More Opinion by The Springboard

THE UPRISING OF THE AMERICAN PARTY "Clearly the voters are engaged right now, at least for sure on the republican side, and what they have concluded is that the republican party has not done their job. Thus, Donald Trump gets their vote."

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sioux City Bee Farmer Loses All

FOR A BEE FARMER in Sioux City, Iowa, it turned out to be a terribly devastating tragedy when he discovered that vandals had knocked over and destroyed his beehives, leaving about 500,000 dead bees in the carnage.

For owner Justin Engelhardt this surely is NO WAY TO START OFF THE NEW YEAR as he told a local reporter that the vandals pretty much wiped out his entire business and he sees no way of recovering from the incident.

Certainly it is my opinion that the vandals be found as quickly as possible and swiftly brought to justice.

And the penalties should be stiff too. This is vandalism on a grand scale as it is probably not just the fact that these tools trespassed and destroyed a man's livelihood, but THEY ESSENTIALLY PUT THE MAN OUT OF BUSINESS!

I cannot imagine what the penalty would be for me if I were to walk into, say, a flower shop and destroy every flower or plant in the store.

Besides the fact that the act is totally uncalled for, it is also terribly pointless. What goes through the minds of some people? That's my question. Granted, as I often say in light of instances such as these, the fact that I CANNOT UNDERSTAND the mindset gives me comfort. 
I do wonder, however, whether this bee keeper at least had insurance? It doesn't seem to be the case if it is suggested that he will not be able to recover from this act. But it can serve as a lesson, perhaps, to other business owners who may have a similar type of business that perhaps they better make sure that they do in fact have some insurance...


The Internet Goes Click...Click...Click

It's a wonder to me that advertisers haven't gone beserk in some form or fashion from what seems to be the latest trend in Internet "storytelling." I mean, they spend a ton of money seeking out places to put their ads that will lure in what are supposed to be truly interested buyers of their products.

What's more, what's a click worth?

Well, money of course. Sure, a lot of these websites do get paid based on a certain number of impressions—and if you know what kind of websites I am talking about here, you know that every time one of their pages loads...

So do a ton of ADS!

So basically here's how these tend to work. You click onto a news story or something like that you might find say, on the Bing "homepage." Then you get suggested stories you might like somewhere after the article.

You click on one of those stories and a page loads...yep, complete with all those ads. It provides you some alluring detail...

Take as an example, "One Nike employee who costs the company the deal of a lifetime!"  It says "start slideshow" or something like that and now that you've gotten the bait you just have to click on, right?

So many people must do this, that's why these sites thrive.

So now another page loads, along with tons more ad displays, a picture perhaps as well pertinent to the "story" about to unfold. You'll notice that the screen jumps and scrolls itself. Funny how a lot of that jumping and scrolling occurs right around the time your pointer lands on "continue" or "next slide."

These websites are trying to force a click thru to one of those ads. Invariably to get PAID for that click. 

And that's not only annoying folks. But it is part of the reason I think the advertisers—the READERS notwithstanding—should be going beserk. 

The person clicking thru to that ad that advertiser is paying for probably has NO INTEREST WHATSOEVER in what the ad is about—let alone in buying anything.

Without question there's one more thing that comes readily to mind. The WEBSITE and the STORY WRITER has absolutely no interest in the story either. They are simply interested in getting PAID.

Now, on the surface there is nothing wrong with that. Anyone who writes anything on the Internet would like some form of compensation. It's not THE ONLY reason we do it. But getting some form of compensation from doing it is an added bonus that can help us to determine that the time we spend doing it is worth it in the end.

But there is something else annoying about this trend in websites. That is, in order to get through the whole "article," you're going to have to click through perhaps as many as fifteen pages. Each of those pages will have a paragraph or two that contributes to the story...


Now. I do get the attention span thing. Or, the lack thereof which plagues society today and these websites understand that as well. It's another reason, in some ways, this tactic actually works. If someone clicks into an "article" and sees a standard article format with several paragraphs and a few pictures they are like to say, "Ugh, I don't want to read ALL that," and are simply going to move on—and tons of ads will never even get the pleasure of an eyeball.

To be honest I actually find these "articles" and the whole presentation a bit annoying if not entirely frustrating. I am extremely careful not to accidentally click an ad. In part because I DON'T THINK IT IS FAIR TO THE ADVERTISER, and more importantly, I AM ACTUALLY THERE TO READ THE ARTICLE. I don't want to be distracted by having to go back from ad I didn't want to click on in the first place...


I personally much prefer a method I am using here for THIS piece. That is the "start-stop" method, or "forced break" method. You are using combinations of short phrases and paragraphs and all caps, italics, bold-face text and other things to give the reader breaks. It also detracts the reader LESS from the longer article format because on the surface, while it is longer, it doesn't immediately present itself as obvious.

It's not the way I prefer to write. But, I will say that given the choice on any of those articles that I am actually interested in the details of, I WOULD MUCH PREFER TO READ IT THIS WAY, THAN THE WAY MOST OF THESE SITES ARE PRESENTING IT. 

In some ways it actually does surprise me a bit that these sites DO INFACT work. It would seem to me that most people would find this sort of thing to be more of a nuisance than a great way to read an article.

But these sites also get an enormous AMOUNT OF TRAFFIC, and for whatever reason the bigger "legit" websites cater to these "clickbait" websites. And so they get all the eyeballs. Other bloggers and article writers get shunned simply because they not only have a story to tell, but ACUTALLY WANT TO TELL THE STORY and would prefer that their story not be loaded up with all of those annoying distractions, jumping and auto-scrolling.

It is what it is, and as I have always said from a pure marketing perspective is that it continues to be done this way BECAUSE IT WORKS. I also know that writing an "article" in the format I have chosen here also works. I get the best hit counts when I write them this way as opposed to a more traditional format. 

And all that can be concluded from that is that until it doesn't work, the Internet, and the user, goes

Until either the readers get tired of it...or the advertisers pull the plug on it.

