Did Trump Collude with Russian in the 2016 Election? Part 1 of many

A question that seems to have been dragging on for months is whether or not President Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 Presidential election? While there has been all kinds of reports, speculation and various reports in the media from various sources; there appears to be nothing conclusive as to what was going, who was responsible and if anyone is guilty of a crime or not. It is now almost two years since the election and even with the release of some ‘official reports’, nothing seems to be clear as to what is and was going on. If a crime was committed, then it needs to be brought before a court and the people responsible held to account for their actions. If there was no crime, then an official account and report needs to be made to the public so people can have faith in the administration, its elected officials and not worry that a foreign power has or had undue influence over the US government and the country. After more than two years of investigations going on, it should be possible to get such a report done and issued. If the people running the investigations can’t or won’t make a report, then they need to replaced with people who can issue such a report in a timely manner or explain what else they need to investigate before such a report would be possible and to provide updates on their progress on being able to issue such a report.

Along the way, there seems to be a number of questions that should or need to answered plus other things that have occurred to me as this process as gone on since the election in 2016.

1: If Trump was colluding with the Russians to get elected, wouldn’t Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General (AG), have NOT recuse himself from the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations and instead stopped any and all investigations into the issue? Jeff Sessions recused himself early in the process from all investigations in the matter. It seems that if he was somehow involved that instead of recusing himself from the investigations, that he would instead have done everything possible to stop any inquiries as soon as he was confirmed as AG.

2: Just because there may have been some Russian interference with the election, it does NOT necessarily mean that Trump colluded with Russians to win the election. If Russia did do or try to do something to influence the election, it does not mean that Trump or anyone working with his campaign had any idea what was going on or involved with it.

3: WHAT exactly was the Russian influence in the election of 2016? So far no one seems to be able to willing to tell the public EXACTLY what the Russian influence is or was. As best as I can tell, the Russian influence was some FaceBook ads of $100,000 run AFTER the election and did not necessarily all be in support of Trump. It also seems unbelievable that someone spending $100,000 in ads could change the outcome of an election when the total campaign spending for the Presidential and Congressional elections in 2016 was something on the order of $6.5 billion with $2.4 billion spent in the presidential elections, according to Opensecrets.org. I originally thought the whole presidential campaign spending was ‘only’ $300 million. How could only $100,000 in FaceBook ads change the outcome of an election? What or how could anyone alter an outcome with such a small amount of money?

4: Was there anyone on the Trump staff part of any investigation? One of the stories that seems to be making the rounds is that the then administration, under President Obama, had one or more people working as part of the Trump staff working on an investigation or even working to do some kind of ‘counter intelligence operation’ to prevent the Russians from influencing the Trump staff or Trump himself. If this is so, where is the results of that work? Why does no one seem to be clear on what, if anything, such work found? If Russia somehow was colluding or did gain influence over some of Trump’s staff, did anyone warn or notify Trump so he could deal with the problem? If the problem was so bad that Russia did have major influence over the staff, and in effect had co opted one of the staff of one of the major candidates for President, why didn’t the Obama administration tell the public or do something? i.e. Why let the election go forward if there really was a major problem? Another aspect is that even if there was someone working with Russia on the staff, it does NOT mean that Trump was part of it.

5: If Trump was working with Russian, why did Trump talk about how Germany is buying gas from Russian and giving them money and making them stronger while the US is helping to defend Russian against Germany as part of NATO?

From July 11, 2018 Washington Post article quoting President Trump at NATO meeting:
Trump’s complaint about Germany and Russia, explained

” “I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where you’re supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia,” Trump said. “So we’re protecting Germany. We’re protecting France. We’re protecting all of these countries. And then numerous of the countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia, where they’re paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia.”
“Germany is totally controlled by Russia,” he later added, “because they will be getting from 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline. And you tell me if that’s appropriate, because I think it’s not, and I think it’s a very bad thing for NATO and I don’t think it should have happened.”

This is not exactly what you would expect a President Trump to be saying on the record and in public if Trump was colluding with Russia. One of the few sources of foreign exchange for Russia is its energy exports. The pipeline deals with Europe is going to be a major source of that revenue. If Trump gets Germany and other European nations to shift some of that spending to US exports, it will cost Russian billions in revenue for years to come.

Louis J. Desy Jr.
Saturday, August 25, 2018

Is the eBook assault on traditional publishing over?

It has been several years since eBooks started roiling the publishing industry and book stores, but it finally looks like that maybe the onslaught from eBooks is over. While a number of indicators are that eBooks, mainly through Amazon and its Kindle reader or program for computer devices, took a large part of the market, it looks like the market may be starting to stabilized for traditional publishers, but at a much lower level of sales.

