Category Archives: Business

Why Gun Sales Have Declined Under Trump, by Sam Bocetta

Gun sales have declined and gun retailers are overstocked. According to Sam Bocetta there are deals to be had. If you don’t have an AR-15, or if you just want to supplement your arsenal, it’s a good time to pick up one, two, or a few. From Bocetta at fmshooter.com:

Many of us welcomed Trump to the Presidency with a sense of pride. However, there is one group for whom the new (ish) president has brought some bad news – gun store owners, and gun manufacturers.

This is because gun sales have seen a significant drop since the election of Trump. But don’t worry – this does not indicate waning enthusiasm for people to own guns. Quite the opposite. It appears that demand has dropped because people feel that their rights to own guns will be protected under the new administration.

The extent to which this is true remains to be seen. While Trump seemed to be pro-gun during the election campaign, and though his campaign eventually won the backing of the NRA, it is not clear that there is a concrete policy position on gun rights. Like a lot of issues raised by the new administration, Trump’s stance on gun rights is frustratingly vague and lacking in details.

Of course, doing nothing to further erode our Second Amendment rightswould be a welcome change from the Obama regime. The constant attempt to ban and / or limit ownership of assault-style weapons, though ultimately defeated, was a source of worry for people don’t want their rights to be further limited, or who rely on these guns for their livelihood.

gun_control_explained

To continue reading: Why Gun Sales Have Declined Under Trump

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State of Retail: JCPenny Plunges, Now a “Penny” Stock; Amazon to Blame? by Mike Mish Shedlock

The retail sector is undergoing a huge and painful transformation, not all of which is driven by Amazon. From Mike Mish Shedlock at mishtalk.com:

JCPenney announced a $62 million dollar loss for the quarter. With the announcement, its share price plunged 16% breaking the $4 barrier for the first time. Stocks under $5 are considered “penny” stocks.

Please consider JCPenney Nosedives to All-Time Low on Big Loss.

Yup. JCPenney is now a penny stock — a Wall Street term for a company trading under $5. JCPenney (JCP) said it lost $62 million in its second quarter. That’s more than a year ago. The retailer also said that same store sales — a measure of how well stores open at least a year are doing — fell more than 1% during the quarter.

JCPenney is the latest department store chain to announce dismal results. Macy’s (M), Kohl’s (KSS) and Dillard’s (DDS) all reported a decline in same store sales on Thursday as they struggle to compete against Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) and Walmart (WMT).

The massive shift in the retail landscape has led many chains to shut down underperforming stores.
JCPenney is one of them, announcing earlier this year it would be closing 138 stores. JCPenney wound up delaying the closings by a month though after consumers rushed to many of the stores to take advantage of the massive liquidation sales.

Ellison also said during the analyst call that JCPenney expects many retailers to ramp up promotions and discounts to try and lure shoppers into their stores. The CEO warned these sales may be even more aggressive than “what we’ve traditionally seen.”

Don’t Blame Amazon

Amazon is not to blame, but Amazon sure does not help either.

Retail is massively overbuilt. That’s the big problem. And it’s not just the box retailers. The fast food restaurants are all cannibalizing each other’s sales too.

To continue reading: State of Retail: JCPenny Plunges, Now a “Penny” Stock; Amazon to Blame?

The Goolag Echopeligo, by Robert Gore

If you find the title confusing, DDG the works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. (DuckDuckGo.com is a search engine whose acronym is hereby designated as one of the replacements for the verb google.)

Warning: SLL is about to put forth two propositions that are so obvious they’re undoubtedly controversial. Readers offended by the obvious but controversial are advised to stop reading.

Proposition one: If Group A and Group B are competing for the same jobs and standards are lowered for Group B but not Group A, on average the members of Group B will not be as good at the jobs as members of Group A.

Proposition two: Men and women are different.

This, when you wade through James Damore’s excruciatingly diplomatic Google memorandum is the crux of what he said. SLL can say it but Damore couldn’t; Google fired him for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.”

