Monday, February 28, 2022

War as Politics

As we all have seen by now, all hell has broken loose in Ukraine and the Russian invasion has commenced. I’m not going to be one that analyzes all the war activity… there are too many others that will do this far better than I.

I’m more inclined to look into the political aspects of it here at home. The thing about war is that it becomes a huge political weapon, even in the countries that aren’t in the line of fire, especially in the current political, zero-sum, fight for power. I’m watching the Radical Right jump all over this because as it’s been pointed out, yesterday’s armchair epidemiologist is today’s geopolitical scientist. So let’s pull apart some of the things I found over the weekend.

I wonder, are people killed by COVID any less dead than those blown to bits? Both are nasty ways to die, it’s just that one is less dramatic. Yes, even under siege, COVID could still be an issue. That’s the thing about viruses. They don’t care about what else is going on, they just keep spreading to whomever possible.

As bad as it sucks dying of COVID in a hospital, it’s got to be worse someplace without even basic medical care. I mean, “My kingdom for a Tylenol,” right? So why tempt fate? Vax and mask status is a legitimate factor.

In fact, it could be a masterstroke of evil from Putin. For all we know, he could have sent infected Russian nationalists down into the crowded areas for the sole purpose of spreading COVID. That’s the kind of sneaky shit the KGB was known for. How demoralizing would it be to survive an armored onslaught, just to succumb to a virus? Vlad wants the real estate; he doesn’t give a shit about the people.

Then there are the people desperate to blame the invasion on Biden, and [stifling a laugh] think TFG would have prevented it.

Seriously? There would have been no need for the Russians to invade because TFG would have rolled out the red carpet for them. He was under Putin’s thumb from Day One.

Who held up arms sales to Ukraine via extortion? Trump.

Who lifted the US sanctions on Russia for invading and annexing Crimea? Trump.

Who praises Putin at every turn, even praising his smarts regarding his invasion? Trump.

Who pulled US troops out of European bases? Trump.

Who wanted to pull out of NATO? Trump.

Who is the only president to meet with the Russian leader with no witnesses and no transcripts? Trump.

Who backed up Putin’s take election meddling, taking his side over that of the entire apparatus of US Intelligence? Trump.

Who abandoned a leadership role on the world stage and left it to the French and Germans? Trump.

Who probably agrees with Bluto and thinks the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Trump.

Who stood up to Putin at least one time? Not Trump. Not ever.

Name one foreign policy maneuver from his term that didn’t benefit Russia? Every move he made was to Russia’s advantage, one way or another, right down to downplaying the coronavirus. Anything that has Americans fighting each other is just fine with Putin.

In fact, I’m sure Trump envies his audacity and wishes he could send our troops up to Canada to defend the Trucker blockade. TFG would be zero deterrent to Vlad’s plans. Putin owns him lock, stock, and barrel. Anyone who thinks otherwise is massively uninformed, either willfully or otherwise.

Is Biden banning or burning books? No, Republicans are.

Is Biden forcing women to give birth against their will? No, Republicans are.

Is Biden coming after the free use of contraception? No, Republicans are doing that.

Is Biden erecting barriers to free elections? That’s the Republicans again, creating legislative powers that allow them to overturn election results as they see fit.

Is Biden running companies that are using this opportunity to jack up prices while simultaneously coming off a period of huge profits and executive pay hikes? No, that’s the modern Republican businessman, price-gouging for profit and power, knowing that their actions will be blamed on a convenient political scapegoat.

Is Biden letting the Russian invasion carry on without repercussion? Nope, he’s levying and supporting the strictest sanctions ever placed on Russia, which is working like a charm. The ruble isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Their economy is collapsing and the oligarchs are pissed. People are even protesting in the streets, a true rarity in Putin’s Russia. It’s Republicans like TFG and Tucker C. who are praising Putin’s tactics and wondering why we don’t support the invaders.

And while we’re at it, talking about fragile feelings…

Who is campaigning on removing accurate portions of the history curriculum so that it doesn’t upset little white kids? Racists… I mean, Republicans.

Who is trying to bring back Jim Crow laws and apply them to gays? Homophobes… I mean, Republicans.

Who is pitching a fit about rules created to prevent mass casualties, using proven scientific methods? Republicans, who would rather die than admit they’re wrong.

They whine about minor inconveniences being an assault on their “freedom,” while real patriots in Ukraine bear the true assaults on freedom.

If people are genuinely feeling an assault on their “family, finance, and freedom,” they need to look beyond Fox “News” and the GOP troll farms for valid answers.

