there was "no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.""There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never be will under a Ford administration. ... I don't believe the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union," Ford said.It was the height of the Cold War and the Soviet Union had a strong grip over the entire region at the time, making Ford's remarks at odds with reality. The moderator at the time, Max Frankel of The New York Times, responded, "I'm sorry, what?"The line would haunt Ford through the rest of the campaign season, and he eventually lost to Carter. 1980: Ronald Reagan versus Jimmy CarterOn October 28, 1980, Carter shakes hands with Reagan after debating in the Cleveland Music Hall in Cleveland.Madeline Drexler/APRonald Reagan, a former actor, was a natural during presidential debates and had a knack for winning over the crowd with one-liners. He showed off this skill in a 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter. After Carter delivered a lengthy and intricate monologue on healthcare, Reagan looked at him with a smile and said, "There you go again." Reporting on the debate at the time portrayed Carter as lacking a sense of humor and far too serious while Reagan was viewed as "calm and reasonable," the Economist reported.Reagan showed that delivering a quick zinger in a debate could quickly shift the conversation away from policy and devastate an opponent. The former California governor went on to defeat Carter, making him a one-term president.1984: Ronald Reagan versus Walter MondaleMondale, left, and Reagan shake hands before moving to their podiums for the start of their debate on October 7, 1984.Charles Robinson/APReagan showed off his skills as a performer once again in a 1984 debate with Minnesota Democrat Walter Mondale. After a poor performance in the first televised debate against Mondale, some began to raise concerns that Reagan's age was becoming a problem. Reagan was 76 at the time, and some felt he was too old to serve a second term as president. Reagan was able to alleviate concerns about this with his sense of humor. When the moderator asked Reagan about whether his age could be an issue, he replied, "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."The audience, and even Mondale, exploded with laughter. Reagan used charm to his advantage once again, and he went on to win the election.1988: Lloyd Bentsen versus Dan QuayleIn this October 5, 1988 photo, Bentsen, left, shakes hands with Quayle before the start of their vice presidential debate in Omaha, Nebraska.Ron Edmonds/APThe 1988 vice presidential debate between George H.W. Bush's running-mate, Dan Quayle, and Michael Dukakis' running-mate, Lloyd Bentsen, did not change the course of the election, but it did deliver one of the most memorable one-liners in presidential debate history. Quayle, a Republican senator from Indiana, tried to compare himself to former President John F. Kennedy in the debate. He was young and trying to dismiss concerns about lacking experience.Bentsen, a Democrat from Texas, was not having it. "I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy," Bentsen said, prompting a roar of applause from the crowd.1992: George H.W. Bush versus Bill Clinton and Ross PerotPresident Bush looks at his watch during the 1992 presidential campaign debate with Perot, top, and Clinton, not shown.Ron Edmonds/APSometimes it's not what candidates say but their general demeanor that determines how their performances in a debate are graded and remembered. In a 1992 town hall-style debate with Bill Clinton, an audience member asked Bush about national debt. As the audience member began to ask the question, Bush took a quick look at his watch. Bush, who was president at the time, came off as though he didn't care about or have time to listen to the concerns of regular Americans. He went on to lose the election to Clinton, and was a one-term president.2000: George W. Bush versus Al GoreBush, left, speaks as Gore watches during their third and final debate at Washington University in St. Louis.Ed Reinke/APDuring a 2000 town hall-style debate between then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush and then-Vice President Al Gore, the younger Bush showed that you don't need to use words to make people laugh and win over the crowd. Sometimes just a simple gesture will do the trick. Gore berated Bush with condescending, wonky attacks throughout the debate. At one point, as Bush was answering a question, Gore got up and started walking toward him. It seemed as though Gore wanted to intimidate Bush, but it didn't work. Bush looked at him and gave him a quick nod, which prompted laughter, and then continued his answer. After, Gore's team thought he'd won the debate on policy but "on mannerisms and the takeaway, he ended up losing," commentator George Stephanopoulos said at the time, the Atlantic reported.Bush "opened up a lead in several polls" within a week, Time reported, and would go on to win the election.2012: Barack Obama versus Mitt RomneyObama answers a question as Romney listens during the third presidential debate on October 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Florida.Charlie Neibergall/AP"The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War's been over for 20 years."That was Barack Obama's big zinger in a 2012 debate against Mitt Romney, as the president sought to dismiss his Republican challenger's assertion that Russia was the country's "No. 1 geopolitical foe."It was one of the most-talked about moments after the debate, and seen as a blow to Romney (who ultimately lost the election).But the line did not age well, as Russia annexed Crimea roughly two years later. It proved that a candidate doesn't necessarily have to be correct to be perceived as winning the argument.2016: Donald Trump versus GOP candidatesFrom left, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and John Kasich on August 6, 2015.Andrew Harnik/APAfter the first GOP presidential primary debate of the 2016 campaign season in August 2015, CNN reported, "It was the most dramatic opening to a presidential debate in recent memory —and Donald Trump stole the show before he'd even said a word."Indeed, no candidate on the stage could outmatch Trump in showmanship, who used his