Uncommon Sense

July 21, 2021

I Knew We Would Get to This Point

“And remember, if you don’t overthrow your elites, they will kill you or make your life unbearable. It’s you or them, and so far, it’s you.”

Ian Welsh has taken off the kid gloves. You might want to read his latest post, but be warned it is depressing. I include a couple more excerpts.

The Decision to Let Covid Go Chronic

“Life is wonderful. Modern neoliberal capitalism is the most amazing economic system ever created — one so finely engineered by two generations of intellectuals, bureaucrats, and politicians that it turns even a plague into a massive profit event for the rich.

“And, really, as anyone who isn’t rich is obviously a worthless loser who doesn’t add value to society, because money obviously accurately measures value, this is as it should be.”

July 13, 2021

Paul Krugman Accidently Stumbles Upon Truth

In a blog post addressing, in part, anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, Professor Krugman pointed out our long history of being suspicious that something was going on behind the scenes.

“. . . there has always been a streak in our political psychology that sees elite institutions, from government to education, as secret fronts for a vast global conspiracy.”

Yes, and your point is?

That we are conspiracy-minded or that the elites are always working in the background to shape the world to their benefit and to screw the rest of us?

Take, for example, Professor Krugman’s field, economics. A 2014 survey showed that the political interests of the people had zero chance of being addressed by Congress. Even if we got in line behind the wealthy, the line would be so long that the term would expire before we reached the front. So, the current U.S. economy is set up so that people of wealth can get very much wealthier (e.g. Trump Tax Cuts) but ordinary people struggle in poorly paying jobs with few fringe benefits.

And, oh, climate change? This is a serious concern of a majority of Americans. So, look at this graph and indicate where it shows how our political actions bent the curve in our favor.

What, you see no bending of the curve in our favor (downward)? Hmm, I wonder why that is? All of our governmental efforts to curb climate change have failed? What, you say there have actually been no governmental efforst to curb climate change? Hmm, could it be that the wealthy have been protecting their interests in becoming even more filthy rich and the rest of us can go fuck ourselves?

Yes, I think people think there is something going on behind the scenes. The people are spot on. I just wish they wouldn’t make up bullshit things like Jewish Space Lasers because what is really happening is so fucking obvious.

June 25, 2021

U.S. Billionaires Don’t Pay Taxes

I’m shocked, shocked, I tell you!

Recently a federal government official leaked the fact that over the past decade, U.S. billionaires effectively paid no federal tax. The response from the government was swift: a veritable thunderstorm of condemnation . . . of the leaker, with threats of FBI investigations into the leak, jail sentences, etc. Condemnation of the billionaires for “rigging the system?” Not so much.

Was there any difference between the Republican and Democratic Party’s reactions? A slight difference in style, maybe, but in content no. Gee, I wonder why that is?

Both political parties have been captured by the “rich donors” who fill party coffers. Since these “donors” are in the cadre of wealthy assholes paying few to no taxes, is this situation surprising to you?

Just another sign that the elites, the wealthy and powerful elites, are on their side of a line and the rest of us are on the other. And they are defending their privileges tooth and nail.

When the whistleblower law was enacted, it was framed as a protection for government officials and corporate officials who “leak” information that the public needs to know.

Isn’t this something we need to know? That the recent Republican tax cuts reduced already small tax burdens on the very rich down to no tax burden at all? And, guess who is going to make up for the lost revenue? (And you don’t get three guesses!)

I wonder how these rich assholes can complain about U.S. tax policy when they are paying no federal taxes at all. Chutzpah personified.

June 24, 2021

They Are Coming for Your Churches (The Tax Collectors!)

On June 30th 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that if a state has a program of providing public financing for private entities to provide educational services, that program cannot exclude from participation any institution simply because that institution is religious (see Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue).

But, as much as these tax exemptions have been argued by some as absolutely untouchable as a form of religious freedom, or grudgingly untouchable by others as upheld in existing case law, Espinoza changes all of this, and provides a clear path toward taxing the churches.

<This SCOTUS decision> provides a clear path toward taxing the churches.