Google’s highly compensated management and engineering jobs are held disproportionately by white males. Here’s a fact: the universal set of people inside and outside of Google who have the ability to write complex computer code, or have the ability to manage such people, is disproportionately white males. That may be changing, but as of August 13, 2017, that’s still a fact.

While perpetuating gender stereotypes supposedly got Damore the boot, the money portion of his memo nails the contradiction at the heart of diversity and affirmative action programs: lower standards for Group B in the interest of promoting “equality” is inherently unequal. Group A has been disadvantaged and Group B has received preferential treatment.

From James Damore’s Google memorandum:

The harm of Google’s biases

I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more. However, to achieve a more equal gender and race representation, Google has created several discriminatory practices:

• Programs, mentoring, and classes for people with a certain gender or race
• A high priority queue and special treatment for “diversity” candidates
• Hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates by decreasing the false negative rate
• Reconsidering any set of people if it’s not “diverse” enough, but not showing the same scrutiny in the reverse direct (clear confirmation bias)
• Setting org level OKRs [Objectives and Key Results] for increased representation which can incentivize illegal discrimination

You can have equal treatment or preferential treatment, but you can’t have both. De jure unequal leads to de facto unequal, not de facto equal. It leads to two other consequences: the favored group will on average not do the job as well, and the unfavored group will know it.

A cherished goal of the diversity drones is to get the unfavored group to applaud not just the drones’ enlightened moral status, but to pretend that the favored group does just as good a job as the unfavored one, and that diversity of secondary traits (but not, evidently, diversity of thought) itself confers a benefit. It’s a subset of an “optics” problem that besets the entire redistributive racket: how do you get unfavored producers not just to go along with the scam and keep producing unearned benefits for the racketeers and redistributees, but to pretend they like it?

How a Google coder’s gender or gender identification, race, ethnicity, creed, or any other secondary characteristic will affect his or her ability to spot and fix the flaws in an algorithm is left unstated. But that’s not the diversity drones’ problem. Google makes so much money it can afford some less-than-stellar employees in service to enlightened ideals and the greater good. If members of the unfavored group can’t bring themselves to applaud, they should at least shut up. Or else!

Denounce the theory of evolution and you’ll be roundly condemned as anti-science. Turn around and accept the theory, point out that evolution’s prime directive is the propagation of a given species, that for humans each sex has an evolutionary role, that women’s evolutionary role is to bear and rear children, that men’s role is to protect and provide for the family, especially when the woman is pregnant and then nursing and is unable to do so, and that men and women are equipped with different hormones, sex drives, and yes, brain wiring to facilitate their differing evolutionary roles, and you will earn for yourself  a fusillade of criticism from the same people who were condemning your earlier stance against evolutionary theory.

The existence of differences, and what they might be, are questions for scientific inquiry. Repression is when you get shot for telling the truth. Totalitarianism is when you get shot for asking questions. We’re reaching the point where questions cannot be asked, and all sorts of energy is expended maintaining the fantasy that men and women are not different, that gender itself is merely a matter of choice and can even vary day-to-day.

We’re running into evolutionary dead ends. In the springtime of their lives, when both men and women’s fancy used to lightly turn to thoughts of love—and then marriage and procreation—appreciable percentages of both sexes hate each other. Many feminist groups despise men; men’s groups like MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way, aka Men Grabbing Their Own Weenies) despise women. One suspects that much of the antipathy stems from the eternal rejections and betrayals they’ve encountered with the opposite sex. In the good old days, the rejected and betrayed turned to lyric laments—“Your Cheating Heart,” “You’re No Good”—but didn’t lose romantic hope. Now they change their sexual orientation…or their sex…or embrace celibacy…or all of the above. And the birth rate continues to decline.

There is always one group of victims overlooked when standards are lowered for Group B: the members of Group B who meet the Group A standards. To say that computer coding skills might be more prevalent among men than women and minorities is not to say that no women or minorities have such skills, a point Damore bent over backwards trying to make (he even used illustrative graphs). He urged stepping up “nondiscriminatory” efforts to find them.

The women and minorities who make the “A” grade should be more upset at the lowering of standards than their white male coworkers. They will be unfairly stigmatized, and their advancement within Google will come with an asterisk—winks and nods that they climbed the diversity, not the talent and achievement, ladder.

