YOU GUESS: Which three countries in the world don't have Netflix?

Watch this video from Beme News and you'll find out that Syria, North Korea and China are the three countries where Netflix is not available.  But that's not the main point in this video from the news service where CNN partnered with Casey Neistat, a well-known YouTuber.

Lou, the affable narrator of this piece, outlines how many of the new businesses depending on tech in some way, shape or form are not making a profit yet.  Amazon grows and grows, but has yet to make a profit.  The same with others.

To corner a market, the report says these companies are playing "the long game."  They are looking to the future where they hope to dominate.

This contrasts with historical thinking where capitalism was all about the hope of making a profit now.  This is worth a view.


Gas in Lansing, Michigan for $1.59 today-Jan. 15-at this Shell station

Gas for $1.59 per gallon in Lansing.
This was the per gallon price this morning-Jan. 15-at the Shell station on Waverly and Old Lansing Road.

Even though it wasn't convenient to stop at this Shell station on Waverly and Old Lansing Road on the edge of Lansing, I probably should have to fill a half empty gas tank.  This was the price when we drove to the grocery store and two hours later, it was $1.54 a gallon.  Anybody have a lower price?

On Lansing's southwest side, gas was $1.99 per gallon late yesterday afternoon


Southwest Lansing gas price
This was the gas price yesterday on the southwest side of Lansing, on the day after Christmas



How are low gas prices affecting your travel during the Christmas season?  

Yesterday while riding home from Best Buy, this was the price at the Shell Station on the southwest corner of Waverly and Old Lansing Road.  Most of the pumps seemed to have cars filling up.

When we go to church tomorow near Lowell, we will fill up.  Gas prices there, according to are $1.79 per gallon.  Any guesses about how low prices will go?  This is all positive, right?


Gas prices in Lowell, MI win the prize for us.
These are the lowest gas prices I've seen within a 50 miles radius of us.



We paid $2.35 per gallon this morning at Sam's Club on the southside of Lansing, MI

I couldn't pass by the gas station this morning at Sam's Club on the southside of Lansing, Michigan $2.35 per gallon.  I got almost five gallons and the total cost was $11.79. says that the pump says $2.22 per gallon in Lowell, Michigan just down the road and about 10 miles from Grand Rapids.

How about your area?  What are you paying for gas?


Gas pump at Sam's Club in Lansing, Michigan
This was my pump this morning at Sam's Club on the southside of Lansing, Michigan.



Black Friday weekend was a shopping bust around the country; but what about Michigan?

My son and I noticed the difference in the number of shoppers on Black Friday at the Best Buy on the westside of Lansing.  There were some great prices and there were plenty of items left on the shelves and in the aisles.

It was easy to get around the store.  The line at the cash registers was not long.  This is a contrast to past experiences where Black Friday was a cultural experience.  People jammed the store and the line at the checkouts wrapped around the store.


The local Best Buy on Black Friday.
My son Justin looks at a tablet at the local Best Buy.

Apparently, it was the same experience around the country with Black Friday sales being down.  Here's what the New York Times said this morning:

Sales, both in stores and online, from Thanksgiving through the weekend were estimated to have dropped 11 percent, to $50.9 billion, from $57.4 billion last year, according to preliminary survey results released Sunday by the National Retail Federation. Sales fell despite many stores’ opening earlier than ever on Thanksgiving Day.

Has anybody seen results for Michigan?

Craft beer and coconut-flavored coffee while shopping for groceries on a Monday morning

Being retired, super-wife and I have a lot of flexibility for when we go grocery shoppping.  This week, it was Monday morning at Horrock's Farm Market on the edge of Lansing, Michigan's Capital City.  The store is filled with amazing produce and other specialized food items.  

There's an amazing craft beer selection, as well as wine.  And there's the cheese along with great meat. There's also a whole wall of shelves filled with endless permutations of chips.

Now there's an onsite bar where you can buy a glass of craft beer to sip while filling your shopping cart.  I didn't get one today because I had hit the coffee sample bar first thing.  I was drinking a big cup of coconut-flavored coffee.


Coffee bar at Horrocks in Lansing.
Best coffee in Michigan's capital city is at Horrock's Market. Samples are big, hot and brewed just right.




