America Takes on Apple

Back in January, during the height of the Apple sweatshop controversy, I wrote:

Apple could be vulnerable. How hard could it be to make an Android tablet in the USA, and market it under a “No Sweat” brand? Could “sweatshop consciousness” be the next “environmental consciousness”? Could the “No Sweat” pad be the next Prius?

Well, it turns out that my thralls leaped into action. If you turn over the new Google Nexus Q:

Google’s Nexus Q

…you will see stamped on the bottom:

“Designed and Manufactured in the USA”

But I am skeptical nevertheless. By “manufactured” they probably mean “assembled” from Chinese parts. We will see.

And that’s exactly what Element is doing with its forthcoming line of “Assembled in Detroit” TVs, which you will soon see at Target. One hundred new factory workers will be assembling Chinese parts into “American” TVs.

The boxes will sport American flags and a picture of the factory workers. However, the box itself will be from China, and the workers pictured will be actors since Element didn’t have any handy at the time of the photo session.

To find pictures of workers making TVs, you have to go to Mexico where your TV was probably made from Chinese parts. Why Mexico? Because there is a 5% tariff on TVs imported into the USA for Asian manufacturers. But through the job-destroying magic of NAFTA, they can come in duty-free if they are assembled in Mexican sweatshops.

Element thinks they can beat the Mexican products by saving on shipping costs and appealing to the patriotism of American consumers. I hope they succeed. There is nothing I would like to see more than the American flag logo becoming fashionable, with people wanting it stamped onto all the stuff they buy.

But this is still a sad situation. Element’s CEO said:

“With the help of partners Tongfang Global and Lotus, we were able to make our American dream come true.”

Tongfang Global makes the TVs that Element markets in the USA. Tongfang is owned by the communist regime in Beijing.

That’s some “American Dream”, right?

But like “Jobs Czar” Jeff Immelt says: “You’ve got to start somewhere.”

Of course, we should have “started” by not offshoring the 100,000 television-making jobs in the first place.

Further reading: “Element Electronics: America Matters
Further reading: “Detroit’s Wages Take on China’s” (WSJ.com – not free)

Why You Can’t Make Any Money with AdWords

Click Fraud. That’s why. Look what this kid wrote on Reddit in IAmA 17-year-old Internet marketer that makes $20,000 a month:

“…when I was 14. …I was introduced to PPC (pay-per-click), which is websites that basically pay you for clicking on advertisements and watching them for certain amount of time.”

His idea of what “PPC” is all about is the exact opposite of yours, the advertiser, right?

A click-fraud operation sets up a website with AdSense, and content that attracts your ads. Then they pay people to click on the ads. But they know that some of you are studying your server logs looking for just that sort of thing: a bunch of quick clicks from a shady looking site. So, like the kid says, the click-monkeys loiter on your site. They fill out your forms, sign up for your mailing list, download your software, install it, run it, etc.

Their job is to create a plausible-looking stream of traffic in your logs.

If I were this kid’s dad, I would take a very close look at what he is doing now. He might be too small for the FBI, but the FBI does indeed to prosecute click-fraud cases.

Spotting click-fraud sites is still possible though – even when they use well-trained click-monkeys. For example if a site with a poor Alexa rating sends you as much traffic as a quality site with a strong Alexa rating, it’s probably a click-fraud site.

I find sites like this all the time using “click-fraud finder” software of my own invention. And I block them from my AdWords campaigns.

Problem solved, right?

Wrong!

Every time I block a bogus site, another one pops up.

You see, these click-fraud gangs know that I will block their sites, so they have plenty of spares ready to go.

So, I don’t let them hurt me too much. I bid low in Google’s “display network”. I study new sites very quickly. I try to get a feel for whether or not they are operated by honest people. And I track my conversions diligently. If I make a sale after spending less than $20 advertising on a site, it’s probably legit, etc.

Maybe you’re thinking that you can just take traffic from name-brand sites? Not so fast. I have a couple of stories about that, but I don’t need to be sued by any big companies and their legal teams. Suffice it to say: trust no one. Every site is suspect until your conversion tracking proves otherwise.

A few months ago, Google said that they were tightening the requirements for new sites that wanted to run AdSense. From my perspective, it hasn’t made any difference. If you have evidence to the contrary, please post a comment.

Of Course Romney Exported Jobs

Last week, the Washington Post published: “Romney’s Bain Capital Invested in Companies that Moved Jobs Overseas“.

I’m shocked, shocked, that our leaders are exporting jobs.

Who knew, right?