If a state cannot exclude from access to taxpayer resources institutions simply because they are religious, a state also cannot exclude from taxation institutions simply because they are religious. Indeed, to the extent that properties on which private schools operate are exempt, then this exemption would also apply to properties on which private religious schools operate. But the exemption would not extend to the church itself, or for example, rectories, religious retreats or other lands and buildings used solely for “religious” activities, including worship. The state cannot define religious activity in-and-of-itself to qualify as public service because the state should not be in the business of defining “religion,” and bestowing differential benefits on that basis alone.

(Source: Time to Tax the Churches! on schoolfinance101.wordpress.com)

“Forgive them, they know not what they do.”

April 23, 2021

Greed, Capitalism, and Fixing It

I will start by quoting myself:

The Achilles Heel of capitalism is that there is no limit to greed. (Me)

This is hardly a novel position. As evidence I offer:

“No bound is set on riches for men” (Solon)

“Money is like sea water: The more you drink, the thirstier you get.” (a Roman proverb)

“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

The problem at the core of this problem is that wealth translates into political power. People with great wealth can use their wealth to buy political attention to their needs. Those needs always address their interests, the primary of which is maintaining and expanding their wealth.

So the big question is: “How do we fix this flaw” in the grand American experiment in self-governance? If greed results in the collapse of our society, as history shows that it will, how do we address it?

At first I was thinking of a bottom-up solution constructed of social pressures. One idea was that when people earn certain levels of wealth we would slap titles on them. Say, one a millionaire we would refer tot hem with the title of A Really Big Deal or Fat Cat. As their wealth increased with would come up with more and more disparaging titles that we would use publicly. Maybe at the ten million dollar wealth plateau, they would be Rich Assholes. At the Jeff Bezos level, maybe Filthy Rich Money-grubbing Obnoxious Asshole.

I have decided this won’t work as people have the attention spans of gnats nowadays and would be distracted by Brittany Spears news or something equally irrelevant, and stop following through.

There is a method that has worked for us and could work again and that is progressive taxation. During World War 2 the highest income tax bracket was close to 100%. Now, to clarify, that taxation rate was on earnings over $100,000 dollars when the average worker was making about $1885 per year (1942 figure). So, two points: this tax rate didn’t kick in until one had made $100,000 and only applied to the money earned after that $100,000 was earned. And $100,000 represented 53 times what the average worker made!

We generally craft tax brackets so there are small jumps in the tax rate between any two categories but that isn’t necessary. It could be 39% and then after $250,000 it could jump to 95%.

The consequences of doing this were made obvious when we had this system deployed. One consequence was that CEO salaries were about 20 time that of the average worker in their corporations instead of the 250-350 times we see now. And, instead of paying their CEOs ever more money, stock options, etc. They were treated with the trappings, or as they called them the perquisites, of their offices. They had lavishly decorated offices, with very expensive art work on the walls. They had company cars and trips on company airplanes, clothing budgets, and on and on. Many of these are now necessary to be declared as “income” for tax purposes, but they were not necessarily back then.

Of course to change the tax codes along these lines we would need to take back control of our Congress, but no matter what solution we come up with that task will be at the core, otherwise the wealth of the rich will result in laws undermining any system we set up.

And as part of the results of that “natural experiment” in economics that were our progressive tax rates after WW2, we found out that American corporations could be lead by leaders to become pre-eminent in the world without making 200 times or even 50 times, what their average worker made. CEOs have gamed the system to their benefit, not their corporations and not ours.

And, as you might not know, President Franklin Roosevelt brought the “captains of industry” and their ilk to the White House to strong arm them into accepting the high marginal tax rates with little to no protest using the scare of the Socialist Party of America, then one of the the largest socialist organizations in the world, and Labor Unions to make his point. They had to be given something otherwise labor chaos would result. (No business type likes labor chaos.).

Of course, priority one for the fat cats after WW2 was the destruction of the Socialist Party of America, which ceased operations on December 31, 1972 (and not because their goals had been met—Note another Socialist party rose from the ashes, in 1973, but it was and still is much smaller and almost entirely without political influence). And, as you probably know, union jobs in the US have shrunk from about a third in the 1950’s to around 7% today. This is due to a concerted effort on the part of the rich to de-fang labor unions, Our neighbor Canada still has the same level of union jobs as they had in the 1950’s, likewise about 33%, but they had no organized political effort to disempower their unions.