The grocery store bar is on the right. It has 50 taps for craft beer and an interesting selection of wine.


Just think, at Horrocks, you can sip a beer or drink a coffee while shopping for apples and other groceries.


Is West Michigan going to be the hot place this summer to get a job?

Hmm.  I just read this piece about how West Michigan might be the hot place to look for a job this summer.  Employers are expect to be hiring.  Click here for the story.  When will this optimism move east to other parts of the state?

Does this mean that our kids looking out of the state for a job need to take a look in the Grand Rapids area?

Check this Forbes magazine interview with my daughter-in-law, Lauren Thorp, about Umba Box


Lauren and forbes

My daughter-in-law Lauren is changing her world one Umba Box at a time.  It's about her new business where subscribers pay her to send them the best of the best handcrafted items for women.  She started it last year and since then it has gotten media attention around the country.


Check this interview in where she's interviewed about her experience as a new entrepeneur, especially as a woman breaking into the business world.  

I'm really impressed with her insightful answers to the questions and to her whole business approach.  It's worth a read and Umba Box is worth a look.

Chuck Colson shares his plan to give hope to "Generation Limbo" who can't find a job

Remember Chuck Colson who used to work in the Nixon White House and spent some time in prison for his misdeeds?  Check this column where he writes about the dim future that young people face today with a decaying economy and uncertain job prospects.  

He seems to be saying the local churches need a big kick in the butt and start walking their talk with what the New York Times calls "Generation Limbo."  Churches, he says, need to practice what Jesus lived and be intentional about reaching the 18-29 year-olds.

Two words if you are thinking about letting your home go to foreclosure: deficiency judgement

Our city here in mid-Michigan--Lansing--has been hit hard by home foreclosures.  Lots of people have given up on paying their mortgage, either because they didn't have the money or because they owed more on their mortgage than their house was worth.

They give their home back to their lender or they have it taken from them.  They think that's it and they can start over.  Not so says this Wall Street Journal article.

In a growing number of states including Michigan, lenders are going after homeowners who are foreclosed on for the difference between what the house sold for to a new owner and what was owed. This debt is being sold to investors for pennies on the dollar and they go to court to collect the difference.

It's legal in Michigan and a small group of other states, according to the article.

There are fewer jobs today than when President Obama signed federal jobs stimulus

When the federal jobs stimulus package was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Obama wasn't it the promise that more jobs would be created? 

According to the stats cited in this piece by CNSNEWS.Com, it didn't come close to happening.  In fact, we've lost almost two million jobs since the stimulus was signed.  It reports:

In February 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 141.7 million people were employed. By the end of May 2011 – the last month for which data are available – that number had fallen to 139.8 million, a difference of 1.9 million.

What does this mean?  Is this proof that government can't create jobs?  However, it seems that it can be an obstacle to creating jobs.  Where would we be if the free market had been allowed to work?  Worse or better off?

FACTOIDS: Here's different ways of looking at the national debt

While you're sipping your morning coffee, here are some unsettling facts from a Reuters story about the national debt as our country gets closer to maxing out on what it can borrow.

A sample: 

President Ronald Reagan once famously said that a stack of $1,000 bills equivalent to the U.S. government's debt would be about 67 miles high.

That was 1981. Since then, the national debt has climbed to $14.3 trillion. In $1,000 bills, it would now be more than 900 miles tall.

Will we ever reach a consensus in this country about what to cut and how much?  What happens when we can't borrow anymore?


Will Michigan's gas prices top $4 per gallon this week?

Check out this list of states, including Illinois, where gas prices are topping $4 per gallon.  Will that level be topped here in Michigan this week?  Will prices hit $5 per gallon by Memorial or Fourth of July?  What effect will that have on your daily life?

MORE:  This story from the Detroit News this morning reports that AAA in Michigan says gas prices could top the magic $4 per gallon level this week.  Check the lady who filled her Honda Accord and it cost $50.  Ouch.

I have a question for Mark Murray, president of Meijer in Michigan and other states

Mr. Murray: 

What do I do now when I come home from shopping at Meijer on West Saginaw in Lansing and find that I've been overcharged by your store?

The price, I assume, of the item will at least be on the shelf and will then be scanned.  I've found far too many times that the two don't always match and each time it's the scanned price that exceed the sticker price.

