Friday, 14 December 2012

07:11 – I read an article on CNN yesterday that compared the cost structures of major brick-and-mortar retailers like Best Buy and Wal*Mart with Amazon. The thrust of the article is that local retailers are hampered by a grossly inferior business model, which is a point I’ve been making since back when Amazon was losing money. There’s simply no way local retailers can survive, other than those few types of retailers like supermarkets and pharmacies and gun stores that have some insuperable advantage over web-based retailers.

That made me think of the other day when I bought a Saturnalia gift for Barbara. Now, I’ve never liked shopping. Hell, I don’t think I’ve set foot in Hanes Mall for at least 10 years. Even in the days before the web, I almost never bought locally. Barbara would give me a Bean or Lands’ End catalog with the items she wanted marked, I’d call the 800 number, and that was that. But for the last decade or more, I’ve done nearly all of my shopping on-line. This time, Barbara just sent me links on Amazon for a couple items and said that either one would be fine. So I clicked the links, clicked the add-to-cart button, and ordered the item. Barbara had also mentioned that her parents’ answering machine was borked, so I searched for an appropriate answering machine/cordless phone combo, added it to my cart, and ordered it. It never even occurred to me to get in the truck and drive to some local retailer.

We continue to build and ship science kits.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

07:28 – Only eight days left until the end of the world, and Barbara and I haven’t even started to make preparations. Oh, well. Another year, another apocalypse. When the world ended last year, we didn’t even notice. I did move Army Wives to the top of our Netflix streaming queue. Series six releases on the 18th. Barbara enjoys that series, so we’ll have to get it watched before the world ends on the 21st.

We continue to build and ship science kits.

14:08 – Fareed Zakaria actually gets it: Should America try to be like Scandinavia?

I’ve mentioned this “free ride” problem many times before. For the last six decades or more, Americans have carried the rest of the world. For sixty years, for example, we’ve paid the vast bulk of the defense budget for all of Europe, not to mention the Pacific Rim. America out-innovates the rest of the world put together, and the rest of the world uses those innovations, most of which were paid for by US taxpayers, while paying little or nothing for them. Americans pay the overwhelming majority of costs to develop new drugs, including those developed by big pharma companies in other countries. In addition to American taxpayers heavily subsidizing research, directly and indirectly, Americans also pay much higher prices for the drugs that result from that research. Even our friends and allies, including the UK and Canada, pay little or nothing more than the production costs of those drugs, with their national health services threatening to ignore patents and produce the drugs themselves if drug companies don’t sell to them at cost. The US has contributed trillions of dollars in foreign aid, direct and indirect, with no return. There is no balance here. That’s why I’ve suggested, only half in jest, that the IRS should begin collecting income taxes from every country on earth. One percent of GDP is reasonable, and at that they’d still be getting a hell of a deal.