September 28, 2020

When it was ’54 …

Republicans are often characterized as wishing our country would be restored to what it was like in 1954.

So do I.

 

September 16, 2020

So . . . Why?

A recent statement issued by the editors at Scientific American include this comment: “It wasn’t just a testing problem: if almost everyone in the U.S. wore masks in public, it could save about 66,000 lives by the beginning of December, according to projections from the University of Washington School of Medicine. Such a strategy would hurt no one. It would close no business. It would cost next to nothing. But Trump and his vice president flouted local mask rules, making it a point not to wear masks themselves in public appearances. Trump has openly supported people who ignored governors in Michigan and California and elsewhere as they tried to impose social distancing and restrict public activities to control the virus. He encouraged governors in Florida, Arizona and Texas who resisted these public health measures, saying in April—again, falsely—that ‘the worst days of the pandemic are behind us’ and ignoring infectious disease experts who warned at the time of a dangerous rebound if safety measures were loosened.”

So, my question is this: what did Mr. Trump have to gain by taking this path?

Letting a pandemic ravage the working class is certainly no aid to business and it stresses what’s left of our social safety net. What possible advantage to Mr. Trump could there be?

The only sensible interpretation I could come up with that takes into account Mr. Trump’s and his base’s characteristics is this: he is poking a finger in the eyes of the coastal elites. (Take that Libtards!) The oh-so-smart “experts” who always know what the right thing to do is, while at the same time looking down their noses at the people living in the “fly over states.”

Mr. Trump has said that he downplayed the pandemic because he didn’t want to create panic. Some have spun this by saying that he didn’t want to cause a panic in the stock market. This, of course, makes no sense whatsoever. By downplaying the problem, he in essence, gave over any control over the problem he had, leaving him a situation that would play out as it would rather than as he or anyone else would have it. And, having this disease wreak havoc on crowded workplaces in the various businesses represented on the stock markets surely is not a recipe to avoid panic in the stock market. So, this “explanation” holds no water.

But the so-called “coastal elites” are seen as the architects of the demise of the middle class and poor by many people. The economists, the politicians, the corporation executives, the “experts” who speak in gobbledygook while dressed in many thousand dollar suits, who claim to know what is best for the rest of us. These are the people who are scorned by the “deplorables” who voted Mr. Trump in, and honestly have really failed at their jobs economically, having sold their services to the very wealthy or to become one of the very wealthy. (The “new rich” are almost all corporate executives.)

But in a classic “throwing the baby out with the bath water” move, this disdain for the politicians and economists and scientists has been spread out over public health officials who have not failed in the same way. Painting with a broad brush is at the core of politics, but in this case, there are possibly 100,000 Americans now dead because of that attitude alone.

Mr. Trump is merely reinforcing a “see, they aren’t so smart” attitude that he and many of his followers hold. Some will pay for that attitude with their lives (some already have) and some will pay with their careers. It is hoped that our ship of state can be righted. I have little hope that the Democrats can do this if given power, but right now they are the only chance we have because they are the only ones who seem to want to do that. It is terribly hard to bail the water out of the boat when others are drilling holes in the bottom, chanting “Sink the ship! Sink the ship!”

I will vote for Biden and work to get a much better president to succeed him. The problem we have is the uber-wealthy are spending gobs of money to make sure that we do not have the chance of electing someone not already in their pocket. We have to learn how to counter the power of their money.

September 15, 2020

They Say They Are Against Wealth Redistribution

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:40 am
Tags: , , ,

The Fat Cats of America say they are against income redistribution and wealth redistribution but once again, it is only one particular type of that: they are arguing against taxing wealthy people to provide of the rest of us (social safety net, universal health care, etc.). They are not opposed to wealth redistribution when they are doing it, however.

As I have mentioned over and over that the very wealthy in this country have been gaming the system for the past roughly 50 years to redistribute wealth out of your pocket (the many) into theirs (the few). This has been now documented in a new economic study and according to Time magazine (link) the amount of wealth transferred is staggering. Here is an excerpt of that article. (Note that they are talking trillions of dollars, not just billions . . . thousands of billions!)

