Phone Companies Ripping off Local Authorities

Just read a pretty effed up article in the paper this morning and thought I’d share it in this blog. Apparently phone giants AT&T and Verizon Communications have been ripping off local authorities nationwide. Local officials in several states have filed several lawsuits claiming that they’ve been distributing out discounts to big businesses at the expense of 911 emergency services, shortchanging millions upon millions of dollars.

Verizon_Logo_2015I don’t know about you, but this is corporate corruption at its finest; robbing public services and costing everyone the security they’re promised by their local authorities. Roger Schneider, who is an entrepreneur from Huntsville, Alabama, found out about this thievery 12 years ago. Phone companies eventually settled at somewhere around $3 million dollars in cases which he helped bring about in the state of Alabama.

Earlier this year in January AT&T got slammed pretty hard by 10 counties in a case in Tennessee, but they prevailed somehow. Seeing the corporate world continuously do shady stuff like this and then eventually getting sued, and then after that becoming more profitable and stronger, richer, and more powerful, depresses a middle class guy with an average income like me.

322984903_05295b713f_zMakes me feel like there isn’t much hope out there anymore for a guy to save up and start a small business and even compete with the corporate giants who eventually first push him to become an underdog in the market and then eventually force him to shut down his business as a result of not keeping up with the lower prices provided by his competitors.

About 15 jurisdictions in the city of Pennsylvania alone have filed cases against more than a dozen different phone companies. This has been going on for quite a while but recently has picked up full force and has been gaining national attention to the point where the corruption and greed of these corporate Fortune 500 companies is being thoroughly investigated and exposed to the media.

The Rise and Decline of Corporations 2016

walmart-jetI’m sure you’ve heard by now that Yahoo! is getting ready to sell itself off to Verizon for $4.8 Billion. That’s a lot of money but in terms of how much their competitors like Google and Bing are worth, its really not much.

Considering the fact that each of those giants are worth in the hundreds of billions of dollars if they were to be bought by someone. It seems to me like both little startups and big companies that have been around for a while are being bought out by bigger guys in the whole scheme of things. There just seems to be lesser and lesser competition these days.

And a level below that we see little mom and pop stores that shut down as a result of Walmart’s low prices and aggressive business tactics.

Walmart is currently having talks about buying web retailer Jet.com. Jet, in case you haven’t used it or heard of it yet, is just like amazon except they give away lots of discounts and do free shipping and things like that. Analysts are currently estimating that Jet is worth at least $3 billion. If this deal goes through it’ll be the biggest purchase in Walmart’s history or mergers.

jet-buy-walmartWalmart wants to dominate in both the brick and mortar sector as well as online. Right now the “Walmart” of the internet is Amazon. Last black Friday, Amazon had more orders from customers than they had estimated, resulting in UPS not being able to deliver everything on time. Walmart definitely wants a piece of that action, and if they take over Jet.com then they could potentially be a real threat towards Amazon.

This however is not Walmart first attempt in competing with Amazon. Walmart has added new features for customers like mobile payments, along with an addition of over 1 million products on its online platform.

Acquiring Jet would also give Walmart that edge its been looking for to appeal to higher income shoppers.

 

Remodeling My 2016 Homes

work-1100028_960_720Its that time of the year again, I’m working long hours fixing up my houses. If you’ve read my “about me” page which I’ve so carefully crafted for my readers on this blog, you’d know by now that I’m an REM (Real Estate Manager). I work and collaborate with Real Estate Investors (REI) here in Sacramento, CA. Basically the REI’s buy the homes and I fix them up, maintain them, and fill them up with tenants, or help find buyers for them. If you still don’t know what I’m talkin about then click on this link – About Joe – to find out a little about who I am and what I do. And for the rest of you, keep reading.

For those of you that are homeowners, you know what I’m talking about when I say that a newly bought house doesn’t really feel like its yours until you start moving stuff around and customizing things. Home improvement is actually my favorite job duty as a real estate manager. It gives me the freedom to customize and improve the homes to my liking, and of coarse, to the demands of potential homeowners. Usually I’ll start with the most basic stuff like fixing doors and windows and making sure all the faucets work. Then I’ll move on to floors and then the big stuff like the roof, which is sometimes the most important thing to fix. The real estate market in Sacramento is looking pretty good this year. I’m forecasting that I’ll close some deals this year. Usually around this time, I make lots of trips to Home Depot and Lowes.

2008-11-10_Lowe's_Home_Improvement_Warehouse_in_Chapel_HillFirst off, I want to prioritize by necessity. I want to tackle the most serious jobs first and then move on to the minor stuff. So when fixing up a home, the first thing I usually check the roof to see if it needs any repairs. After that I’ll check landscape around the house to see what needs to be replaced or maintained regularly. The trees, bushes, lawn, and whatever else surrounds the house. Once you’ve got these basic things checked off your list, I’d move onto calculating on costs to hire a pro to fix it all for me.