I do wonder though, out of all of those accidental clicks, how many people also accidentally pull out their wallets and their credit cards and actually buy what they have inadvertently clicked into? MAYBE THAT IS WHY ADVERTISERS have NOT gone beserk. Maybe it actually works? I'll never know because I avoid those accidental clicks like the plague.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Trump Right, Kneeling for Anthem is Disrespectful

President Donald J. Trump is right. NFL players should stand during the national anthem. It is that simple. Aside from all of the arguments about free speech, it has been well established that free speech does not necessarily apply to your place of work. And since the players in the NFL are employees of that organization, the NFL can implement a rule saying players must stand for the national anthem—

And they would be well within their rights to enforce such a rule.

It is actually quite amazing to me the stance that the NFL leadership and owners are taking on this issue since it is all too clear that taking this stance is severely impacting their business. And let's not forget that the NFL is in fact a business. Like any business, it has customers, and those customers (the fans) have made it all too clear, and overwhelmingly so, that they do not support the kneeling of NFL players during the national anthem.

As such, fans have sold season tickets, have stopped watching televised games, have stopped purchasing NFL jersey's and other memorabilia, and even some sponsors have decided to bail fearing backlash from angry fans.

This trend will only continue so long as NFL players continue to undermine the very business that pays their salaries.

Besides the fact that the entire protest is false to begin with, what I do find refreshing is that at least finally the American people are acting like true Americans again—more and more—and not allowing the agenda of the left and the lamestream media to dictate what the interest and conscience of the American people should be.

Stand up guys or you will find yourselves as irrelevant as women's basketball.

Business Class Deals

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Retiring Early Is About the Little Things

Most of the time when we think of saving money, the word 'sacrifice' comes immediately to mind. And while it is true that starting the process of saving money may require some of that, the end goal is to accumulate the money by making small changes in the short term so that money is more readily available down the road for life's little pleasures, and having more freedom to pursue them without robbing yourself in the short term to enjoy them.

It is important to identify what those small changes are in order to maximize them. It may be as simple as cutting out that daily coffee at an expensive coffee shop, or even cutting out the K-Cups, or even the higher end premium coffee beans or blends we may buy. Switch to Folgers or Maxwell House, or even a store brand so long as you can stomach it. Maybe keep a package of the better stuff for a weekend treat.

Other things that can be cut-down may be those expensive energy drinks. If nothing else, don't buy them at gas stations where the price is usually ramped up. Buy them at your local grocery store, and by all means look for sales if you really can't bear cutting them out altogether.

Fill water bottles from your tap before you leave the house. How bad is tap water really? It's really just a mind over matter thing in all honesty. You can do the same with soda on the run. Buy the soda in 2-liter bottles and fill smaller bottles before you leave the house. A 2-liter bottle costs about the same as a 20-ounce bottle on the run, so you are actually saving quite a lot of money on this doing it this way.

There a number of things, if you examine closely enough, you can probably live without, or at least curb to save a little bit of money. I could make a ton of suggestions. Most of them are even likely to be cliché and very well known, or even obvious. The key is to identify for yourself what is important and what is not in your daily spending habits. And again, keep in mind that what you should be examining are the little things.The nickle and dime stuff. Not necessarily the bigger things.

Okay. One other small suggestion before I move on; start the habit of slushing in your checking account.

What is slushing? It is sort of like the idea of tossing your loose change into a coin jar to cash in later. Simply round up any transaction you make out of your checking account—if you do an annual audit or reconciliation of your checking balance you should be able to determine how much you have slushed and be able to make a good decision about what to do with it.

So what do you do with any savings? It is important to put that money you are not spending to work. I will tell you now it is best to avoid putting the money into a savings account since generally speaking, you earn so little interest it is simply not worth it. Besides that, the key to building your money and creating more value is by beating inflation. Something a simple savings account, and nowadays even a CD, simply will not do.

So, you want to have your money growing in the markets. Even with the ebb and flow of the stock market, history has proven time and time again without waiver that over time, the markets always grow. And if your money is in the market, so will your money grow. But, you do not need to be Warren Buffet in order to achieve a respectable gain on your money. Putting your money into a simple fund that tracks the S&P 500 has always been a good, sound place to put your hard earned, and well saved money.

I do recommend learning all you can about the markets since those in the know do better over time. But the idea here is just to get you into something simple that will provide a better bang for what savings you are able to muster.

The key here is two-fold. You are trying to retain as much of the money you earn today as you can in order to have more of it tomorrow and into retirement. These days I use my money for both of those things. Income replacement, and retirement funding. At some point, having saved and invested over time, it is not so much of a surprise that what you earn in dividends may meet or beat what your actual paycheck is. And once this is accomplished, this is what I mean by putting aside those little things today to enjoy them (and actually be able to afford them) once you have accumulated enough money that it becomes a virtual cash gifter that just keeps on giving.

Haste makes waste is something most people don't apply to money matters. But hastily buying that latte today will surely waste an opportunity to put $5 to work today that could be worth $10 in eight years based on the track record of money doubling in the markets about every eight years. When you start thinking about the dollar here and the dollar there, and what those dollars are worth over time, and how much they earn in dividends and other gains, it starts to make perfect sense. And even should be a little bit exciting.

One last thought, pertaining to the slushing. So, you might say, "But I don't use my checking account.I charge it," to which I would simply say—

If you had money you would not have a need for the credit card, and may be just one of the other little things keeping you away from getting beyond just working for your money and living paycheck to paycheck.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The NFL Is Protesting Nothing

Is it just me? Am I the only one who is just fed up with all of the fake in the world today? It's not enough that each and every day we are inundated by fake news—we are being spoon fed what is obviously garbage and it seems never ending. From Russia stole the election to hands up, and now we of course have the fake protests by players in the NFL.

What exactly are they protesting is my question?

Police injustice? Racism? Inequality? I mean, what is it exactly that is being protested against? The fact is that white cops killing blacks is actually statistically rare. Racism is a bit of a joke especially if you consider it being touted by players in the NFL.

Ummm, the NFL is comprised of 75% blacks. The NBA is comprised of a much higher percentage of that. In both cases the players are picked and paid based on their performance. They are all multi-millionaires.

Inequality? How many of the fans enjoy the salaries these guys do?

Beyond that, even as far back as Ferguson I keep on asking myself why no one wants to talk about, and especially not to protest, the real tragedy. The real injustice. And quite frankly the real problem.