“This is not some back-of-the-napkin approximation. According to a groundbreaking new working paper by Carter C. Price and Kathryn Edwards of the RAND Corporation, had the more equitable income distributions of the three decades following World War II (1945 through 1974) merely held steady, the aggregate annual income of Americans earning below the 90th percentile would have been $2.5 trillion higher in the year 2018 alone. That is an amount equal to nearly 12 percent of GDP—enough to more than double median income—enough to pay every single working American in the bottom nine deciles an additional $1,144 a month. Every month. Every single year.

“Price and Edwards calculate that the cumulative tab for our four-decade-long experiment in radical inequality had grown to over $47 trillion from 1975 through 2018. At a recent pace of about $2.5 trillion a year, that number we estimate crossed the $50 trillion mark by early 2020. That’s $50 trillion that would have gone into the paychecks of working Americans had inequality held constant—$50 trillion that would have built a far larger and more prosperous economy—$50 trillion that would have enabled the vast majority of Americans to enter this pandemic far more healthy, resilient, and financially secure.”

They have stolen enough money that had it flowed instead to the rest of us, it would have been “enough to more than double median income—enough to pay every single working American in the bottom nine deciles an additional $1,144 a month. Every month. Every single year.” That’s the bottom 90% of U.S. society were talking about, including you and me.

These are the same people who are against regulation of the markets . . . unless they are doing the manipulating themselves. Against all kinds of other things . . . for other people, but okay for themselves.

Wake up people, your house is being robbed . . . right now. Wake up and stop the robbery. They are stealing your retirement. They are stealing your kid’s futures. It doesn’t have to be this way.

The Time article’s bottom line? “We chose to cut taxes on billionaires and to deregulate the financial industry. We chose to allow CEOs to manipulate share prices through stock buybacks, and to lavishly reward themselves with the proceeds. We chose to permit giant corporations, through mergers and acquisitions, to accumulate the vast monopoly power necessary to dictate both prices charged and wages paid. We chose to erode the minimum wage and the overtime threshold and the bargaining power of labor. For four decades, we chose to elect political leaders who put the material interests of the rich and powerful above those of the American people.”

Actually the governmental representatives they bought did this all for them. We didn’t choose those things. We are only allowed to chose candidates that they have already bought. They did this, the filthy rich did this.

September 9, 2020

Trickle Down Economics . . . and What to Do About It

I begin with an interesting quote:

Williams Jennings Bryan said: “There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.”

He said this in 1896. Eighteen effing ninety-six!

Trickle down economics was not a new invention during the Reagan presidency, it is the tried and true instrument of the rich to retain and expand their wealth and also, they believe, their status in society.

We are in yet another Gilded Age of wealth accumulation. The filthy rich have bought the courts, the governments, and the news media and now those instruments of our society only bleat what they are told to bleat. And what they bleat is support for the position of the plutocrats, the wealthy elites.

Those elites have sold the idea that how much wealth you have is a measure of your social status, your worth as a person, so much so that religions have cropped up to support just that, e.g. featuring prosperity gospel preachers of the like of Joel Osteen and the perfectly named Creflo Dollar.

If we are to ever have a chance at real democracy, on in which “you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it,” then we need to take action. One thing under our control is to socially ostracize the very wealthy.

Is there any good reason that Jeff Bezos should have $200+ billion dollars of wealth? Could that degree of wealth be accumulated without the rules being bent to allow it? Think about this. If Mr. Bezos were to give you one billion dollars . . . if . . . if you could spend it in one calendar year, do you think you could do it? To do this, you would have to spend an average amount per hour of every eight-hour day, five days a week, fifty weeks in that year. (You’d get two weeks vacation, after all what good is being rich if you don’t get to enjoy it?) Do you know what that amount would be? It is $532,000 per hour! Think about how hard you’d have to work to spend just $532,000! Sure, you could go out and buy a house. So, now you have a house and you need to spend 532,000 more dollars in the next hour, and the next, and the next.

And Mr. Bezos has accumulated over two hundred billion dollars for himself.