That is an injustice against these individuals. However, in Google’s brave new world there are only groups, not individuals. Individual James Damore questioned the new order. Google exercised its right to fire him and intimidate everyone else. However, the decision to seek employment with a company is an individual one, as is the decision whether to stay or leave.

The kind of people who draw top dollars and stock options at Google have rare talents and are always in demand. Some of them may depart for companies eschewing today’s fashionable but counterproductive doctrines, where they and their coworkers will be judged on their own merits, not secondary characteristics. In its echo chamber—the Goolag Echopeligo—Google can maintain the fiction that Group A can be replaced by Group B, but competitive edges are remarkably ephemeral. The technology landscape is littered with the corpses of yesteryear’s hot new thing.

The decision to use a particular technology is also an individual one. Individuals critical of Google can refuse to use its products and services. There are plenty of other competitive technologies. DuckDuckGo claims it doesn’t track you. DDG your next search!

BEFORE  THE LUNACY

ROBERT GORE’S CLASSIC NOVEL OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

AMAZON

KINDLE

NOOK

James Damore: “This Is Why I Was Fired By Google”

James Damore penned a thoughtful opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal explaining his take on his firing from Google. From Damore via zerohedge.com:

Fired Google engineer Jame Damore has penned an op-ed for The Wall Street Journalexplaining how his good-faith effort to discuss differences between men and women in tech couldn’t be tolerated in the company’s “ideological echo chamber,” adding that self-segregation with similar-minded people has grown in recent decades as we spend more time in digital worlds “personalized to fit our views.”

I was fired by Google this past Monday for a document that I wrote and circulated internally raising questions about cultural taboos and how they cloud our thinking about gender diversity at the company and in the wider tech sector. I suggested that at least some of the male-female disparity in tech could be attributed to biological differences (and, yes, I said that bias against women was a factor too). Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai declared that portions of my statement violated the company’s code of conduct and “cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

My 10-page document set out what I considered a reasoned, well-researched, good-faith argument, but as I wrote, the viewpoint I was putting forward is generally suppressed at Google because of the company’s “ideological echo chamber.” My firing neatly confirms that point.

How did Google, the company that hires the smartest people in the world, become so ideologically driven and intolerant of scientific debate and reasoned argument?

We all have moral preferences and beliefs about how the world is and should be. Having these views challenged can be painful, so we tend to avoid people with differing values and to associate with those who share our values. This self-segregation has become much more potent in recent decades. We are more mobile and can sort ourselves into different communities; we wait longer to find and choose just the right mate; and we spend much of our time in a digital world personalized to fit our views.

Google is a particularly intense echo chamber because it is in the middle of Silicon Valley and is so life-encompassing as a place to work. With free food, internal meme boards and weekly companywide meetings, Google becomes a huge part of its employees’ lives. Some even live on campus. For many, including myself, working at Google is a major part of their identity,almost like a cult with its own leaders and saints, all believed to righteously uphold the sacred motto of “Don’t be evil.”

To continue reading: James Damore: “This Is Why I Was Fired By Google”

Google Tech Fired for Using Google, by Gavin McInnes

Gavin McInnes hits a nail on the head: most of the hysterical comment’s made about James Damore’s Google memorandum betray the fact that the commenters haven’t read it. From McInnes at lewrockwell.com:

Google is a brilliant search engine where they accrue seemingly infinite amounts of data and organize it into patterns. When you type in “cars” it takes you to the most popular car-buying site as well as all the dealerships within a 30-mile radius. The people who work there are mostly male, mostly white, and I’d assume mostly autistic. These abnormally gifted nerds have been assigned the task of taking this incredible invention that grosses $60 billion a year and improving it.

James Damore did exactly that on Monday when he sent out an interoffice memo detailing the dangers of “echo-chamber” thinking and this strange obsession with making tech 50% female. “Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety,” he began, before adding, “but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.” The CEO of Google cut his vacation short and fired Damore within hours. James is presently exploring legal action.

