The United States government is a partner (collusion) in the near monopoly private enterprises that permeate our society. Don’t believe me? Read on.

Do you suspect there is price fixing in the price of gasoline in the United States? Here is a list of the major companies in the USA.

USA
76 Stations
BP (Arco)
Chevron
Conoco
Exxon
Mobil
Phillips 66
Shell
Texaco

In your neighborhood the prices are never more than a few cents apart.

How difficult would it be for Chevron, Mobil, Shell, and Arco (the stations in my area) to meet discretely on a golf course and agree on the pricing? The answer is it wouldn’t be too hard.

Few companies have a true monopoly in any market. More common are “virtual monopolies” or “near-monopolies” that exist due to geography or brand recognition. When consumers hear the term monopoly, the first thing that comes to mind is often price-fixing. unfortunately they are correct. Jello Brand gelatin desert has a near monopoly. Intel processor chips had a near monopoly in PC computers. Bill Gates and his immediate inner circle earned an over the top fee for his Office programs. To this day he is still either the richest man in the world or nearly so.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-next-7-american-monopolies-2010-11?op=1#ixzz2zgO5D4Lj

During the Senate hearing on Comcast’s takeover of Time Warner Cable, Sen. Al Franken said the cable giant has over 100 lobbyists making its case. That is one lobbyist for every senator. Consumers Union says over 264,000 people have sent messages to congress asking that the merger be stopped. Comcast current share of the cable industry is estimated at 30%. Time Warner Cable current share of the cable industry is estimated at 19%.

The Kroger Co. is a major retail food market company that simply keeps growing larger and larger. The company is based in Cincinnati, Ohio. This is the latest posting on their web site. “We are delighted to welcome Harris Teeter to the Kroger Family of Stores.” That company owns Thumb Stores; Heritage Farms Dairy; HarrisTeeter Supermarkets, Inc. That company has stores in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Maryland and Delaware. With the exception of Maryland and Delaware Kroger already has Kroger stores in those states. So whether you shop at Harris Teeter or Kroger you are shopping at the same company. Kroger ownership is widespread under a variety of names: Kroger, Dillons, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, QFC, Ralphs, Food 4 Less, Smith’s, and now Harris Teeter. This is not a complete list. Kroger Co. also approached Safeway about buying part of its operations. Kroger’s share of the entire retail food sales is unknown but the company has the largest share of the U.S. market.

Ticketmaster competitors are nowhere to be found. The company seems to have a lock on all sales of tickets for concerts, live theater, and sporting events. As an Example I logged into the Hollywood Bowl/Los Angeles Phil and found the web site’s basic address is Ticketmaster.com. Their fee is 8% to 10% of the price of the tickets. The only option to avoid the fee is a visit to the box office. There is no alternate sales agent. Ticketmaster had a more or less monopolistic position in the ticketing market after the purchase of its main competitors Ticketron and Live Nation.

LensCrafters is owned by Luxottica Group S.p.A. That company is the world’s largest eyewear company, controlling over 80% of the world’s major eyewear brands. Its best known brands are Ray-Ban, Persol and Oakley. This company was featured in a 60 Minutes program. The company owns

Eyeglasses that are either plastic or wire frames cost almost as much as a computer.

Everyone is a victim! Our elected government is a partner in this crime!

Posted by: davidbancroft | April 20, 2014

Who is a Jew and other hard questions

This opinion piece appeared in the Toronto Star.  The author, Rick Salutin, is Jewish and a regular commentator in that newspaper.  I agree with him that defining who is a Jew may be impossible.  Jewish tradition says if your mother was Jewish then you are Jewish.

David Bancroft

April 17, 2014

The Israeli government is trying to close the question of who is a Jew with a simple answer. It won’t work.

Questions are generally superior to answers because they open discussion up; potential responses radiate in many directions. Answers have their virtues: they let you get on with it, whatever it is. But they close discussion down and make life less interesting. So, at Passover seders — the ritual meal Jews held this week to mark Passover, the anniversary of liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt — things begin with the youngest child asking four questions: Why is this night different from all others? Etc. The rest of the night is a verbose, rambling response that never answers the questions but raises many fascinating issues.