Ebooks are books that are distributed in an electronic format instead of a print format. There are multiple forms of eBooks, but one of the best well know formats is the Amazon Kindle program where books are downloaded to a special Kindle Reader or a Kindle program on any one of a number of computer devices. Ebooks have been a boom to vendors like Amazon and a great help to writers and authors for a number of reasons which have changed the market for books and publishers.

The first transformation of the publishing industry is that eBooks allowed anyone to write and publish their own book with little to no costs. Anyone can write an eBook with a word processing program, like Microsoft Word, and when done, format and upload it to a vendor like the Amazon Kindle KDP Select program for publication. A buyer can then buy either a print copy of the work or an electronic eBook version of the work. One of the big advantages of eBook over print is that there is no large cost to do a print run. Prior to eBooks, if someone wanted to get a book into print that no publisher was interested in, it would be up to them to find someone with a printing press, usually a ‘vanity press’, and pay them the few thousand that it would cost to do a print run, usually of about 1,000 books. Typically, those books would sit mostly unsold forever since there was no marketing or promotions or ability to get the book into any of the sales channels. People who went the vanity press route to get their work published would usually sell a few copies, give away as many as possible to the people they knew, and then get stuck with boxes sitting in storage in their garages and basements forever.

With eBooks, there are none of the problems of how little or how many copies a work sells. If only one copy sells or one million copies sell, the Amazon system takes care of it all automatically, downloads are automatic once paid for, print copies are only printed on demand and as ordered.

With Ebooks and programs like Amazon Kindle writers get paid much faster than the old publisher model for paying royalties. Pre eBooks, writers were only paid twice per year and there was a ‘hold back’ amount to cover returns from distributors and book stores. I personally know a person that use to have a book section in his comic book store and his distributor would allow him to return and take credit for books that had been sitting in the store for a decade, with no questions asked! An eBook does not have that problem, Amazon pays authors once per month for any and all amounts earned, no more waiting as long as 18 months to get the royalties for a book that sold a long time ago!

Another advantage for authors is that eBooks typically have a much higher royalty percentage than print copies. The typical royalty percentage for a print copy is about 17.5% of what that publisher sold the book for to a customer, distributor or retail store. The royalty for authors through the Amazon eBook Kindle program is 35% on retail prices of $2.99 and below, or above $9.99. The program pays 70% to the writer on books with a retail price between $2.99 and $9.99. Why would Amazon structure the royalty percentage this way? Apparently, Amazon has determined the most number of units and highest revenue overall is when an eBook is priced around $9.99, especially when the typical print book is around $20 to $30. So Amazon is giving writers an incentive to price their book at $9.99 to get the highest royalty payout. This is an example of how Amazon structures things so their interests and the interests of the authors are aligned in a way that traditional publishers have not been able to do so or not wanted to do so. (I would like to thank and credit J.A. Konrath for his lengthy postings about the publishing industry over the years for this information on how things work in the publishing industry. http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ )

Ebooks do have one big disadvantage when compared with traditional print publishing, however. The problem is that with the barrier to publishing books having come down, anyone can put out a book. As a result, the market is flooded with terrible books, many of which never sell anything. As an example of how tilted the market is, I put out a book in August 2012 about taking and passing the bar exam; How To Pass the Bar Exam by Louis Desy. To date, about 381 copies have either been sold or given away under the Amazon KDP select program as a free promotional or as part of the Amazon program where authors get a cut of a pot of money parceled out to authors if they allow their book to be ‘borrowed’ under a Kindle program. Most of the time there are no sales or one sale of the book, which puts the book at about 1.5 million in ranking. That means 1.5 million book sold more copies than my book. I estimate Amazon has about 2 or 3 million titles listed and ranked in their system. That would mean there is at least 500,000 books that sold nothing in the same time period. Sales or borrowing of 2 or 3 copies of my book as put my book as high as 15,000 in ranking; meaning that everything with a higher number had not even sold 2 copies!

Ebooks has had a large effect on book stores, since with the ability to download eBooks, there is no need for a buyer to ever step into a book store again to purchase a book. This has had a devastating effect on retail books stores with a number of store going out of business since the financial crisis and Borders completely liquidating after filing bankruptcy in 2011. Barnes and Nobel has hung on since then, but large parts of the stores are now devoted to non book items, like toys and gifts, and appears to only be able to do well with its college bookstores that are mainly in the textbook business for a captive audience at the college they are part of. Barnes and Nobel did have their own eBook reader product, the Nook, but it has mostly faded away over time and was a constant money loser every quarter due to not being able to compete with the Amazon Kindle.