Recently, Bill Clinton defended Romney against Obama’s “anti-business” attacks. And it was Clinton, along with Newt Gingrich, who signed NAFTA into law and got the job-exporting going on a large scale.

Jeff Immelt has moved GE lightbulb factories to China while acting as President Obama’s “Jobs Czar”.

As we speak, Warren Buffet has teamed-up with IBM to export middle-class jobs to India.

So, of course Romney exported jobs; that’s what our leaders do. Exporting jobs has been the business of America for many years now. President Obama has done nothing to stop it; and neither would a president Romney.

See also

Adam Curry will be Safe in Syria

In the June 17, 2012 episode of his No Agenda podcast, Adam Curry said that he had been invited to appear on a radio talk show in Damascus. Curry wondered if it would be safe to go. Would he be kidnapped by terrorists?

But there is no need to worry. Syria is a Russian ally, Curry is a libertarian, and The Kremlin ♥ Libertarians. So, Curry will likely be well-protected. Having an American citizen criticizing the USA from Damascus is the kind of thing Vladamir Putin will eat up with a spoon. He may even assign some crack KGB agents to Curry’s security detail.

Adam Curry will be just fine in Damascus. Sort of like Jana Fonda was in Hanoi in 1972. Maybe he will even pose for a picture with an anti-aircraft gun…

The End of Politics

Richard Nixon won a landslide victory in the 1972 presidential election by offering fat Social Security benefits to retired- and soon-to-be-retired voters. George W. Bush won re-election in 2004 by delivering $50 billion per year of prescription drugs to voters (Medicare Part D).

Last week, President Obama groused that the “private sector is doing fine”, but state and local governments couldn’t hire workers. What he was really concerned about is that there are no government jobs to pass out in exchange for votes in this election. All that he has are some lousy food stamps to sprinkle around.

So what happens in this dawning “Age of Sovereign Insolvency” when politicians can no longer afford to purchase votes by expanding the welfare state?

Maybe we can get a hint from this week’s elections in Greece. Joe Weisenthal has reported the existence of numerous, cookie-cutter “Communist” parties. Not even the party members could explain the differences between these parties.

A clue to solving this mystery is that politicians in bankrupt European nations are surprisingly promising to hire even more government workers. For example, France’s new president, Francois Hollande promised to hire 60,000. Greece is much smaller than France, and in worse shape, so maybe it is only realistic for its candidates to promise hiring a much smaller number. Let’s say, 1,000.

And lets assume that these are really payoff promises to party members and supporters.

So, if you are out of work, and go to a political meeting in Greece, and there are already 1,000 party members, you might think: “Hmmm, I’m way down on the totem pole here. Maybe this guy won’t be able to give me a job if he gets elected. Maybe I should go down the street and see what the situation is with the next party.”

So, you go to the next party. And maybe the next. And the next, until you find one where your prospects for getting some spoils look realistic.

And if you can’t find such a party, maybe you start one of your own. Before you know it, there dozens of identical “parties” all of the same size.

Of course, the USA has a different political system than Greece does, so things will certainly play out differently here. But make no mistake, it is the same dynamic.

But is this really politics? Or is it, in fact, just corruption?

Instead of the “End of Politics” maybe this will be the beginning of politics. After all, if votes can no longer be purchased, office-seekers will have to step up their game, no? They will have to actually propose programs to help the entire nation rather than just distribute spoils to their constituents.

Ha, ha! Just kidding! The politicians are far more likely to just default on the debt, and go right back to borrowing & purchasing votes again. But maybe you are wondering why anybody would buy the newly-issued bonds of a deadbeat government? And the answer is that such a government would have no debt! They won’t have to default again for a long, long time.

Maybe they couldn’t pull that off, but it wouldn’t be for a lack of trying. We already saw trial balloons floated for a default back during the debt-ceiling crisis in 2011.

Putin Targets Israel

Why are the Russians in Syria? The Russians have always desired warm-water ports for their navy. Syria is a big arms customer. And the Russians like to stir the pot in the Middle East to give the USA busywork and divert it from fomenting “color” revolutions in places like the Ukraine.

But now there is another reason.

Israel.

After being a dry hole, in a regain awash with oil & gas, for all of its history, Israel is poised to turn the tables with its recently-discovered, massive Leviathan gas field, which might also contain quite a lot of oil.

How does that impact Russia? Well, the Russians have a lot of influence over Western Europe because the Europeans are dependent upon Russian natural gas for energy. And what if the Israelis decide to build a pipeline to Greece or Italy and export some of their gas?

Answer: Vladimir Putin loses clout.