experience as a reality TV star to his advantage."One of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don't use a politician's filter," moderator Megyn Kelly said to Trump toward the beginning of the debate. "However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women. You've called women you don't like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals."Trump interrupted Kelly and said, "Only Rosie O'Donnell." The crowd roared with applause and laughter. Trump proved that you don't have to be the most polished person on the stage to win in the end. "For more than a month, Trump has defied the normal patterns of politics and Thursday night was no exception," CNN reported at the time.2020: Joe Biden versus Donald TrumpTrump and Biden at the presidential debate on September 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio.Win McNamee/Getty ImagesDuring the first presidential debate of the 2020 election, Trump continuously interrupted Biden as he answered questions posed by moderator Chris Wallace, leading to bickering between the candidates.As Biden attempted to respond to Wallace's question about whether he planned to add justices to the US Supreme Court, Trump interrupted him again, repeating, "Are you going to pack the court?""Will you shut up, man?" Biden said. "This is so unpresidential."Another moment that made headlines was Trump's apparent refusal to condemn white supremacist groups. When asked to tell white supremacist groups to "stand down" by Wallace, Trump instead said, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by," referencing the far-right, neo-fascist group.A high-ranking member of the Proud Boys told the House January 6 panel that membership in the organization "tripled" after Trump's remark, Insider's Cheryl Teh reported.CNN's Jake Tapper called the debate "a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»
Actually, Joe, All Your "Objectives" Were Failures Authored by Victor Davis Hanson via American Greatness, “Name me a single objective we’ve ever set out to accomplish that we’ve failed on. Name me one, in all of our history. Not one!” -President Joe Biden, August 16, 2023 Joe Biden in one of his now accustomed angry “get off my grass” moods dared the press to find just one of his policies/objectives that has not worked. Silence followed. Perhaps it was polite to say nothing, given even the media knows almost every enacted Biden policy has failed. Here is a summation of what he should instead apologize for. Biden in late summer 2021 sought a 20th anniversary celebration of 9/11 and the 2001 subsequent invasion of Afghanistan. He wished to be the landmark president that yanked everyone out of Afghanistan after 20 years in country. But the result was the greatest military humiliation of the United States since the flight from Vietnam in 1975. Consider the ripples of Biden’s disaster. U.S. deterrence was crippled worldwide. China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea almost immediately began to bluster or return to their chronic harassment of U.S. and allied ships and planes. We left thousands of allied Afghans to face Taliban retribution, along with some Western contractors. Biden abandoned a $1 billion embassy, and a $300 million remodeled Bagram airbase strategically located not far from China and Russia, and easily defensible. Perhaps $50 billion in U.S. weaponry and supplies were abandoned and now find their way into the international terrorist mart. All our pride flags, our multimillion gender studies programs at Kabul University, and our George Floyd murals did not just come to naught, but were replaced by the Taliban’s anti-homosexual campaigns, burkas, and detestation of any trace of American popular culture. Vladimir Putin sized up the skedaddle. He collated it with Biden’s unhinged quip that he would not get too excited if Putin just staged a “minor” invasion of Ukraine. He remembered Biden’s earlier request to Putin to modulate Russian hacking to exempt a few humanitarian American institutions. Then Russia concluded of our shaky Commander-in-Chief that he either did not care or could do nothing about another Russian invasion. The result so far is more than 500,000 dead and wounded in the war, a Verdun-stand-off along with fortified lines, the steady depletion of our munitions and weapon stocks, and a new China/Russia/Iran/North Korean axis, with wink and nod assistance from NATO Turkey. Biden blew up the Abraham accords, nudged Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States over to the dark side of Iran, China, and Russia. He humiliated the U.S. on the eve of the midterms by callously begging the likes of Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and Saudi Arabia to pump more oil that he had damned as unclean at home and cut back its production. In Bidenomics, instead of producing oil, the president begs autocracies to export it to us at high prices while he drains the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve for short-term political advantage. Biden deliberately alienated Israel by openly interfering in its domestic politics. He pursued the crackpot Iran Deal while his special Iranian envoy was removed for disclosing classified information. No one can explain why Biden ignored the Chinese balloon espionage caper, kept mum about the engineered Covid virus that escaped the Wuhan lab, said not a word about a Chinese biolab discovered in rural California, and had his envoys either bow before Chinese leaders or take their insults in silence—other than he is either cognitively challenged or leveraged by his decade-long grifting partnership with his son Hunter. Yet another Biden’s legacy will be erasing the southern border and with it, U.S. immigration law. Over seven million aliens simply crossed into the U.S. illegally with Biden’s tacit sanction—without audits, background checks, vaccinations, and COVID testing, much less English fluency, skills, or high-school diplomas. Biden’s only immigration accomplishment was to render the entire illegal sanctuary city movement a cruel joke. Given the flood, mostly rich urban and vacation home dwellers made it very clear that while they fully support millions swarming into poor Latino communities of southern Texas and Arizona, they do not want any illegal aliens fouling their carefully cultivated nests. Biden is mum about the 100,000 fentanyl deaths from cartel-imported and Chinese-supplied drugs across his open border. He seems to like the idea that Mexican President Obrador periodically mouths off, ordering his vast expatriate community to vote Democratic and against Trump. Despite all the pseudo-blue collar dissimulation about Old Joe Biden from Scranton, he has little empathy for the working classes. Indeed, he derides them as chumps and dregs, urges miners to learn coding as the world covets their coal, and studiously avoids getting anywhere near the toxic mess in East Palestine, Ohio, or so far the moonscape on Maui. Bidenomics is a synonym for printing up to $6 billion dollars at precisely the time post-Covid consumer demand was soaring, while previously dormant supply chains were months behind rebooting production and transportation. Biden is on track to increase the national debt more than any one-term president. In Biden’s weird logic, if he raised the price of energy, gasoline, and key food staples 20-30 percent since his inauguration without a commensurate rise in wages, and then saw the worst inflation in 40 years occasionally decline from record highs one month to the next, then he “beat inflation.” But the reason why more than 60 percent of the nation has no confidence in Bidenomics is because it destroyed their household budgets. Gas is nearly twice what it was in January 2021. Interest rates have about tripled. Key staple foods are often twice as costly—meat, vegetables, and fruits especially. Biden has ended through his weaponized Attorney General Merrick Garland the age-old American commitment to equal justice under the law. The FBI, DOJ, CIA, and IRS are hopelessly politically compromised. Many of their bureaucrats serve as retrieval agents for lost Biden family incriminating laptops, diaries, and guns. In sum, Biden criminalized opposing political views. Biden has unleashed the administrative state for the first time in history to destroy the Republican primary front runner and his likely opponent. His legacy will be the corruption of U.S. jurisprudence and the obliteration of the American reputation for transparent permanent government that should be always above politics, bribery, and corruption. If in the future, an on-the-make conservative prosecutor in West Virginia, Utah, or Mississippi wishes to make a national name, then he has ample precedent to indict a Democrat President for receiving bad legal advice, questioning the integrity of an election, or using social media to express doubt that the new non-Election-Day balloting was on the up-and-up, or supposedly overvaluing his real estate. The Biden family’s decade-long family grifting will likely expose Joe Biden as the first president in U.S. history who fitted precisely the Constitution’s definition of impeachment and removal—given his “high crimes and misdemeanors” appear “bribery”-related. If further evidence shows he altered U.S. foreign policy in accordance with the wishes from his benefactors in Ukraine, China, or Romania, then he committed constitutionally-defined “treason” as well. Defunding the police, and pandemics of exempted looting, shoplifting, smashing, and grabbing, and carjacking merit no administrative attention. Nor does the ongoing systematic destruction of our blue bicoastal cities, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. All that, along with the disasters in East Palestine or Maui are out of sight, out of mind from a day at the beach at Biden’s mysteriously purchased nearly 6,000 square-foot beachfront mansion. Biden ran on Barack Obama-like 2004 rhetoric (“Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America).” And like Obama, he used that ecumenical sophistry to gain office only to divide further the U.S. No sooner than he was elected, we began hearing from the great unifier eerie screaming harangues about “semi-fascists” and “ultra-MAGA” dangerous zealots, replete with red-and black Phantom of the Opera backdrops. What followed the unifying rhetoric was often amnesties and exemptions for violent offenders during the 120 days of rioting, looting, killing, and attacks on police officers in summer 2020. In contrast, his administration lied when it alleged that numerous officers had died at the hands of the January 6 rioters. In addition, the Biden administration mandated long-term incarceration of many who committed no illegal act other than acting like buffoons and “illegally parading.” The message was exemptions for torching a federal courthouse, a police precinct, or historic church or attempting to break into the White House grounds to get a president and his family—but long prison terms for wearing cow horns, a fur vest, and trespassing peacefully like a lost fool in the Capitol. Finally, Biden’s most glaring failure was simply being unpresidential. He snaps at reporters, and shouts at importune times. He can no longer read off a big-print teleprompter. Even before a global audience, he cannot kick his lifelong creepy habit of turkey-gobbling on children necks, blowing into their ears and hair of young girls, and squeezing women far too long and far too hard. His frailty redefined American presidential campaigning as basement seclusion and outsourcing propaganda to the media. And his disabilities only intensified during his presidency. Biden begins his day late and quits early. He has recalibrated the presidency as a 5-hour, 3-day a week job. If Trump was the great exaggerator, Biden is our foremost liar. Little in his biography can be fully believed. He lies about everything from his train rides to the death of his son to his relationship with Biden-family foreign collaborators, to vaccinations to the economy. Anytime Biden mentions places visited, miles flown, or rails ridden, he is likely lying. Biden continues with impunity because the media feels that a mentally challenged fabulist is preferrable to Donald Trump and so contextualizes or ignores his falsehoods. Never has a U.S. president fallen and stumbled or gotten lost on stage so frequently—or been a single small trip away from incapacity. So, yes, Biden’s initiatives have succeeded only in the sense of becoming successfully enacted—and therefore nearly destroying the country. Tyler Durden Mon, 08/21/2023 - 18:20.....»»