Side note: They also like to use this war as an excuse to keep their home arsenal intact, ignoring the geographical reality of Russia and Europe. There, countries are stacked up right beside each other, with multiple borders to defend, where we have only two neighbors, both of whom are allies. If either of them ever amassed their armies along our borders the way Russia did, we’d know in an instant and they’d be bombed out of existence minutes later. Anyone coming en masse from across the ocean, we’d see them too and the military would be all over it. There is no need for armed the kind of armed civilian resistance these yahoos are salivating over thinking they’d execute. “Red Dawn” was not actually a documentary.

They’re still trying to tag Biden with the price of gas. So as a public service, here’s a little primer on gasoline:

You know, gas spiked under GW Bush (of the Bush Oil Dynasty) too. But never heard a peep about it coming from the right.

As for the crack about the 2AM vote count, that’s what happens when Republican-controlled states ban counting the votes in advance… the states have to work into the night, where, brace yourself, results are tallied. Sometimes you like them, sometimes you don’t. It doesn’t mean they’re not legit. And if you think you know something, put up or shut up. Show the proof. So far, every single lawsuit alleging democrat-driven voter fraud has been laughed out of court, by judges appointed by both parties.

There will also be delays when you have mobs of people hindering the counting, under the guise of “supervising.”

The bullshit about voter fraud is now and always was, a nothing-burger. The fact that this stuff is still being trotted out is really an indictment of how little they have to complain about. I guarantee that if all the results were posted before 11:00 PM, they’d say that it was rushed, or the count was predetermined.

It doesn’t matter what happens; Republicans will find fault and blame Democrats. They don’t actually create their own policy points, all they have left is a race to claim victimhood. 

Monday, February 21, 2022

War, Assault Trucks, Inflation, and Justice

Well, it looks like the Dogs of War are barking up a storm. The morning and afternoon news was all about how we now expect Russia to invade and not only engage with the Ukrainian military but move against civilians, especially those who they deem as likely to resist Russian occupation. They’re expecting abductions, assassinations, detentions, and the like. So how’s your 2022 going?

Here’s one angle I haven’t heard covered yet, regarding the reasons for Vlad’s insistence in pursuing this universally decried aggression. I think it could be more election manipulation.

If they can make the US look bad or ineffectual, he knows the right will put the blame squarely on President Biden. Those who don’t follow the details are likely to agree, given the hue and cry they’ll see coming from the Right. Maybe this is a way to get another Russian-friendly stooge in office, to eliminate the largest and most effective source of resistance. Maybe it’s the former stooge again; maybe it’s another devoted MAGA.

They’ve already spent a great deal of time and resources engineering the 2016 election, why not try another tactic? This way he reclaims old Soviet territory and neuters his opponent at the same time, killing two birds with one tank.

Asked and Answered

Answer: Just as soon as there’s no more regulation on trucks regarding their speed, loading limits, driver qualifications, and requirements. I’m sure the NRA can let them borrow some legal language to pursue to convince the courts that driving a truck anywhere at any time is somehow a Constitutional right. If more people start getting killed by trucks, that’s just the price of freedom.

Misplaced Nostalgia

And I could really go for accurate information once in a while. Can conservatives ever make a catchy meme that isn’t skewed, invalid, or just plain wrong?

·        Gas was $1.87 because there was a pandemic sweeping the nation and people staying home and not driving. It was simple supply and demand. The demand was torpedoed. When that happens, prices fall. Is it really worth hundreds of thousands of deaths so that you can have cheap gas?

·        Inflation comes with the cost of a recovering economy. And it wouldn’t be nearly this bad if corporate America wasn’t vested in keeping things expensive. All the large corporations are posting record profits, all the while raising prices due to “inflation.” Inflation of their bonuses, maybe. (And I think this is also a backdoor way of getting more Republicans elected. If the 1% can keep the “inflation” talk coming, they’ll see some more sympathetic congressmen elected this fall and maybe a president further down the road. They know Democrats have a target on their massive profits to target for taxes, you know, so the lower and middle classes might enjoy a slight respite from carrying the country’s financial load for the last 20 years.

·        I think the panic about empty shelves is overblown. I’ve been out shopping several times in the last months and there have been no bare shelves to be seen. Occasionally a store is out of one thing or another, but that’s no different than any time prior. Maybe Baltimore is just an oasis in the vast food desert but I doubt it. It’s supposed to be a pit of death and destruction, isn’t it? That’s what Tucker keeps saying. Yet our shelves are full. This is another Republican gambit to maintain the image of general mayhem and catastrophe, to use for electioneering.

·        Fuck your alibis for “mean tweets.” This is coming from people who want to change history because it might make little white kids sad. Presidents are supposed to model uplifting behavior, not sling slurs at people they deem “less than,” for whatever reason. The party of “Fuck Your Feelings” is only talking about other people’s feelings, not their own. Those are sacrosanct.