The Michigan Legislature passed a law to eliminate the state's item pricing law and Gov. Rick Snyder has signed it.  This means that the consumer will have no protection from being overcharged.  I know what the answer will be from your store directors.  They will point to in-store audits that are not shared which they show that their prices almost match 100 percent of the price that's scanned.

Meijer I have too many experiences where we come home from grocery shopping and find that not to be the case.  What do you do when you live more than five-miles away from the store and can't take the item back easily.

How much money does Meijer and other stores make from overcharges?  Consumers need some help with this and Meijer needs to get back to the values of Frederick Meijer and place the interests of the consumer before the interests of the bottom-line.

I remember seeing Mr. Murray grocery shopping at the Meijers on Lake Lansing Road in Lansing when he worked for the state of Michigan as a department director.  He would be with one of his kids and I would be with my young son.  He seems like an honest guy who wanted to do the right thing.  It's time for him to take some leadership on this.

Do you check your grocery receipt for mis-priced items that scan at a higher price?  What do you do?  Take them back or just suck it up?


QUESTION: When you shop for groceries in Michigan, are you being cheated?

My wife and I just got home from grocery shopping at Meijers on West Saginaw in Lansing, something we do every week and usually enjoy doing together, but the question in the title for this post keeps being raised.  Why?

It's the periodic difference between the price on a product and the price that's scanned at the checkout.  Now if it was an infrequent experience, it would be easy to excuse.  But we are finding that it's becoming more and more common and it is becoming costly.

Now this issue has taken on new relevance with Michigan's new Gov. Rick Snyder demanding that the Michigan Legislature repeal the item pricing law that protects consumers when there are item pricing mistakes like this.  The Republicans who have a majority in both houses are poised to put this legislation on the fast track with the results that consumers would have no recourse.

What about our negative experiences with item pricing at our Meijers store?


Let me just recount what happened today.  While going through the canned fruit aisle, I discovered that there were cut-out boxes of fruit with no prices marked on the cans, but there were cards on the edge of the shelves with the prices.  There were other cases with the individual prices.

While putting our food in the shopping cart, I saw the store director, Mike Borek and introduced myself and share my observations.  He listened and seemed concerned and then talked about the in-store audits done to assure that each item has the correct price.  I believe, he mentioned, that they were in the 99 percent range. 

We had a useful conversation where he shared the challenges of keeping up with price changes and their attentiveness to the state item-pricing law.


The Meijers store director and I then shook hands after I thanked him for the time and we went to the wine aisle.  We were looking to buy a case of Great Lakes Red from Lelanau Wine Cellars up in the Traverse City area for our son's wedding out east.  I'm the best man and I was going to use it for the toast.  He and I both thought it was a great way to reconnect with his Michigan roots and it's a good wine.

Here's what we found.  My wife looked at the shelf which said it was $6.49 a bottle, but, the sticker on the bottle said, $7.99.  I found the store director again and asked him to see what I was concerned about.  He did.  The difference was roughly a $1.50 per bottle.  Do the math for a case.

I can provide other examples from our experience.


Is it time for grocery shoppers at Meijers to start matching-up their grocery receipts with what's on the item if it's marked as the state law requires?  There are waiviers for some items but not many.

How widespread is this problem?  Am I the only one to have this experience?  Do you match your grocery receipt with the prices on the item? 

How much money does Meijer earn from these errors between what an items is stickered at what it scans at?  A little?  A lot? 

I'm watching CNBC special tonight on Supermarkets and how they track customers

Do you realize how much spying your super-market does on you, including what you buy, which aisles you go down, how often you buy and many other things?

That's why I'm watching this CNBC program tonight that examines how supermarket track every little thing we do in their stores to get an edge on their competitors.  I want to be informed.  I'm anxious to hear comments from those who also watch.


Chew on Milton Friedman's words about socking it to the rich with higher taxes

On the surface, it makes sense to charge a higher tax rate to those who are rich and make tons of money.  They can afford it.  Right?

Listen to what the late Milton Friedman, Nobel prize winning economist, had to say about this belief that it's good policy to soak the rich with high tax rates.  This is a YouTube clip from an old Phil Donahue show: