Considering the growing power and influence of technology companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, are we at risk of becoming a Big Brother society where our every move is observed, and every detail of our private lives is accessible to those who wish to manipulate or exploit us in some way?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-I don’t think we’re at risk of becoming a Big Brother society, I think we’re already there.  Big Data has infiltrated every part of our lives, and the ability of hackers to take over smart devices in our homes, listen in our baby monitors and even turn on the cameras in our computers and cellphones remotely has made an illusion of privacy.  It’s the price of being part of the digital world. Unless you want to live in a yurt and burn cow dung for heat, you’re going to have to surrender some of your privacy in exchange for entrée into the modern world. Continue reading

How can we solve the growing labor shortages and get foreign workers into US jobs where they are needed?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-There are tens of thousands of businesses across the U.S. hanging out help wanted signs for technical and professional jobs that are going unfilled. We simply don’t have the talent base in our native workforce to fill them all, and it will be decades before we’ve got enough workers trained to meet the need…by which time the opportunity will be gone. Continue reading

Would capitalism survive if the majority of manufacturers turned away from planned obsolescence and focused on making only the highest-quality, longest-lasting products possible?

Cartwright-There was a day when manufacturers here in the United States made high quality, long lasting products, and it wasn’t that long ago. About three years ago, I renovated a property that was originally built in the early 1970s. When I acquired this property, it still had the original appliances, all of which were in working order and were of good quality. It would be unthinkable that current stoves, ovens, or refrigerators would last over forty years. You’re lucky to get a quarter of that time out of them and that’s if you give it little use. Capitalism seemed to do just fine back in the days when manufacturers made products that would last for forty years in a time when I’m not sure that manufacturers were thinking of planned obsolescence. They were more expensive products, yes, but they were built to last. Continue reading

Will the electric car maker Tesla succeed in bringing electric cars to the forefront of the automobile industry? Why or why not?

Cartwright-I love Tesla’s concept, and I love what Elon Musk is doing. They’re making beautiful cars, and I want them to succeed. I love the fact that electric cars don’t emit the greenhouse gases that gas guzzling cars do. It’s a plus for the environment. Do I think we’ll all be driving electric cars anytime soon? No. The average consumer isn’t in love with the idea of electric cars and doesn’t want to be restricted to only going three hundred miles before you have to stop and recharge for an hour or whatever. It’s much easier to hop in your gas guzzler, hit the road, and stop every so often for five or ten minutes to fill up with gas then be back on your way. That’s just the reality of it. If Tesla, or anyone else for that matter, wants to bring electric cars to the forefront, they are going to have to improve the batter capacity and the charging times. More importantly, they are going to have to vastly increase the charging stations. As it is, if you have a Tesla and you’re traveling north and south on I-95, you have to map out when and where you’re going to stop to recharge. If you get off the main roads, you’re definitely going to have to plan your trip very well. The majority of people don’t want to have to worry about that; they want to get in their cars and go. If Tesla or another electric car maker can overcome this, good for them. The world will probably be a better place.

But let’s also consider the impact of more people going to electric cars. They use electric, right? They have to be charged and pull electric from the power grid, right? As more and more people hook up their electric cars to the grid, the strain on the electric grid increases and the power companies must generate more electricity. We know the power grid has some serious weaknesses and needs significant attention and investment. If there’s a large increase in demand and the capacity isn’t there, we’re in trouble. Remember the brownouts in California in the late 1990s and early 2000s? How are the power companies going to generate more power for the increased demand stemming from electric cars? More nuclear power plants? More coal fired plants? More wind or solar? Hydroelectric? It will take substantial investment in more electric generating infrastructure and that can also have an impact on the environment. Something to think about.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-I see an unlimited top end for Elon Musk’s wild child of a carmaker, Tesla. One of the reasons is that while other carmakers that have dabbled in battery-powered vehicles have largely used existing technology without really trying to improve upon what’s available, Tesla is putting significant funds into research into battery technology that have already dramatically increased the range of the company’s vehicles between charges. Continue reading

US employment continues to grow while unemployment continues to shrink, but wages have been stagnant for more than a decade. What’s the reason, and is there a solution to the middle-classes declining standard of living?

Sheffield. Jamaica Correspondent-That question has lingered on my mind for years. Sadly, that condition doesn’t only exist in America, but is a global crisis.

Regardless of how the employment figure looks – whether it increases or decreases – wages will remain the same. It all boils down to one word – greed.

Corporations and big businesses are so driven and filled with greed, that they are willing to keep wages stagnant irrespective of how affluent and profitable their business becomes. Continue reading

With political parties seemingly less productive and more gridlocked, and business executives focused primarily on amassing wealth, are there any real and effective leaders anymore? If so, who?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-I have all but given up on finding leaders from among the ranks of politicos in Washington or in our state houses across the country. Self-dealing, blind party loyalty and rampant self-aggrandizement rule the day, and the few moderates left find themselves buried under partisan shouting and pushed to the periphery. There are a few in the House, like a New Jersey Republican congressman voting against the tax bill because it will hurt New Jerseyans who will no longer be able to deduct their state income taxes, but he’s by far in the minority. Continue reading recently acquired Whole Foods Markets. Will this purchase seriously affect other grocery stores that are currently competitors of Amazon?

From our Prescott Valley, AZ Corredspondent

Online grocery deliveries through retailers like Walmart, Costco, Target, Kroger and others will more than likely feel the crunch of Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Food Markets. Even though Amazon already offers grocery-delivery services in a number of markets, the Whole Foods acquisition will allow the online giant to further expand those services and with the actual ownership of brick and mortar Whole Foods Markets, Amazon will have access to perishable foods and other consumables for distribution within its present and expanded market areas. Continue reading

McDonald’s is planning on rolling out automated ordering kiosks. Has the fast food giant done this in order to stifle $15 an hour fast food employment?

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent– Fast food chains like McDonald’s have contemplated automation for some time and are either now using or planning to use robotics or some type of automatic ordering to save time and money spent on higher wage fast food workers. As of now, McDonalds is considering the use of burger flippers, robotics and automated ordering kiosks that will replace cashiers in over 2,000 of their restaurant/stores across America. Continue reading

Upselling has become part of internet sales tactics. Is this practice turning off consumers, or has it simply become a distraction from an original point of sale?

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent– Upselling is a sales technique that is most often used with various internet sales and services as well as everyday purchase interactions. The seller attempts to persuade a customer to buy more costly items, upgrades or other add-ons to bring about a more profitable sale. Usually the process involves the marketing of more money making services or products, or it can simply involve exposing customers to other available options that are at low to no cost. Continue reading

Should airlines be able to kick off paying passengers once they are onboard a flight?

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Most travelers forget that their airline ticket is a legally binding contract with the carrier. They all have provisions for what can be done with extra passengers on overbooked flights. In the case of most airlines, their entire contract could fill a hefty book, and the section on removing passengers from their seats on the plane once they are onboard is detailed and extensive. Continue reading