Here’s another question in the same ballpark: Who is a Jew? Talk about radiating. Is it the member of a religion? Hardly, many Jews are atheists. A race or ethnicity? Those categories are vague and shifting, plus Jews can convert in, which you can’t to a quasi-physical demographic. A culture? There are too many versions and it’s unstable. A people? OK, but then: what kind? Those of us who’ve had the discussion often and unsuccessfully, know you’ll never get an answer but you’ll know more afterwards and you’ll feel smarter. Anyone who’d try to shut it down with a simple answer is either a fool or a troublemaker.

That’s the situation the current Israeli government is in. They say they won’t make peace with the Palestinian co-inhabitants of the country unless they’re acknowledged as n .le,v!sh statc. The Palestinians say, more or less: Not our problem. We’ll recognize you as a legitimate state but we’re not getting into that jackpot, you can hash out the definition yourselves. The result is stalemate, which has always looked like Israel’s goal. They keep finding ways to avoid the obvious solution: two states with international security guarantees. This is merely their latest way to evade it, while continuing to expand and colonize. But it’s a brilliant move, since everyone knows the question will never be settled.

I mean, how would you do it? Take it to court? Courts are terrible places to deal with complex moral matters. Think of Rob Ford (mayor of Toronto) saying the issues about his behaviour are over since he hasn’t (yet) been criminally charged. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister of Canada) may try the same ploy regarding the Duffy payoff (Canadian issue) . Large questions of right, wrong and responsibility are poorly handled in narrow contexts like courts. That’s why it’s generally in the interest of the powerful- Ford, Harper, Israel’s government – to keep discussion narrow and restrict it to yes-no answers. Nothing’s more obnoxious than someone hectoring someone else by saying: It’s a simple question: answer yes or no. You see it on TV panels all the time. Ugh.

In fact the very existence of a “normal” state for Jews, whoever they are, by itself tends to reduce the resonances of their Jewishness since it’s a sort of answer to that question. If “We are One,” as the signs outside the synagogues say, then “we” are less multi­faceted and indefinable.

Consider Passover. Images like slaves to Pharaoh or crossing the Jordan river to the promised land once echoed broadly and ricocheted through other cultures. African­Americans, for instance, used those images to help create a rich new culture from a tragic past. Those millennia of Jewish life in exile were fruitful, not just painful. But when the very same words – Egypt, Jordan – appear in headlines about modern Israel, it grows easier to treat them literally rather than metaphorically.

I don’t mean the narrowing of the Jewish mind toward identification with Israel hasn’t generated creativity. Israel has a vital culture, but it’s primarily Israeli, not Jewish. Jewish cultural creativity during the millennia in Diaspora wasn’t just aided by but dependent on precisely the absence of the defining markers of statehood: borders, a government, police or military to enforce laws and loyalty. Overarching identification with Israel can sap that kind of creativity and leave you a little vacant. You still feel Jewish but it’s elusive what that means outside Israel. The height of Jewish culture becomes something like Adam Sandler’s The Hanukkah Song. We’re Jewish because we’re, er, Jewish.

This raises other questions. Was there any alternative to Israel? Can there be exile without mortal risk? Etc. Great questions – and unanswerable.

Posted by: coastcontact | April 19, 2014

35 Signs You Were Raised By A Jewish Mother

On buzzfeed.com  for all the dialog and pictures

So, is he Jewish? What, just asking. Oy vey.

12. She says she loves you no matter what your sexual orientation, just raise the children Jewish.

 

35 Signs You Were Raised By A Jewish Mother

Posted by: coastcontact | April 17, 2014

For Ukrainian Jews Nothing has Changed

Remembering 1905 in Ukraine.  My grandparents left Ukraine in 1905 along with thousands of other Jews.  Their destination was America.  Some settled in the United States and some in Canada.  “Fiddler on the Roof” ends in 1905 with the citizens of Anatevka leaving for America. Pogroms were the primary motivator.

The term “pogrom” in the meaning of large-scale, targeted, and repeated anti-Jewish rioting, saw its first use in the 19th century, in reference to the anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire. Pogroms began occurring after the Russian Empire, which previously had very few Jews, acquired territories with large Jewish populations during 1791-1835. These territories were designated “the Pale of Settlement” by the Russian government, within which Jews were reluctantly permitted to live, and it was within them that the progroms largely took place. Most Jews were forbidden from moving to other parts of the Empire, unless they converted to Christian Orthodox.