The Race for Driver-less Cars

Google's_Lexus_RX_450h_Self-Driving_CarI remember getting my driver’s license for the first time back in the 90s when I was about 17. I felt like I was at the top of the world; free and independent. I’ve always loved having the ability to travel, and with driving, you have the freedom to go just about anywhere you want. American culture has always been a car culture. Getting a driver’s license and having your own vehicle are some of the things we’ve always valued as important things that every responsible, hard working, and independent adult should have.

But I think all that is about to change soon. With the trend of modern technology heading towards automation in things that we use in all aspects of our lives, cars will be self-driving vehicles in the near future. Its probably going to be more expensive to be a driver and own your own vehicle rather than pay for a self-driving taxi. The future is in automation, and this sort of depresses me sometimes. I mean sure its nice to have machines replace human labor in certain aspects of our daily lives such as when in the late 2000s Redbox kiosks dominated the movie rental business and caused the hundreds, if not the thousands, of Blockbusters retail stores and its competitors to shut down and eventually go out of business. Netflix is another example of this, as its much more convenient to have rented movies mailed to your home and stream movies online than having to go to a physical store to rent stuff.

Toyota-logo-650wBut with cars, it just doesn’t feel the same way. I mean obviously in the long run its gonna be more safe for everyone as people with mental problems or disabilities who aren’t able to drive will be able to afford to ride cheap self-driving taxi’s. And drunk people can finally travel safely, while smartphone addicts can text and not have to keep their eyes on the road. I read an article in the paper a couple days ago about the race that’s going on right now between big automakers like Toyota and GM, and internet search giants Google and Baidu.

Recently in Japan a mobile internet company called DeNA Co. has stated that its gonna start a transportation service in Japan that will use self-driving vehicles. They’ll be starting out with the EZ10 electric shuttle that is produced by French driver-less startup technology startup EasyMile. DeNA is now a small player among automakers and search engines racing to see who can dominate the market for automatic cars. What scares me the most is that this shift in automation is gonna kick out millions of people working in the transportation industry out of their jobs. Truck drivers, cab drivers, bus drivers, etc, are gonna become unemployed.

1995_Ford_Fairlane_(NF_II)_Ghia_stretch_limousine_(2015-07-14)_01I suppose in the near future it wouldn’t be so bad to be traveling in self-driving cars. Sure a lot of people are going to lose their jobs, but human-driven vehicles will still be around. Just like there will always be a market for hand-made merchandise, I think people will always value things and services that are done by other humans, the only difference is that human-driven transportation services in the future will be a luxury. This was a thought that ran across my mind recently as I was taking a little vacation with my family over by South Lake Tahoe to tour around and work my luck at some of the casinos. My wife and I decided that this time we weren’t gonna stress over traveling by renting a car to taking cabs, this time we decided to ride in style and get a limousine. We haven’t been in a limo or hired a limo service since our wedding about 12 years ago. In the Northern Nevada region, most of the big limo service are actually located north of Tahoe in Reno. Reno limo service companies basically service most of the Reno-Tahoe Metro area like Reno, Sparks, Carson City, Tahoe, etc. After having gone through several quotes we landed on Northern Nevada Limo, who did such a wonderful job with their service that I just had to write about them and express my gratitude. The owner was very courteous and the driver didn’t rush anything at all as he took us to all of our destinations throughout South Lake Tahoe. If you’re cruising by the Tahoe or Reno area and are looking for luxury travel, definitely give these guys a buzz. Like their competitors they’ve got town car rentals in Reno, airport shuttle, SUV’s, and much more. These are the kinds of services I think will always be around even if vehicles become automatic on a mass scale, people will always demand to be serviced by other people.

 

From Bedouin to Billionaire

One of my recently favorite “rags to riches” stories is that of French Syrian self-made billionaire Mohed Altrad, 68 years old, who has been living in France most of his life since immigrating there about 5 decades ago. His story is one of the saddest yet most inspiring one I’ve ever read about.

26_bedouin_tentHe was born as a result of his father raping his mother, out in the remote Syrian desert. She died after giving birth to Mohed. He was then brought up by his grandmother. Growing up, he always struggled to get educated, but he pulled off with determination, and always reached to the top of his class.

After high school he was given the opportunity to study in France under a scholarship, and the rest is history.

I found a few things strikingly insightful about Mohed’s story. Aside from the usual cliche of rags-to-riches stories about people who come from nothing to being millionaires and billionaires through hard work and determination, what attracted me the most about Mr. Altrad’s journey has been his never-ending perseverance which carried him from mediocrity to excellence.

france-rail-overview-1This guy literally was on the brink of death at one point in his life. He grew up in Syria in backward Arab desert culture that discourage education and progress. The Arab world has one of the most backward cultures in the world in terms of women’s rights, education, freedom of speech, etc. Yet Mohed prevailed through all that and got himself educated and moved to France and made it big.

I think that puts him way above many of his billionaire peers who started with nothing here in the US, because the US being a first world country, has way more opportunities available for the poor than third world countries like Syria. Its stories like that influence me to get off my ass work harder each and everyday.