And Putin’s clout has been considerable. He has successfully wielded power in Europe to undermine support for American wars and the expansion of NATO – not to mention being able to get away with his invasion of Georgia.

Now there are prospects for that power being transferred from Russia to Israel.

So, Putin has incentive to throw a monkey wrench into the works. And how hard could that be? After all, a lot of capital will be required to build out Leviathan’s infrastructure, and with chaos in nearby Syria, such investments might not be too difficult to delay.

On top of all that, part of Leviathan might be in Lebanese waters, and Syrian troops were in Lebanon as recently as 2006. In fact, Syria considers Lebanon to be a lost province; part of “Greater Syria”. What if Assad survives with Russian help? And then re-invades Lebanon (perhaps to pursue fleeing rebels), and claims a chunk of Leviathan for himself?

Oddly enough, the USA also has incentive to thwart Leviathan exports to Europe. We don’t actually need Middle Eastern oil & gas, especially now with the fracking revolution. But military control of the Persian Gulf gives us influence over both Europe and China (not to mention a nuclear-free Japan). And Big Oil has historically slow-walked exploration in Israel to curry favor with the Arabs. So, there are quite a lot of forces arrayed against Leviathan.

And so, the Cold War is back on in Syria. Can Putin stop the USA for “doing a Libya” on Syria? Perhaps a deal can be made. Maybe Putin can let the USA topple Assad in exchange for an agreement that Israel not invade his European gas turf. With Japan shutting down its nukes, a long-term export deal between Israel and Japan fits in nice here, no?

Crisis solved. Take that United Nations!

Further reading:

  1. The Houston company that discovered Leviathan.
  2. The Syrian occupation of Lebanon.
  3. The Russian naval base at Tartus, Syria.
  4. STRATFOR on Putin’s European Strategy.
  5. Leviathan Maps

Top Investing Websites – Update for June 2012

The Top Investing Websites page has been updated. Traffic to investing websites surges when the stock market plunges as it did in May. So, if you operate an investing site, and are pleased with the improvement in your Alexa rank over the past month, you have to keep in mind that it is your rank relative to your competitors that counts on this list.

The top-ten sites held their relative positions except for Stock Charts which dropped from #10 to #11, having been bested by NASDAQ. However, my guess is that NASDAQ is one of those sites that people go to for free charts when the market is making scary headlines in the news. So, maybe Stock Charts will be able to regain the top ten eventually.

The most-significant move amongst the top-tier was, once again, Wall Street Cheat Sheet as it continued its rapid ascent, moving from #21 up to #17.

Jobs-Ageddon? Maybe Not

People seem to think that there was a jobs apocalypse on Friday, but was there really? Looking at FRED’s PAYNSA data series, we see that the economy added 789,000 jobs. So, why the stock-market plunge? Well, just about all of those new jobs got seasonally-adjusted away.

However, there is controversy about the seasonal adjustments. According to the Wall Street Journal:

“In April, Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke said that the ‘seasonality issues that have arisen because of the unusually large recession in 2008 and 2009’ were making economic data more difficult to interpret.”

But we can look at the data without making any seasonal adjustments. All that we have to do is use year-long time periods. For example, we could ask: How many jobs were created during the year ending May 31st? Answer: 1.84 million. And what about the year ending April 30th? Answer: 1.70 million.

Looks like an improvement, right? Well, that’s exactly what it is. Here is a chart that I made using PAYNSA showing job-growth over the trailing year (click chart to enlarge):

As you can see, the May 2012 bar is the fourth-best of the recovery. So, I think that it’s safe to say that Jobs-Ageddon has been over-hyped.

Of course, there is still the matter of financial chaos in Europe…

The Windows 8 Roach Motel

You can install the Windows 8 Release Preview anytime you like, but you can never uninstall it. And then it will stop working, and you will be forced to buy the final version to “un-brick” your PC.

I don’t know if Microsoft will take the gold in the Corporate Evil Olympics, but they sure are giving a good account of themselves.

In any case, here is an excellent video of this Windows 8 thing:

Read Michael Mace’s excellent story: Fear and Loathing and Windows 8. This is an in-depth analysis, so set aside some time for it; you will want to read the whole thing.

One of the interesting things that you will learn is that those horrible “Dick and Jane” style “tiles” on the home screen are daggers aimed at web services such as Facebook, Google, and Yahoo.

My guess is that Windows 8 is going to flop – hard. However, just this morning, I got an email from somebody, and at the bottom it said: “Sent from my Windows 8 PC”. So, somebody likes it.

Or maybe his feet are just stuck on some sticky stuff…