It now appears that things have not changed in Ukraine.

Jews in East Ukraine Are Being Threatened, But By Whom?

The grand rabbi of Donetsk talks to The Daily Beast about fliers ordering Jews to register or be deported from the pro-Russian “republic” proclaimed there.

DONETSK, Ukraine—It was the second day of Pesach celebrations on Tuesday and over 100 Jewish believers at the Donetsk synagogue had just finished praying. Several stayed to visit a bit longer; some shared a community meal, others just chatted with friends. A few community members were smoking outside when a car pulled up, five men in masks got out, and handed them pieces of paper. Witnesses said that on reading the text of the leaflets a few elderly Jewish women burst into tears.The flyers were addressed to “Jews of Donetsk” from the “Independent Donetsk Republic” and ordered Jewish residents of the city to pay the new pro-Russian revolutionary authorities $50 apiece for individual registration, otherwise “the guilty ones would be deprived of their citizenship and deported outside the republic; their property would be confiscated.” Identical leaflets appeared under the windshield wipers of cars parked on Artur Avenue in the middle of town on Wednesday night. The threat left many of the 15,000 Jews of Donetsk “shocked and hysterical,” the chief rabbi of the city told The Daily Beast in an interview on Thursday. He pointed out where one of the leaflets had been left on a tree outside his synagogue on Oktiabskaya Street. In all of his 20-year service in Donetsk, Rabbi Pinhas Vyshedski said, he could never imagine that anything as “cynical” and “anti-human” could ever happen to his community. The text of the leaflet read like an accusation against Ukrainian Jews for their supposed support of the “Bandera Junta” in Kiev, which is what many Russian-speakers call the government that took over in February after ousting pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. The irony, of course, is that Bandera was for a time a Nazi collaborator. The leaflet claimed that each Jew was to come to room 514 of the occupied administration building on Lenin Square and to pay the fee. The leaflet was stamped by the Donetsk People’s Republic and signed: “Your People’s Governor Denis Pushilin.”Later Pushilin publically denied that he had ever signed such a letter, and indeed it could have been the work of provocateurs hoping to discredit the pro-Russian movement. But Pushilin’s statement was not enough to comfort the alarmed Jewish community, which has other reasons to suspect it could have been issued by at least some members of the pro-Russian faction.

According to Rabbi Vyshedski, the press secretary of the self-proclaimed republic, Aleksander Kriakov, is “the most famous anti-Semite in the region.” Schneerson wondered how separatists who are trying to position themselves as “anti-fascist” and claiming it’s Kiev that’s run by neo-Nazis could pick Kriakov as their spokesman.

The sense of insecurity is heightened by the uncertainty and a feeling of abandonment. “I want to know why in two days of these threats, the Jewish community has not heard a single comment from either Donetsk—or from the Kiev authorities,” said the rabbi. “Last time Donetsk saw similar messages was in 1941, when the Nazi German army occupied Donetsk. It is so painful for us to see that some cynical politicians dare to use us as an instrument in their political games.” The rabbi said he is still hoping authorities will find the guilty ones and punish them.

But the problem is, precisely, that there are no authorities who really control the situation in Donetsk Oblast just now.On Wednesday afternoon a group of 100 pro-Russian protesters arrived at Prokofiev International Airport in Donetsk. The visitors brought flags from the Russian Federation and Donetsk Republic flags and banners “to demonstrate who has power in this region.” In Sloviansk, where protesters had barricaded the entire town last week, pro-Russian militia or “green men” took over the television tower; from now on there will be no Ukrainian channels working, only Russian, the Medianyanya Internet news website reported.This afternoon I went to see who was collecting the “Jewish fee” in room 514 at the seized administration. The office was empty.

“Nobody is going to charge Jews for living in our republic,” said Dmitry Sinegorsky, the “security supervisor” on the 5 floor who showed me the room. Sinegorsky said he would personally “put needles under Pushilin’s nails” to find out whose idea that was to discredit the pro- Russian movement, but he believed it also could have been a “pure provocation.”