Of course I am talking about black on black crime, and more specifically, black on black murder. When do we begin that dialogue? When do we address that issue? When do we protest that? Because if you really want to see perfectly clear where there is a real problem, it is here. It is with that. And yet there is silence from the Al Sharpton's and Jesse Jackson's of the world. Nobody is taking a stand against that. No black NFL players or NBA players are stepping into the bloody streets of Chicago and asking what the hell is going on there.

Here are some stats to think about:

  • Somewhere around 7600 blacks were murdered in the U.S. in 2016
  • Of those murdered 92% had criminal records
  • Of those murdered 97% of them were murdered by other blacks
  • 265 of those blacks were murdered by cops while committing a crime
  • Of those 265 only 16 of them were not armed
Where exactly is the problem? What exactly are players taking a knee for or locking arms for? Injustice? If it is police brutality the statistics do not support that. If it is inequality and racism, the stats don't support that either. And if racism is such a rampant problem why is it the case that there are so many multi-millionaires who are black?

From Jay-Z to Puff Daddy, to Ben Carson who ran for president and Herman Cain who also ran for president, and by the way, was a very prominent CEO as well? These are very successful black people who are well respected—even by whites. How does Morgan Freeman or Will Smith or Samuel Jackson or Denzel Washington not only attract throngs of white viewers, but command big dollars for their performances in Hollywood?

How does Barack Obama become president of the United States?

The entire thing is a false narrative. It is all a story, and a fictional one at that. It's a joke honestly. The whole thing. Every single bit of it. We know it, and I think they know it too. They have to. It's just too obvious. They can't not know it. When they open their garages and wipe the handprints off their Bentley, their Range Rover, their Hummer, their Lamborgini, they cannot honestly tell themselves that those cars, and all of that fame and fortune was afforded them by racism and inequality and injustice. They can't. They can't tell themselves that racism is alive and well as throngs of adoring white fans drool in their presence. They simply cannot.

The only light at the end of the tunnel is that I think the vast majority of Americans are seeing it for what it is. A false protest. There is no merit to any of it. The fact that no one has really been able to coherently explain the protest is just icing on the cake. And the fact that no one mentions the thousands of lifeless black bodies, even in the streets of Chicago, is all very telling of the reality. Until we address the real problem facing black America, nobody will put a whole lot of stock in what the players seem to have a problem with. And quite frankly it makes them all look like blubbering fools.

Without being overly silly, the NFL players have a plane heading straight for them about to crash. They see a football ready to slam someone in the head and they rush to that person's aid without even recognizing the bigger disaster right in front of them.

Statistic bullets courtesy of Gary Neely.

You Deserve a Vacation!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Do Not Stay At Super 8 Eau Claire 6260 Texaco Dr., Eau Claire WI 54703

I travel a lot on business and as such have become a Diamond Member of Wyndham. That being said, as I have always said, Super 8 hotels lack consistency. That is to be said about the quality of the room as well as the quality of customer service and other factors. Traveling as much as I do I do take note of the hotel rooms to stay in, and ones to avoid.

The Super 8 at 6260 Texaco Dr. Eau Claire, WI 54703 is one to avoid.

It's just not a good hotel. The area is seedy, the room is mediocre, and the entire hotel seems like something from the past. It's not a great place to stay for anyone.

What made it worse is that there was an outage for the cable. I went to the front desk and said I understood that the outage was not their fault, but that I was a diamond member and I wanted a discount for my room due to the fact that I could not watch TV. I do not want anything for free, rarely ask for discounts, and always pay my way.

The woman at the front desk did not care about my issue. She said there would be no discount because it was "not her fault." And when I mentioned that I was a diamond member she actually seemed to be angered by this.

"You get PERKS," she said.

"Not tonight," I told her.

I told her I would never stay at her hotel again and she told me, a diamond member who spends over $6000 a year in Wyndham hotels that she "was sorry to hear that but there is nothing I can do for you."

That is not customer service. For someone at the highest level of rewards that was not customer service. I was not treated like a diamond member. I was treated like any other one night stay that happened to rent a night at their hotel.

I have been treated MUCH better at other Wyndham hotels. But this one? Nope. I will never stay here again based on the condition of the hotel AND the lack of customer service, especially the lack of customer service for a member who has reached the highest level and who spends over $6000 a year on their hotels.

Never again.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

More Blame From Crooked Hilary?

It never ceased to amaze me throughout Barack Obama's eight years in office his narcissistic ways. And yet, Hilary Clinton appears to suffer a similar syndrome which is made ever more evident with what is being reported to be the contents of her new book coming out in mid-September which is to bring forth her version of why she thinks she lost the election. The thing I marvel at is how much everything about the book seems to suggest that the devastating loss in the 2016 election was due to everyone else around her and had nothing to do with her. 

In the aftermath we have heard it all. It was uneducated deplorables. It was Bernie soaking up too much of what should have been her air in the room. It was James Comey. It was her team. It was bad advice from even Barack Obama which she said made her feel like she was in a straitjacket. It was the Russians.

Everyone but Hilary Clinton herself was the root cause of her epic failed presidential run.

It seems to me that people will still buy the book. Not because it is going to be informative or enlightening in any way, because we know all too well that is not going to be the case. People are going to buy the book for the same reason they might tune into Jerry Springer. You simply want to know what she is going to say even if you go into the whole thing with a clear head knowing it will be nothing but passing the buck and probably all-out lies to boot.

Some have suggested that Hilary's daughter may even be getting pegged for a possible future democratic run for president. Look, the one thing that is clear to me here is that a large part of the reason Hilary Clinton did not win has everything to do with who Hilary Clinton is. Yes, she is crooked as President Trump stated over and over again during his campaign. She's as crooked as they come. She was arrogant as was demonstrated time and time again from accounts from secret service agents when she was First Lady, to her time in office as Secretary of State using private servers and potentially compromising national security—because she felt she was above the law. The fact is that the Clinton's are done politically. So her daughter was stand no discernible chance at any time in the future for the highest office in the land.

The book is not one I will buy. I simply have no desire to read a bunch of worn out whining and complaining, deflection, woe-is-me, and whatever other bullshit she wants to spin with it. She's a piece of work. The people saw it. Voters responded. Trump won. Enough said.