Do you think Mr. Bezos thinks this is enough, that from now on he will take whatever he earns and share it with all of the Amazon workers who work so hard under trying conditions? Gratitude is important, right? Plus Mr. Bezos could spend $532,000 per hour of every working day for the next 200 years and not spend all of his accumulated wealth . . . not making one more penny.

Do you think he thinks enough is enough? No?

I do not, either.

Start the shame campaign. Impugn the patriotism of the uber-rich. Impugn their commitment to democracy. Shame them for their Greed. Unleash the Lash of the Mortal Sin of Greed upon their backsides.

Being wealthy is fine. Being filthy rich no longer is. Stop looking up to them, admiring them. Stop thinking of the Mitt Romneys and Donald Trumps of the world as “self-made men” when their fathers gave them millions of dollars of seed money. (I worked almost forty years as a college professor and earned about two million dollars of salary. Donald Trump was given five million dollars to “get started.”)

Repeat after me: Boo! Hiss! Every time one of the uber-rich appears in public, let them know their true social status: as greedy bastards who will grind armies of ordinary people under their heels to make themselves richer than Croesus.

Need Ammunition?
So, Bill Gates is a nice guy, right? Personally I think this is correct. Professionally not so much. Consider all of the lawsuits over shady business practices that Microsoft lost. The Internet Explorer scandals. The European anti-trust prosecutions, in essence, etc.

Jeff Bezos created and owns a large part of Amazon.com and all of its spin-offs. Amazon has been running commercials lately, highlighting employees who think working for Amazon is just swell. Have you seen these?

Have you seen similar commercials for Costco? No? That’s because they don’t exist. All you need to know what working for Costco is like you can see on the badges of its workers. many say “Employee since 1997,” others show 10 and five years served. People don’t stay with an employer unless they are treated . . . and paid . . . fairly. Costco has a reputation of being a good, even a very good employer. People stay with them. (And no, they are not perfect, just good.)

Amazon runs commercials to offset the bad press they have gotten from mal-treated and disgruntled employees. You, know, for canceling the health insurance of part-time employees at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, things like that. The amount of money saved doing that to be put in Jeff Bezo’s pocket wouldn’t make a rounding error in his net worth. That’s how Mr. Bezos thinks wealth is created.

Do your research. Every time you feel yourself slipping into admiration for a very wealthy plutocrat, do some research and find out how they got all of that money. If they appear on a radio show, call in and tell them what you really think. If they appear on a TV show, change channels, so their ratings will go down. If a local news program shows a gushing puff piece for one of these bastards, call in and give them a piece of your mind.

I hope that booking an uber-rich asshole in the future will be about as popular as booking an avowed racist is now. Make ‘em bleed.

August 23, 2020

Have You Been Listening/Reading/Hearing?

Filed under: Culture,History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:46 am
Tags: , , ,

One of the core messages of this site is that civilization was built upon the backs of the masses. The elites coerced the labor of the masses and confiscated their “excess labor” (what they could produce minus the bare minium to keep the “slave” alive). The confiscated/taxed labor allowed the religious and secular elites the liberty to do what they did.

Now some claim that all of art, music, and high architecture, even science are the products of the leisure time bought through “civilization.” My point is that people were not asked whether they wanted to contribute to that effort and are still not asked (Has Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos asked you what you would like them to do with all of your money confiscated in excess of what they needed to live bloody well on?). One of the products the elites have created, possibly more than any other, is war. Do we ignore that and just thank the massahs for all of the art in the museums, and the grand buildings (pyramids, etc.), and science and such?

Here are some quotes I think you we see now slightly differently from before:

From “The Mud-sill Theory” speech by South Carolina Senator James Henry Hammond, given before the Senate in 1858:
In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. . . a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill. . . . Such a class you must have, or you would not have that other class which leads progress, civilization, and refinement. It constitutes the very mud-sill of society of society and of political government; and you might as well attempt to build a house in the air, as to build either the one or the other, except on this mud-sill. Fortunately for the South, she found a race adapted to that purpose to her hand. A race inferior to her own, but eminently qualified in temper, in vigor, in docility, in capacity to stand the climate, to answer all her purposes. We use them for our purpose, and call them slaves.