“See, until today, there were all sorts of thugs and confused men in this building,” Sinegorsky told me. “But as from today we begin a self-cleansing process.”

“Jews should not be worried,” he said. “We are an anti-fascist, anti-xenophobic movement.”

But Jews are very worried indeed.

Posted by: coastcontact | April 16, 2014

Genocide in Non-White Countries is OK

   The oft-chanted “Never Again” is in fact “Again and Again”

The diplomat who was president of the U.N. Security Council in April 1994 (Former New Zealand ambassador Colin Keating) apologized Wednesday for the council’s refusal to recognize that genocide was taking place in Rwanda and for doing nothing to halt the slaughter of more than one million people. The source for this report is the Associated Press.

Let’s review the history of world concern over genocide starting with Adolph Hitler and his plan to kill every Jew in the world. He successfully killed 6 million Jews and millions of others who did not accede to his views.

PBS posted this commentary on-line. “ Genocide has occurred so often and so uncontested in the last fifty years that an epithet more apt in describing recent events than the oft-chanted “Never Again” is in fact “Again and Again.” The gap between the promise and the practice of the last fifty years is dispiriting indeed. How can this be?”

“In 1948 the member states of the United Nations General Assembly — repulsed and emboldened by the sinister scale and intent of the crimes they had just witnessed — unanimously passed the Genocide Convention. Signatories agreed to suppress and punish perpetrators who slaughtered victims simply because they belonged to an “undesirable” national, ethnic, or religious group.”

What has really happened? With the exception of the United States bombing to stop the killing of Bosnian Muslims, no efforts have been made to stop genocide killing since that 1948 agreement.

Here is a list of the largest mass killing events since WWII. Notice that all of these events occurred in Asia and Africa. Killing in Europe is stopped. Is race an issue?  How dare I suggest that it is!

Nigerian Civil War                  1 million to 3 million deaths

Cambodian Genocide           1 million to 3 million deaths

Rwandan Genocide                500,000 to 1 million deaths

A message has been sent by the most powerful countries in the world!

Posted by: davidbancroft | April 13, 2014

Matzos You Can Eat

Posted by: coastcontact | April 8, 2014

If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It!

Bill Gates Introduces Windows XP Oct 25, 2001

Bill Gates introduces Windows XP October 25, 2001

Windows XP was the most widely used operating system until August 2012. On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP according to its life-cycle policy, focusing on Windows 7 instead. While users can still run XP after Tuesday. Microsoft says it will no longer provide security updates, issue fixes to non-security related problems or offer online technical content updates.

This operating system was originally released in 2001 but remains very popular. Many people have refused to update because the system functioned so well.

More recently Vista and the newest touch screen system (8.0/8.1) are glaring evidence of how so-called improvements have proven disastrous. I personally have delayed upgrading from Vista with a new CPU because the “tile version” of windows requires a complete relearning of the operating system. My experience my wife’s year old lap top has been a challenge.

XP appealed to a wide variety of people and businesses that saw it as a reliable workhorse and many chose to stick with it instead of upgrading to Windows Vista, Windows 7 or 8.

Windows 9 is rumored to be released in April of 2015. Googling “windows 9.0” results in little in recent information. Desktop users might well be disappointed. Either way April 2015 seems a long way off.

Posted by: coastcontact | April 6, 2014

Republican Party Stands Opposed to Social Welfare

Social Welfare is the various social services provided by a state for the benefit of its citizens.

In the United States the range of services includes Social Security (a program that guarantees a stipend to all senior citizens), Medicare (a program that provides health care to all senior citizens), minimal support for those unable to earn a living (usually referred to as welfare), and unemployment benefits (for those who lost their jobs through no fault of their own). Those are the primary programs that American residents are entitled to when there is a need.

In every instance those programs have been opposed by the G.O.P. In every instance those programs were instituted when a Democrat held the office of President of the United States.

The current chairman of the House Budget Committee, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan has sustained the Republican view on social welfare programs with the following words copied from his web site.

The current Medicare program attempts to do two things to make sure that all seniors have secure, affordable health insurance that works. First, recognizing that seniors need extra protection when it comes to health coverage, it pools risk among all seniors to ensure that they enjoy secure access to care.