As I said before, what is sad to me is that she doesn't get it. But luckily, apparently neither does the entire democrat party. That will help us in the mid-terms and help Trump to win handily again when he comes up for reelection.

Pete's Place Plug: 09/06/2017

Okay, so this blog is mostly about politics and money and business. But it is primarily supposed to be a simple hodgepodge of all of those things, and the occasional random thought. And that's exactly where this sort of post fits in.

The truth is I started vaping after quitting smoking a few months back, and being new to that whole community and everything about vaping, it has been something of a fun thing to troll the Internet and find out as much as I can about what it is, and get some intel on whatever I can regarding all things vape.

Surprisingly, while ordinarily you might think that this whole subject matter would be dry as hell, there is a lot of what I have found to be quite entertaining commentary and video on the whole world of vaping.

One guy in particular who I have taken a liking to, very much enjoying his whit and humor, and because he is actually quite informative as well to boot, that would be Pete's Place. Or for you You Tuber's out there, Vaping At Pete's Place. If you type that into the search field I am sure you will find him.

He does some live stuff weekly which so far are a bit wonky, but as I told him when I used that word in the comments, in no way am I suggesting the word wonky in a pejorative way. It's just to say that they are a bit clunky, but still nonetheless interesting to watch.

At least I find that to be the case.

So to that end because I like his vaping commentary as much as I do, from time to time I thought it might be fun and a nice thing to do to plug a video of his. He's definitely worth watching and I think there is a lot that can be learned from him from his own vaping experiences. His channel is loaded with tons of interesting tidbits, reviews, commentary and the like.

In this particular video he is reviewing some e-juice flavors that were sent to him for exactly that purpose. To do a review. As I am beginning to contribute a few of my own videos to the vaping community maybe I will be lucky enough to eventually have a few free juices sent my way for reviewing.

Win win, right? Get paid a little for the videos and get free juice?

In any event, and without further ado, here's Pete's little contribution to the vaping world. Looks like he put this one out on the 5th.



Thursday, July 20, 2017

Chipotle: Point of No Return

Let's face it. Bad things happen. When it comes to companies, sometimes they have the ability to clear their name, and sometimes it just ain't happenin'. I am reminded of Sizzler back in the day which all but collapsed after an e. coli outbreak in a restaurant. And there was Jack in the Box which had to change its name for a while to Monterey Jacks because of a similar incident. Sizzler really never recovered. Jack in the Box however, is still operating today and eventually did lose the Monterey Jack moniker.

BP suffered blows after a major oil rig disaster. United has had its fair share of incidents. Volkswagon got itself into some trouble, and back some time ago Toyota lost some faith of its customers due to its acceleration problem.

All of them have, or will recover.

Chipotle, however, I do not believe will not have this opportunity. For the first thing, Chipotle sold itself on fresh, organic and quality which was really its brand. It is exactly what was supposed to separate its brand of quick serve from the rest of the guys. When your brand is healthy and fresh, and people get sick, not once, but twice...

That is not going to leave customers feeling too great about entering your store anytime soon. When is the last time someone got sick after eating a grease laden burger at McDonald's? Although, while Taco Bell will not make you sick, it certainly could be advertised as a quick serve laxative to be sure.

But that is an entirely different thing.

You have two incidents whereas customers have gotten sick eating at Chipotle restaurants. You have admissions from the CEO after the first string of incidents that the company was lax in its quality standards and monitoring, and was going to revamp its business by retraining employees on quality standards and good manufacturing and sanitation practices.

But now that seems to be for naught because people got sick again. And now you have reports of rodents dropping from the ceilings which in and of itself will cause more than one potential Chipotle customer to squirm.

What exactly made me sick? Could it be rodents urinating and defecating into my food? What exactly is going on behind the scenes at my Chipotle restuarant? What are the employees missing?

Truth is, being a former pest control technician, rodents and other insects like roaches are actually commonplace in food establishments. But, that's what the pest control specialists are there for. To educate staff and to control the population of pests in the establishment.

More often than not, when pest control technicians had difficulty controlling rodent and insect populations in restaurants, it was primarily due to a lack of willingness on the part of management and other staff to do their due dilligence when it came to good manufacturing practices, and especially when it came to sanitation practices.

So if rodents are falling out of the ceilings or even running rampant in the store, something is seriously wrong with everything going on in the back while your food is being prepared, and God knows what is exactly going into your burrito.

For me there is only one outcome here. The company will be filing for bankruptcy sometime in the near future. The trouble is this is two and three incidents, and customers will be weary about entering their stores anytime soon.

The stock is dropping. Customer traffic will fall dramatically. The coupled effect of this will be a downward spiral too quick and too steep for the company to be able to effectively manage.

Will Chipotle be a name that gets tossed into the garbage can? In this particular instance I think so. I think Chipotle is dead as a company.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Ruler Foods: Two Complaints

Don't get me wrong at the outset of this commentary. I am a huge fan of the Kroger brand of grocery stores known as Ruler's. For one thing they have stellar prices. And when I say stellar, I mean (if you have been following me) their prices far surpass, in many instances, my threshold prices on myriad regular items I generally buy.

For example, here are some current prices as of this writing that I think are out of this world:
  • 1 dozen eggs, 28 cents
  • 5 pound roll of 73/27 ground beef, $9.95 (or $1.99 per pound)
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts $1.88 per pound
  • Whole chicken, 95 cents per pound
  • Green peppers, 49 cents each
  • Cream soups, 49 cents each
  • Taco seasoning packets, 39 cents each
  • 16 ounce salad dressing, $1.29
  • 3 pound bag of yellow onions, $1.49
  • Box of two envelopes of onion soup mix, 69 cents
  • 1 pound of ham lunch meat, $2.99
  • 1 1/2 pound brick of cheese, $4.89
In addition, so far as I can tell, Ruler Foods has the best price in town on 75 feet of Reynold's Freezer Paper. A must for anyone like me who buys meats in bulk and freezes it in manageable portions. They also have the best price in town on gelatin which is a good thing since my wife does like her Jell-O. A simple 15 ounce can of pork and beans runs only 49 cents, and they are as good as some of the Bush's Best variety I like. My wife and I also generally will buy coffee creamer there, as well as cottage cheese, sour cream, margarine, soda, and laundry detergent as their prices stack up better against everyone else I shop.

Ruler Foods operates similar to the way that Aldi does. You pay a refundable 25 cents for your cart, and you bring your own bags or use boxes that the store may provide from it's stocking efforts to take out your groceries.

Here is my first complaint, and a bit of an observation.

I used to shop Aldi frequently before Ruler Foods came into town where I live. Honestly, Ruler Foods beats Aldi's prices, and that's why I rarely shop Aldi anymore. But whenever I plopped a quarter into my cart at Aldi, I always got it back when I returned my cart. Every single time. This process went without a hitch every single time, and there was never a time I did not easily retrieve my quarter.

Not so with Ruler Foods.

The Ruler Foood store in my area has been around for roughly two years, and their carts are already showing massive signs of wear when it comes to their "quarter" mechanisms. In the last 6 months I have gotten my quarter back roughly 75% of the time. Now, while that's not terrible, that means in another six months I may get my quarter back 50% of the time, and eventually, 25% of the time, and if the trend continues, may never see my quarter returned at all.

Ruler Foods needs to maintain their carts. It's only a quarter. But it's my quarter, and if Aldi can keep my quarters coming back so can Ruler Foods. It's a minor thing, but if you add a quarter to my bottom line, I do consider the offset. While it may not impact the cost of my food by that much, it is still a factor for me.

And I am a stickler for saving my money. All of it. Every single red cent of it.

My second complaint? For roughly three months Ruler Foods has had two advertised prices for a 30-pack of Busch Beer. $17.49 and $14.97. In that time $14.97 was the correct price and was honored. Today when I went to the store the cooler price was advertised as $17.49 and HUGE display in the middle of the store with stacks of 30 packs of Busch Beer and Busch Light advertised $14.97. But when I got to the register I was charged the $17.49 price.

You cannot and should not, for three consecutive months, not have the ability to know what your correct price is and make sure that you are advertising to the customer what the correct price is. What they have done, in my opinion, is condition the customer to trust the big middle aisle display as the correct price, and since many customers customarily do not check their receipts, they can sell beer at a great price that is not a great price once checkout is complete.

Between your carts and confusing pricing displays Ruler Foods, I suggest you get it together, because if I have to scan my receipts (and do anyway) and continue to find discrepancies, the likelihood that I continue to shop your store becomes less and less. If I cannot trust you, what is the point of trying to save money?

The Ruler Food store I shop is located at 1703 N. Belt West, Belleville, Illinois 62226.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Can United Airlines Get Any Worse?

As the old saying goes, when it rains, it pours. And for plagued United Airlines it seems the rain may never stop. In some ways United may be experiencing something similar to what Carnival Cruise Lines did not so long ago, and to be sure its reputation will be tarnished for some time to come. Moreover, as the punches keep on coming, this whole string of incidents from beaten down passengers, to dead rabbits and scorpion bites—United Airlines may be an airline company that crashes without a single plane in the air when all is said and done.

You'll remember quite a few years back when PanAm was driven out of business after a series of deadly crashes that made it the butt of more than a few jokes, and left passengers weary to fly the ill-fated airline for fear they might not make it to their destination alive.

It's not just that passengers are bailing on United in droves. The investors are too, and for good reason on both counts.

Perhaps it is nothing that United Airlines is specifically doing wrong that has caused this string of bad press for them. They could well be simply a victim of circumstance. The Dr. David Dao incident just happened to thrust them smack dab into the spotlight. Of course, I do think there are some serious tears in the fabric of their entire operation, and this has led to much of their woes of late. But really, looking at the bigger picture, it might well be that the entire airline industry faces similar problems. We're just not as acutely aware of them since right now United is deeply embedded in bad press to take some of the heat and pressure off of the other airlines.

As one would expect, some of United's competitors are already taking advantage of United's missteps and misfortunes. For example, Southwest Airlines recently announced it would end the age-old practice of overbooking flights. As things tend to go in business, it's sort of a game of copycat if the idea sits well with customers, and it would  not be surprising to see other airlines quickly scrambling to follow suit. All of the airlines are already doing anything they can, of course, to scoop up any foot traffic they can grab from passengers abandoning United.

At this point it seems apparent that apologies from United's CEO, Oscar Munoz, are most definitely going to fall on deaf ears. What that means to me is that the only next step for Oscar Munoz to take is to step down from his top post and leave the clean up of this whole mess to someone else.

Does it mean someone else can fix it? Maybe. Maybe not. Toyota seemed well poised for a rather precarious situation after their Camry's accelerator problem left terrified drivers essentially in the back seat of their own cars while they were helplessly driven into walls, barriers, and other cars on the road. The stock did take a tumble, and certainly Toyota said very openly they made some mistakes, and the stock did recover, and so did the reputation of Camry cars. Carnival has been able to clean up its image a bit as well over time, and the cruise line is actually doing quite well again.

If there is any certainty for United Airlines, it is that it cannot afford an ounce of additional bad press. In fact, one more story of something happening on a United Airlines plane may serve as the final coffin nail.

The whole Twitter, Wendy's, Wilkerson "debacle" is not that story by the way.

At the very least what United Airlines needs is a major overhaul of its business. They need to either fire Munoz, or he needs to step down. That is step one. In addition, a new CEO needs to assure passengers that major changes will be made to the way they book flights, the way they get staff moved around, the way they handle cargo (especially live animals), and what they intend to do to sweep planes better—to keep scorpions from appearing out of the sleeves of sleeping passengers as happened on one recent flight, and passengers actually being stung which happened on yet another flight.

It still may not be enough to quell the looming disaster that is becoming their company. Unlike other businesses, airlines customers are quite a bit more perturbed than they are in other industries. The entire experience of flying has become such an abysmal and irritating experience, by the time passengers are sat in their seats, they are poised like hungry lions waiting for just the right moment and opportunity to strike. In fact, on a recent Southwest flight two passengers took to literal blows after who knows what transpired before the incident.

What that means is that customers are going to be far less forgiving when it comes to United as a whole. Flyers are fed up. And telling United where to go despite any efforts United may try to make to set things straight may be a very strong message to the airlines left standing...