It can be argued that some of the changes over time were inevitable since the idea and possibility has been around since the 1980s at least. In the early years people made some efforts with computer PDF files but the problem in those was how to prevent copying and get paid for downloads? My friend that I mentioned about his comic book store, was part of an effort in the 1980s to prototype a kind of reader like device, but the hardware was not up to the task, kept overheating, and was too early in time for a successful device being made at that point. Maybe if he and his group had made their attempt in the mid 1990s the hardware would have been up to the task and they would have been successful?

In short, the changes over the years from eBooks have been brutal for book stores and traditional publishers but a boom for Amazon and authors.

Louis J. Desy Jr.
Friday, August 24, 2018

Are Newspapers Dead in the Age of New Media?

One question that occurs to me is; are newspapers going to be able to survive in any form? In recent years the main newspapers in my area, The Boston Globe and The Worcester Telegram, seem to be literally fading away.

The Boston Globe was sold to the New York Times for $1.1 billion years ago. The Worcester Telegram was later sold to the New York Times for about $265 million a few years that. After holding onto both for a decade, both were resold by the New York Times to John Henry for $70 million with the Worcester Telegram being resold shortly afterwards, resulting in a loss of over 90% on the original investment for the New York Times.

The price was so low that it was as though the Worcester Telegram had negative value for in the deal, since the old main building in downtown Worcester had to undergo some kind of major cleanup and ended up being sold for only $300,000 at one point.

The Worcester Telegram use to have a Washington D.C. bureau but today is lucky to have reporters operating out of one of the outlying towns in an old distributing office for the paper.

The Worcester Telegram had its own printing plant in downtown Worcester so people could get a copy of the paper around midnight every day and the reporters and editors of The Telegram were able to check on what was coming off of the press each day. Later, it was rumored that the printing was moved to Millbury, then Dorchester and recently to somewhere closer to Providence.

Now it is impossible to correct problems with the edition, since once the print run is done, it would be at least an hour before any papers get to Worcester, plus there would be more of a delay in bad weather. I remember the paper still being dropped off in snow and ice storms but can’t see how that would be possible anymore with the papers being trucked in from 40 or 50 miles away.

As time goes on, it seems that most newspapers are unable to turn any kind of a profit. They are just simply fading away as their operations are cut down more and more as time goes on.

Hopefully, things will stabilize at some point but so far I see no indication of that happening any time soon.

Louis J. Desy Jr.
Thursday, August 23, 2018

Are Digital Currencies, Crypto Currencies or Bitcoins, Money? Problem with being a store of Value. Part 3 of many

A BIG problem for Bitcoins to be called money is the store of value problem it has.. Even if we overlook all of the other risks and problems of using Bitcoins, a big problem is that over time the value is changing by large amounts. As an example, last December I setup an account with Coinbase and put in $50 USD in Bitcoin. I just checked right now and that $50USD in Bitcoin is now $20.81, for a loss of about 60% in a matter of months. Now, if prices had declined by the same amount, so the purchasing power of the original $50 was in line with prices, that might not be a problem. That has not happened so storing my $50 USD in Bitcoin is down 60%, not exactly what anyone would expect when they ‘stored’ money, in any form, for a while. One of the arguments in favor of Bitcoin is that Bitcoin avoids transaction fees and currency exchange costs, but that sort of does not work, since in this example I lost 60% to avoid a few percent in transaction fees or currency exchange costs.

Hopefully, the problem of having Bitcoins as a store of value will fix itself as there are more in circulation and the prices of the coins become less volatile when compared with other store of value and forms of money, like USD. The amount of volatility that Bitcoin should have when compared to USD should be something like interest rates and/or the real rate of inflation. Most of the recent changes in price for Bitcoins all seems to be driven by speculation, first on the spike up as speculators piled into Bitcoins as they price rose, and now on crash as people panicked and got out of Bitcoins as the prices fell, just like the crowds do in any boom and bust cycle with all market frenzies.

Louis J. Desy Jr.
Thursday, August 23, 2018

Comic Book Sales – Iceman as of 12/17/2017

As a followup to Just Some Guy video about the Iceman comic book series
( Dear SJW Marvel: Why Does Iceman #3 exist? )

I took a look at the sales as reported by Comiccron for Iceman.

In summary, what I have found, is that the sales look like that after only a few issues are below the 15,000 copies per issue, where it is rumored that Marvel would cancel a series.