The story from Google’s side is that the memo perpetuated “harmful gender stereotypes.” The media has run with this narrative, calling Damore’s essay an “anti-woman screed” that “confirms your worst fears.” While sorting through all the pearl-clutching hysteria it becomes pretty clear that nobody convulsing has actually read it. Like most things that cause major controversy these days, it’s remarkably benign. Damore says diversity is good. He says sexism is a problem. He makes it very clear he wants as many women in the workforce as possible. He also says demanding 50% may be dangerous. It could involve discriminating against qualified men, which is illegal. Even reading between the lines leaves you with no “anti” for anything but prejudice and inequality.

To continue reading: Google Tech Fired for Using Google

Thank You, Google, by Bionic Mosquito

Google’s firing of James Damore will reverberate for a long time. From the Bionic Mosquito at lewrockwell.com:

Google engineer James Damore wrote a ten-page memo (PDF), titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.”  Google fired him.

You know all about the contents already.  To make a long story short, he suggests…

…that biological differences could help explain the gender gap in tech employment in Silicon Valley, and criticized Google’s policy of silencing discussion on the issue.

And wouldn’t you know it, Google attempted to silence discussion on the issue.

The ten-page memo is well written and well documented; based on my quick (and likely not perfect) count, he has thirty-four hyperlinks and eleven footnotes.

The reaction from the left is exactly what you would expect.  A typical example is offered by The Guardian.  They found an expert on the topic:

One former Harvard student, who was in the systems biology program at the same time as Damore, told the Guardian that it was not surprising to find out he was the author of the controversial manifesto, which was widely criticized for relying on shoddy science.

“His comments do not reflect the ability to read literature critically that a typical Harvard student develops over the course of actually completing a PhD,” the former classmate said.

A systems biology student.  What is systems biology?

Systems biology is based on the understanding that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It has been responsible for some of the most important developments in the science of human health and environmental sustainability.

This doesn’t sound like someone qualified to pass judgement on the science in Mr. Damore’s memo.  Let’s find someone who is.  How about Jordan Peterson?  Who is Jordan Peterson?

To continue reading: Thank You, Google

Amazon Online Grocery Boom? Not So Fast… by Wolf Richter

A lot of money gets spent on groceries, but the percentage that falls to grocers bottom lines is surprisingly small. Now, with Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods and its intention to expand online grocery shopping, that percentage will probably get even smaller. A shakeout is coming. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

All big gorillas have been trying, but consumers just don’t want to.

Maybe Amazon has figured out that you’re not the only one who isn’t buying groceries online. Maybe it has figured out, despite all the money it has thrown at it, that selling groceries online is a very tough nut to crack. And no one has cracked it yet.

Numerous companies have been trying. Safeway started an online store and delivery service during the dotcom bubble and has made practically no headway. A plethora of startups, brick-and-mortar retailers, and online retailers have tried it, including the biggest gorillas of all — Walmart, Amazon, and Google. Google is trying it in conjunction with Costco and others. It just isn’t catching on.

And this has baffled many smart minds. Online sales in other products are skyrocketing and wiping out the businesses of brick-and-mortar retailers along the way. But groceries?

That’s one of the reasons Amazon is eager to shell out $14.7 billion to buy Whole Foods, its biggest acquisition ever, dwarfing its prior biggest acquisition, Zappos, an online shoe seller, for $850 million. Amazon cannot figure out either how to sell groceries online though it has tried for years. Now it’s looking for a new model — namely the old model in revised form?

This is why everyone who’s online wants to get a piece of the grocery pie: The pie is big. Monthly sales at grocery stores in June seasonally adjusted were $53 billion. For the year 2016, sales amounted to $625 billion:

But it’s going to be very tough for online retailers to muscle into this brick-and-mortar space, according to Gallup, based on its annual Consumption Habits survey, conducted in July. Consumers just aren’t doing it:

  • Only 9% of US households say they order groceries online at least once a month, either for pickup or delivery.
  • Only 4% do so at least once a week.
  • By contrast, someone in nearly all households (98%) goes to brick-and-mortar grocery stores at least once a month, and 83% go at least once a week.

To continue reading: Amazon Online Grocery Boom? Not So Fast…