This is the “better them than us” attitude later fostered by the elites to get southern whites to put on a uniform and fight those damned Yankees. I generally refer to this as the Law of the Totem Pole: “You can’t be sure you are not on the bottom unless you are standing upon someone else.”

* * *

And there was William Wilberforce, as sincere a philanthropist as Anglicanism ever produced, an ardent supporter of Bible societies and foreign missions, a champion of the anti-slavery movement, and also of the ruthless “Combination Laws,” which denied to British wage-slaves all chance of bettering their lot. Wilberforce published a “Practical View of the System of Christianity,” (published 1897?) in which he told unblushingly what the Anglican establishment is for. In a chapter which he described as “the basis of all politics,” he explained that the purpose of religion is to remind the poor:

That their more lowly path has been allotted to them by the hand of God; that it is their part faithfully to discharge its duties, and contentedly to bear its inconveniences; that the objects about which worldly men conflict so eagerly are not worth the contest; that the peace of mind, which Religion offers indiscriminately to all ranks, affords more true satisfaction than all the expensive pleasures which are beyond the poor man’s reach; that in this view the poor have the advantage; that if their superiors enjoy more abundant comforts, they are also exposed to many temptations from which the inferior classes are happily exempted; that, “having food and raiment, they should be therewith content,” since their situation in life, with all its evils, is better than they have deserved at the hand of God; and finally, that all human distinctions will soon be done away, and the true followers of Christ will all, as children of the same Father, be alike admitted to the possession of the same heavenly inheritance. Such are the blessed effects of Christianity on the temporal well-being of political communities.)

Source: Sinclair, Upton. The Profits of Religion: An Essay in Economic Interpretation (p. 33).

In this same source we hear from another pious person:

Hannah More bade them be happy because God had sent them her pious self. “In suffering by the scarcity, you have but shared in the common lot, with the pleasure of knowing the advantage you have had over many villages in your having suffered no scarcity of religious instruction.” And in another place she explained that the famine was caused by God to teach the poor to be grateful to the rich! “Let me remind you that probably that very scarcity has been permitted by an all-wise and gracious Providence to unite all ranks of people together, to show the poor how immediately they are dependent upon the rich, and to show both rich and poor that they are all dependent upon Himself. It has also enabled you to see more clearly the advantages you derive from the government and constitution of this country—to observe the benefits flowing from the distinction of rank and fortune, which has enabled the high to so liberally assist the low.

And if you do not think the religious elites were acting hand in hand with the secular elites yet, how about (from the same source):

In the year 1819 an act of Parliament was proposed limiting the labor of children nine years of age to fourteen hours a day. This would seem to have been a reasonable provision, likely to have won the approval of Christ; yet the bill was violently opposed by Christian employers, backed by Christian clergymen. It was interfering with freedom of contract, and therefore with the will of Providence; it was anathema to an established Church, whose function was in 1819, as it is in 1918, and was in 1918 B.C., to teach the divine origin and sanction of the prevailing economic order.

And as to labor unions! From the same source:

Let me quote another member of the English ruling classes, Mr. Conrad Noel, who gives “an instance, of the procedure of Church and State about this period (late 19th century)”:

In 1832 six agricultural labourers in South Dorsetshire, led by one of their class, George Loveless, in receipt of 9s. a week each, demanded the 10s. rate of wages usual in the neighbourhood. The result was a reduction to 8s. An appeal was made to the chairman of the local bench, who decided that they must work for whatever their masters chose to pay them. The parson, who had at first promised his help, now turned against them, and the masters promptly reduced the wage to 7s., with a threat of further reduction. Loveless then formed an agricultural union, for which all seven were arrested, treated as convicts, and committed to the assizes. The prison chaplain tried to bully them into submission. The judge determined to convict them, and directed that they should be tried for mutiny under an act of George III, specially passed to deal with the naval mutiny at the Nore. The grand jury were landowners, and the petty jury were farmers; both judge and jury were churchmen of the prevailing type. The judge summed up as follows: “Not for anything that you have done, or that I can prove that you intend to do, but for an example to others I consider it my duty to pass the sentence of seven years’ penal transportation across His Majesty’s high seas upon each and every one of you.”

You want evidence? I got evidence.

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