Here is a chart and graph of the sales as reported by Comicron.com:

(Change is change from prior issue)

Chart of sales through issue #6

While the most recent issue for which sales are available, issue #6, do show a large jump, almost back to the initial first issue, it looks like there was some kind of special promotion that may explain that jump in copies. If this is correct, then when sales for the next few issues are reported, I would expect sales to resume their decline as though the promotion never happened. The one good thing, that a quick look at the numbers seem to show, is that the rate of decline seemed to be starting to ‘level off’ with issue #5, and it looks like the series should be be able to hold at or above 12,000 copies. The only problem is that this would be 3,000 below the rumored Marvel cancellation level of 15,000 copies for a series.

Based upon how it looks like the decline in sales is half as what is was in a prior month, here are my projections for the decline in subsequent sales of the series:

Projected Iceman sales for issue #7 through #12 as of 12/17/2017

There may be disruption in the decline trend due to the large jump in issue #6, but I expect that over time that reported sales by Comicron would revert to near this trend.

I will try to update this data as new sales are reported.

Agree or Disagree, Like or Dislike, I look forward to the discussion about comic book sales and its effects on stores and the industry as a whole.

Good Luck and Take care,
Louis J. Desy Jr.
Sunday, December 17, 2017

UPDATE on Friday, December 29, 2017:

sales update:
Iceman #7 12,677 November 2017 Comic Book Sales to Comics Shops

Apparently, Iceman is being canceled as of March 2018:
And Now Iceman is Confirmed Canceled Too

Are Digital Currencies, Crypto Currencies or Bitcoins, Money? Part 2 of many

In the previous, first part, we discussed, “What is Money”. In this discussion we will compare money to Digital Currencies and whether or not they can be considered money. My short answer is that Digital Currencies are a form of money but are still forming and hopefully becoming less volatile in terms of value for transactions.

As a review for something to be considered money it has to be or have:
1: Medium of Exchange
2: Unit of Account
3: Store of Value
4: Sometimes a standard of deferred payment.

So the question is, do Digital Currencies have all of these elements, and are thus a form of money?

1: Medium of Exchange – Digital Currencies have exchanges that allow one to exchange them with other people, either in typical United States Dollars or even to transfer BlockChains from one person to another in exchange for goods or services. So Digital Currencies can be used as a Medium of Exchange.

2: Unit of Account – Digital Currencies do have a Unit of Account in that one can talk about or refer to them in whole units or parts, and convert them into other mediums of exchange. One of the more common exchanges where this is done is CoinBase.com (https://www.coinbase.com/ ) Here people can setup an account and exchange other forms of money for various Digital Currencies.

3: Store of Value – Digital Currency can store value for use immediately or for use at a time in the future.

4: Standard of Deferred Payment – Digital Currencies can be last a long time, as long as proper care is taken with the BlockChain used to store the item. The BlockChains can be stored on a computer or online with an exchange for later use.

The main ‘problem’ I see with any of the uses of Digital Currencies as money is with the large recent run up in the prices of some Digital Currencies, the value of them is very volatile. From what I am able to tell, most of the run up is due to a large number of people piling into Digital Currencies all at once, and thereby driving the price of them up overall. This is not a good thing for the long term use of Digital Currency since no one would want to pay out for anything for a currency that was going to rise a lot more in the future.

As an example of this volatility problem, the first purchase made with a digital currency was a pizza for 10,000 BitCoins back on May 22, 2010.

The First-Ever Bitcoin Purchase Was Remarkably Inglorious: http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2017/12/16/facebook_added_a_snooze_button_something_everyone_should_get_behind.html

Citing to:
BitBeat: Happy Bitcoin Pizza Day!
https://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2014/05/22/bitbeat-happy-bitcoin-pizza-day/

The short story is that a programmer, Laszlo Hanyecz, in Florida put out a message online offering to exchange some Bitcoins for a pizza. A while later another programmer in England saw the message. They agreed to exchange 10,000 Bitcoins for two pizzas. The programmer in Britian then used his credit card to make the purchase of the two pizzas from a Papa Johns and have then delivered. According to an account of the story the delivery person was ‘confused’ as to how and why someone in England would be arranging a delivery of pizza to someone in Florida; however this was the first know Digital Currency transaction. One part that is interesting is that at that time there was not much, if any market for using Digital Currency as money, since this is the first know transaction of Digital Currency, but both programmers apparently felt that 10,000 Bitcoins were an acceptable trade for two pizzas.

Louis J. Desy Jr.
Saturday, December 16, 2017