You better get things right and treat flyers like customers, or we will ground your planes next.

Even if United Airlines makes it through the fall-out, their opportunity to have a second chance will require an awful careful approach to every single interaction it has with their customers. Because if they don't, they won't get a third chance.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Why The Hell Are You Still Long on Ford?

There is panic on The Street—again—when it comes to Ford Motor Company. I suppose there is at least a smidgen of reason for it. The last couple of quarters have shown a rather steep decline in auto sales, and banks continue to tighten sub-prime lending practices making it more difficult for a large segment of the population to buy new cars. But the trend is nowhere near exclusive to Ford. It's happening across the entire auto sector.

So far as I can tell, however, there is nothing that clearly indicates to me that Ford is a bust, nor that it will not pull itself—again—out of the doldrums.

Here are a couple key factors I think well support Ford's share price surviving the sell off, and maintaining itself as a strong long term investment:

  • Ford has more than $28 billion in cash on the books.
  • All data suggests that with an average life expectancy of the average car or truck being roughly 180K miles, support for new replacement vehicle sales remain at an average of 17 million vehicles per year.
  • Ford continues to maintain very good income from sales of its trucks, really the meat of its business, and with Ford trucks being the top selling truck for the past 40+ years, they will continue to reap the rewards of sales of trucks.
Cash on the books.

Right now Ford sports a pretty hefty dividend when compared to its peers in this sector, currently a whopping 5.39%. The actual dividend is actually higher if you consider that two years in a row so far instead of increasing their dividend, Ford has opted to pay out an annual special dividend. With more than $28 billion in cash on the books, Ford is well poised to not only maintain its dividend at current levels, it is also well positioned to weather the current storm, has plenty of money for marketing, research and development, and to maintain its day-to-day operations.

Ford is nowhere near bankruptcy.

Life expectancy of vehicles.

The average service life for all vehicles is somewhere around 11.7 years considering the average mile life of a car or truck being around 180K miles. This data supports roughly 17 million new cars have to be produced each year to replace any cars on the road being tossed into the junkyard. Of course the actual annual sales figures will fluctuate due to a variety of factors. Ability of consumers to by new vehicles is certainly one of them.

And lets face it, consumer confidence data and other economic factors, while improving finally, are still not where they ought to be. Or where they can be quite frankly. This is going to have a short term impact on auto sales figures throughout the world. Although China is still a large area of growth for Ford specifically, especially when it comes to their Lincoln line of cars, it is still not enough to make a dent right now on the numbers.

Ford trucks.

So long as Ford can maintain its leading position in the market when it comes to trucks, and so long as gas remains under $4 per gallon, Ford truck sales will continue to be strong. For one thing, no one is predicting $4 per gallon gas anytime soon. In fact, it is well predicted that the oil sector will remain depressed. Initiatives by the Trump administration actually support this strongly. The more involved the U.S. in oil production, the more pressure it places on OPEC and the oil sector as a whole. That pressure can easily drive down oil prices, and keep them down for the foreseeable future. So long as fuel prices are at a reasonable level, consumers will be more inclined to buy bigger vehicles like SUVs, crossovers, and yes...


Let's not also forget that if there is a boost in construction—which it seems there could be—there will also be a need for more trucks in that sector. Ford will lead the job in fulfilling that demand, and since their trucks are the beef of their income, this only bodes well for Ford. It's no secret that smaller cars have never been the mainstay of Ford's business, and quite frankly, never has been for GM either.

Perhaps if we are talking about Toyota the numbers would be more meaningful if smaller car sales were in decline as they are for Ford. But we're not talking about Toyota. We're talking about Ford. The impact to Ford of even a steeper decline in their smaller car sales will not be enough to offset the revenues derived from their truck sales.

Speaking of trucks, let us not forget that Ford will bring back the Ranger in 2019, and in 2020 will bring back the very popular Ford Bronco. And let me tell you, that Bronco, based on what we know about what it will look like, may even make me—a guy who typically never buys new vehicles—to run out as soon as they come out and trade in our Ford Edge.

I think the Bronco will be a huge seller for Ford Motor Company.

My recommendation.

What I recommend is quite simple. If you are long Ford, buy the dips. If you are not long Ford you may want to wait for the stock to bottom before buying in. I would also put in high dollar amount per share sell orders to make those shares unavailable to short sellers. Short sellers cannot borrow shares that are for sale.

When you look at the balance sheets it seems clear to me that while Ford certainly suffers from, and has for some time admittedly, downward pressure, there is much to be assured that Ford has great potential for some strong upside.

I am long Ford, and continue to be long Ford. And for me, this short term sell off is only a good reason to take advantage of the discounts and add more shares. Played right, the dividends I earn alone while I wait might just be enough to, if not outright buy that Bronco when it comes out, but can at least support a hefty down payment on it.

Mark my words.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

How To Cook A Corned Beef Brisket

Corned beef brisket, whether it be a flat cut or a point cut, is a truly delicious meal. But due to the brining process a corned beef brisket can be quite salty. Depending on who you talk to, people have various ways of cooking one of these. This is the way I cook my corned beef brisket, and I have done it this way for years, and it always turns out quite delicious, and the process is easy as well.

The way I like to cook my corned beef brisket is to bring it to a boil, and then simmer it. The general rule is that you want to cook your brisket for about 50 minutes per pound. Usually I have at least a 4 lb brisket.

STEP ONE: Cut the brisket out of the bag and drop it into a large pot. Find the "seasoning packet" and set it aside. The bag is full of blood and brine. This is all flavor folks. Before I put any water into my pot, after dropping the corned beef brisket into the pot, I rinse the bag it came in and dump that mixture into the pot with the meat. This way I get all the goodies. Next, turn on the tap and fill the pot so that the meat is fully covered to the top in water.

STEP TWO: Add the seasoning packet that came with your corned beef brisket.

STEP THREE: Set the pot, uncovered, on the burner. Set your dial high and bring the pot to a slow, rolling boil. Once it is boiling let it cook for about 3-5 minutes, watching the foam. If it foams too much just turn the heat down a notch.