Second, Medicare subsidizes coverage for seniors to ensure that coverage is affordable. Affordability is a critical goal, but the subsidy structure of Medicare is fundamentally broken and drives costs in the wrong direction. The open-ended, blank-check nature of the Medicare subsidy drives health-care inflation at an astonishing pace, threatens the solvency of this critical program, and creates inexcusable levels of waste in the system.

Ryan’s solution:
Beginning in 2024, for those workers born in 1959 or later, Medicare would offer them a choice of private plans competing alongside the traditional fee-for-service option on a new Medicare Exchange. Medicare would provide a premium-support payment either to pay for or to offset the premium of the plan chosen by the senior.

The Medicare Exchange would provide seniors a competitive marketplace in which they could choose a plan the same way members of Congress and federal employees do. Every plan, including the traditional fee-for-service option, would participate in an annual bidding process to determine the federal contribution seniors would receive to purchase coverage. Health-care plans would compete for the right to serve Medicare beneficiaries.

What Ryan calls “the president’s partisan health-care law” is an appointed government board like the FCC, the FDA, the FAA, and dozens of other appointed boards. He favors the unelected bureaucrats in privately owned insurance companies that answer to private enterprise. His view is those government bureaucrats aren’t as reliable to private company bureaucrats.

Ryan goes on to say The President’s partisan health-care law creates an unaccountable board of 15 unelected bureaucrats—the Independent Payment Advisory Board—empowered to cut Medicare in ways that will result in denied care and restricted access for seniors. The bureaucrat imposed cuts threaten critical care for current seniors and fail to strengthen Medicare for future generations.

So is it the blank-check nature of Medicare or 15 unelected bureaucrats that will be threatening current seniors? Ryan has covered both possibilities in his contradictory analysis.

The point is that Republicans are trying their very best to end Medicare, Social Security, and all other social welfare programs. They offer no substitutes. Their obsession with free market principles is the view of the rich who say they have no responsibility for the less well off.

There are many other reasons to oppose Republicans but that will be addressed on another day.

Posted by: coastcontact | March 31, 2014

Why My son Isn’t Voting Anymore

He’s a smart man who moved to the San Francisco Bay area to complete his college education. After graduation he worked at a few Silicon Valley computer companies then decided there is more to life than making big bucks.

Along the way he was inculcated by the liberal/progressive viewpoints that are so prevalent in that region. He was ecstatic over Barack Obama’s win of the White House. The speech at Grant Park in Chicago enthralled him. He believed that the new president would change the world for the better. That the new president would turn around the country and provide the new start that so many had anticipated.

He came to visit for my birthday and wedding anniversary. Now that the party is over he tells me that he is beyond disappointment with our government. There is no point in voting in any election any more. The president, he says, had the opportunity to do the sorts of things that FDR did to employ the unemployed, build the kinds of infrastructure that so many previous presidents had inspired, and start the kinds of new education that would carry the United States as a leader throughout the 21st century.

We talked about the president’s failure to quickly end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We talked about the president’s failure to assertively stand up to Vladimir Putin.

He spoke about Ralph Nader as the man who spoke the truth but was denied participation in debates with Al Gore and George W. Bush.

How can I console my son? I pointed out that someone will be elected president. He will have to make a choice. That the system has been designed to deny third party candidates an honest opportunity and you just have to accept this reality. I pointed out that the public may be sufficiently disillusioned with the Democrats and that a Republican will most likely win the White House. He said it won’t make any difference.

Posted by: coastcontact | March 30, 2014

Another Los Angeles Earthquake

The Southern California Earthquake Data Center (SCEDC) operates at the Seismological Laboratory at Caltech and is the primary archive of seismological data for southern California. They list 233 significant faults in this area. The Puente Hills fault is not listed. How many more faults are not identified? Obviously no one knows.

The Los Angeles metropolitan area is built on an active earthquake zone. I live in the west end of the San Fernando Valley. A distance of about 55 miles (Yes, Los Angeles Metro area is even bigger than that!) The 5.1 quake in La Habra resulted in a two to three second jerk motion at my home. If you were in motion you most likely did not even notice the movement. ABC television network news gave the impression that the entire city was impacted. That is an incorrect report.

Are earthquakes frightening? YES. Are earthquakes memorable? Rarely.

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