STEP FOUR: After it has boiled for about 3-5 minutes, turn down the heat to a high simmer and cover it. Set the timer for 50 minutes per pound. Just let it cook. Watch it to make sure you don't have to make some heat adjustments, but mostly your corned beef brisket will simply cook on its own without any attention at all for the allotted time.

Note: If at any point during the cooking process if you feel the meat should need more water, just add it. You are not going to impede the flavor at all. The meat should be covered with water through the cooking process. If you add some water, just bring it back to a slow boil and then bring it back down to simmer and you are fine. You will not screw this up. Trust me. A corned beef brisket is all flavor. You cannot kill it.

Now here's a little secret. A lot of the time when someone cooks a corned beef brisket they want a combination of cabbage, carrots, and potatoes. Many people will simply add these ingredients to the pot about 45 minutes to an hour before cooking is done.

Frankly, this makes for some pretty salty vegetables.

What I do instead is to cook my vegetables separately. I still want the corned beef flavor. But I do not want the excessive saltiness that goes along with it. So here is what I do.

STEP ONE:1 hour before your brisket is done, prepare your vegetables, cut up your cabbage, carrots, and potatoes and set them aside. (This should take about 15 minutes)

STEP TWO: Siphon off 1 cup of liquid from your corned beef brisket pot and drop that into your vegetable pot. (If you have to add water to your corned beef brisket follow the note above). This gives you the corned beef flavor you want. Add 2 cups of beef broth. Drop your veggies into the pot and mix it all up.

STEP THREE: Cook your veggies for about 40-45 minutes bringing them to a boil first, then dropping them down to a simmer. Add a tad of Worcestershire just for some added flavor if you want, and  normally I do this...but normally there is enough flavor already. I just like a little bit of Worcestershire with my veggies.

When the corned beef brisket is done it is best to let it stand for at least five minutes before carving it. This only makes the cuts more "presentable." If you do not care about presentation, just dig in.

This has been the method I have used to cook my corned beef brisket for years, and the veggies to boot. It always turns out good. I hope this was helpful.

Enjoy your corned beef brisket.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Iran Sanctions Against U.S. No Big Deal

In retaliation against the United States for sanctions imposed by the Trump administration last month, Iran has imposed sanctions against at least 15 U.S. companies and have frozen any assets they may have in the country, according to the Iranian Defense Ministry.

While some may see this move by Iran as a "brazen and bold" move by the country, I happen to think it amounts to little if nothing at all. It's basically just a show. None of these companies do an extensive amount of business in Iran, and even if they did, Iran is so small that it would pale in comparison to any business dealings these companies may have elsewhere abroad.

It's a virtual drop in the pan.

It is a sign of growing tensions between the two countries. And some might add that what the sanctions imposed by Iran really have to do with is the threat by the Trump administration to rip up the Obama and U.N. struck deal with Iran to bar them from making nuclear defense ballistic missiles. A deal that, for all intents and purposes, was an awful deal for the United States without a doubt. And rightly so, the Trump administration has stated that Iran has already defaulted on the deal by conducting ballistic missile testing.

The fact is that we are not dealing with a country who can be dealt with on fair terms. I think even the Obama administration knew this, but they struck the deal anyway, and sent a hefty cash payment along with it to help to seal the deal.

Monies, by the way, according to most legal experts, the United States was never obligated to pay. But that's for another day.

Is it alarming that Iran/U.S. tensions are on the rise? Of course it is. Especially when you couple this with the fact that tensions are also on the rise with North Korea and even Russia. What should be more alarming is the eight-year long disarming of the U.S. military during the Obama administration, and the aging state of our military defense equipment which makes us less prepared to defend ourselves in multiple arenas.

Still, I feel that our military forces are quite a bit more prepared and able than anything the Iranians might throw at us, even if they happen to join forces with a larger, more equipped adversary. It would be tougher, but I also believe that the pace at which the Trump administration will re-equip our U.S. military and add troops will be much faster than anything we have seen in recent years, and by the time we get to the end of Trump's first four years in office our military might well be quite a lot stronger than it has been perhaps since the Reagan years.

We have the ability, more than any other country, to beef up our military force faster than anyone else can, and you can bet that is exactly what the Trump administration aims to do. I happen to think Iran is all too well aware of this as well.

I also think that while countries like Iran are not the brightest bulbs in the pack, I think they are wise enough to know that Trump, and this country, will go to great lengths to defend itself. I don't know what the Iranians know of history, but I am certain they recall the words of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who after the attack on Pearl Harbor said, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

The Iranians must also know that part of the reason that the American people elected Donald Trump to the presidency is due to a great fear by many Americans that the former administration was not doing enough to protect its citizens from harm especially abroad, and that the American people knew all too well that Hillary Clinton would have continued to do nothing.

Some fear that war will come with a Trump administration ultimately. I think the opposite is true. War would have come certainly from a Clinton administration. These other countries have to know that a Trump administration is not an Obama administration, and if Trump declares a "red line," you can bet he will follow through if is crossed.

The sanctions imposed by Iran against U.S. companies will do nothing to harm the United States, will do nothing to harm our economy or the companies sanctioned, and it will do nothing to make the United States change its current position regarding the Iran deal brought forth by the Obama administration, nor our resolve against radical Islamic terrorism, countries who harbor terrorists or support terrorism, or our ability to defend against any of these things.

The sanctions are essentially no big deal.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Driverless Cars Are Dangerous

Perhaps it is the "driver" in me that does not like the idea of self driving cars. I mean, this is not to say that driving is always desirable. Certainly when you find yourself in gridlock on the freeways this is more than frustrating, and even when you take longer road trips, about three hours into it I'm about done with the whole thing.

But driving still appeals to me. And I never enjoy being a passenger.

So in just that respect alone the idea of self driving cars really does not appeal to me. But there is another aspect to the whole idea that actually quite frightens me. And the latest crash of an Uber car in Arizona, which according to Uber's policy, also had "safety" drivers in the driver's seat and the car still crashed when another car failed to yield to it, is precisely a good part of the reason I just don't want cars to be driving themselves.

The self driving cars are not able to foresee trouble it appears. And while I am sure the "brains" can work faster than a human brain can, and while the cars won't be distracted by smoking, eating, hairstyling, shaving, or turning the dial on the radio...

And certainly the car won't be texting or talking on a cell phone either...

It still seems to me that nothing can and nothing should replace an attentive driver in the driver's seat calculating and making split second decisions. One could argue, of course, that it is not the self driving car that is the problem, but human driven cars getting in the way.

Still, the whole idea just seems problematic, and I can't help but think there will be many more crashes reported in the future the more common these cars become. And I suspect the death toll will begin to ramp us as well.

I am all for technology, and I get that the car makers and others surrounding the whole of our nation's roadways are wanting to opt for something to take the driver out of the equation thereby somehow reducing traffic accidents...

But I still think there is no replacement for a human driver in the cabin.

Besides, I am also an investor in the auto industry, and something tells me that if you take away the driving aspect from the car experience, the whole industry becomes boring and there is no reason to market power, performance, or even design. The whole industry goes kaput.

In any event, I just don't see this technology as being all that appealing to the average car buyer. So what's the point anyway? If you don't want to drive, why not take the bus?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Trump Tax and Jobs Initiatives Will Spur Massive Economic Growth

Few would argue that two major things many Americans need, and need badly are jobs and a break from taxes. There is no doubt that the last eight years of the Obama administration certainly did nothing to help on either of these two things. But if we are to be honest, at least on the jobs side, this has been something that reaches quite a lot farther back in years. Job stagnation and more and more taxation have been things that have stripped away at the American economy for years, and much of it has to do with America pulling away from the manufacturing sector.

Something the Trump administration aims to make better.

The thing has always been, for me, that what America lacks is productivity—stagnated in large part by more and more good paying, family supporting wage jobs being lost to cheaper foreign labor, bad trade deals, and higher and higher taxation and regulations imposed upon corporations. We shifted to more of a service economy, and more and more Americans have fallen into the rut of lower paying service jobs, particularly in the sectors of retail and fast food.

With lower wages across the board, not only are less taxes collected from the workers. But more and more of these workers make so little that they burden the middle class and the rich since more and more entitlements get doled out to a larger swath of the population.

This has long been a recipe for disaster, and in many ways this slow and ugly cancer led us to suffer through a Great Recession, and due to bad policy by the Obama administration, and almost non-existent path to recovery.

It can be a tough spot to be in at times depending on who you talk to. When you say to someone, "I am not a protectionist, I am for free trade, but I want to see more things made in America," you get more than a few furled brows. It seems to be a way of speaking out of both sides of the mouth. But what I have always felt is that what we actually need in order to have free trade is fair trade. In other words, it is of no benefit to America to have major imbalances in the goods we make and the goods we get from abroad. What's more, even those cheaper foreign goods are becoming less and less affordable since the wages for the average American worker have really not made any progress over the last few decades. In fact, in many cases, wages have actually fallen.

And of course there are the taxes which slow down every aspect of the economy. From extra taxes added to fuel, to the umpteen million special "fees" imposed upon us on our utility bills and cable bills, and added onto other things—these are essentially hidden taxes. Call it a fee if you want, but any money that you pay that goes to the government is a tax no matter what other moniker you may attach to it.

I think we will be getting a break from this very, very soon. A Trump tax plan should be introduced by August of this year.

Already we have seen major improvements in at least the jobs side of the coin. Many more companies have either decided to stay here, or are coming here to provide jobs. The most recent is a German candy maker, Haribo, who is famous for its gummy bear candies. Apple has said it will make more iPhones here. Ford has announced more jobs here. GM will keep more workers here. And both Ford and GM have plans to expand production here meaning more jobs. And the list goes on from Carrier to a long and growing list of both American and foreign companies either looking to expand operations within our borders, or bring new operations here.

If there is one thing that can put this economy into super high gear it is to increase median wages and lower the taxes. Americans are super consumers, and the more money they have in their pockets to consume goods and services, the more money will be flowing into the real economy, the more taxes that will be collected, and everybody wins. I think we all are well aware of the fact that when there is more money to spend, and more confidence in where the money is coming from to spend, we will inevitably spend more.

It won't happen overnight of course. There is still a lot of work to be done. But one thing I am uber confident in is the ability of the Trump administration to do the right things to work out and undue decades of economic policy that have all but siphoned off trillions, if not hundreds of trillions of dollars of wealth America could have enjoyed had we stuck to the idea that wealth in America stems largely from making things in America. We were a country built on productivity, innovation, invention, and then somewhere along the line it was decided that we could survive without all of that. The proof is in the pudding that we cannot. The proof is in the here and now that we thought wrong.

We've seen massive gains in the stock market since Trump took office. Now we will get to see the same thing happen to the entire economy. We're in for a ride the likes of which we have not seen since the Reagan years, and while the economy did do well under Clinton, we all know where that growth came from—the Internet boom. And unfortunately much of that money was simply smoke and mirrors, and when that bubble burst, we still didn't get it that we need those bricks and mortar manufacturing jobs to create a real and strong foundation for the American economy.

We're getting it now. Finally. And luckily our current president gets it too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Flynn Resignation A Sign of Strength in Trump White House

The media is going to, of course, slant the news of President Trump's national security advisor's resignation as a sign of upset and chaos just a month into Donald Trump's administration. It's what they do, just as much as they made former president Obama's administration look like it was just going swell and peachy with nary a hitch.

We all know the truth about that. Well, those of us who were actually alive and had a brain that we actually used.

National security advisor Michael Flynn resigned after it was reported that he misled Vice President Pence about his ties with Russia. He in fact had more than a few ties with Russia, and this of course presents a conflict of interest when it comes to how the Trump administration deals with issues like sanctions, the Russian Syrian relationship, oil and other matters.

Like I said, the media is going to slant this. But those of us who are paying attention are simply seeing exactly what we were told we would see during Trump's campaign. He was going to drain the swamp. No matter how the resignation is reported we all can confidently assume that Flynn did not just simply hand over a resignation letter to the president. He was asked to leave. Essentially he was fired.

This is a sign of strength in Trump White House. Draining the swamp is not limited to people outside of his administration. It is most certainly applied to everything he does, and everyone on his staff. President Trump has said time and time again that part of the problem in Washington are back room negotiations, and politics as usual. He doesn't feel that is effective and he is going to ouster anyone who tries to do it.

And thus, Flynn is out.