Lock Them Up

The heat is really getting turned up on The Former Family (TFF). Now he’s trying to pull the same shit he used to with the Mueller investigation back then and that Maryland’s State Prosecutor is right now, which is claiming innocence because the prosecutors have an agenda. I’ll say again, if you don’t commit a crime or cheat on loans, land deals, and taxes, there’s nothing to find. But they have reams of evidence on paper. They have all the proof they need right now. I can only suppose they’re not charging yet because there’s still so much more to add to it.

Of course, none of this makes a difference to the MAGA crowd. It’s only a crime when a Democrat does it, especially Hillary.

They’re all for locking their political opponents up or even giving them the death penalty but expect their people to get away with anything and everything. They storm the Capitol, kill and injure cops, destroy the facilities, and they’re all martyrs because they were held accountable.

Modern conservatives literally stand for nothing, except “Me first.”

Bite This

The Olympics has finally come to an end. I, for one, enjoyed watching. I think the winter games seem so exotic. I’d tell you what I think about them but I basically said everything in 2018 that I would say now. But I’ll repeat one part because it still pisses me off.

“One thing that always bugs me: the way photographers badger gold medal winners into posing while biting their medal. Can we please stop this? It's as pointless as it is trite. These aren't 1800s gold prospectors, they're elite athletes. And curlers. If I was a gold medalist, I'd shut that shit down in a hurry. They'd be like, "Hey, bite the medal." And I'd be like, "Hey, bite my ass, you no-talent hack! Why don't you go somewhere and grow an original thought?

More Dad Stories

For some reason, my dad had a thing about wearing glasses. Granted, for most of his life, he didn’t need them. He was proud of his eagle-eyed vision. But age takes no prisoners. Once he hit his 70s, it was obvious to all that he needed glasses. He’d always say his eyesight was fine, he just had a problem in dim light. But he wouldn’t wear glasses then either.

Eventually, I hear, he lowered himself to wearing non-prescription “cheaters,” from the drug store. But never in front of anyone but Mom.

All that was fine and good, but when it’s time to renew one’s driver’s license, it gets real. But Dad found a way to weasel out of that too. When it was his turn to go for the eye test, he just repeated the series of letters he heard the guy in front of him say. Worked like a charm.

How he managed that with his bad hearing is still a mystery.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Homeless Thoughts - The Outraged Edition

 It looks like they’ve finally wrapped up the Canadian “Truckers” blockade that was sealing off our border bridge. It’s about time. From all accounts, they were not gracious visitors.

But you wouldn’t know it judging from conservative memes. They were downright giddy about this action, which had Canadian truck drivers protesting Canada’s “draconian” COVID protocols. You know, like get your shots, wear your masks, and try not to spread the infection to everyone you meet as you drive across the country. I saw lots of things like this:

It’s funny how the people I saw posting this stuff were the same people who were having aneurysms over BLM protests. Those people (who were protesting getting killed in police custody for minor offenses) were just a bunch of lawless criminals, with no right to block traffic.

Gee, I wonder what the difference is between the two groups of protesters. I just wonder…

More Outrage

The same person that posted the first pic above also posted this:

I’d hate to break it to him but as usual, there’s a simple answer to his issue. There is more Rogan outrage because Ghislaine Maxwell has been tried, convicted, and is in jail for the foreseeable future. And the principal offender in this case? He’s stone-dead. So there’s not much left to be outraged about, is there? Everything’s handled.

I’m perfectly happy for the government to investigate all passengers on the Epstein Shuttle and let it go wherever it goes. But I’m pretty sure the MAGAs are going to want to stop the presses when the investigation rolls into Mar-a-Lago, to follow up on at least a dozen pictures of TFG with Jeffrey and Ghislaine.

The Rogan thing is still unfolding and looking increasingly serious after a video compilation surfaced of old Joe’s looseness with a certain word that starts with “N.” And then just as suddenly, a whole slew of his podcasts have just “disappeared.”

Have you noticed how no one is putting forth that the video was doctored and he didn’t really say all those things? It’s funny how the “smoking gun” videos proffered by Republicans always turn out to be selectively edited, stripped of context, or otherwise doctored into something other than the truth. I haven’t seen anything analogous from the Dems. They seem to keep coming up with the real deal. That’s what happens when one side deals in reality and the other has to create an environment of its own liking, just to keep their Ponzi Scheme ideology intact.

Even More Outrage

Thank you, Republican National Committee, for creating the phrase “Legitimate Political Discourse,” to describe the events of 1/6/21. I love that this is coming from the Republican “establishment,” and not the usual wingnuts who can be written off as the lunatic fringe. This came from the mainstream GOP.

Now it becomes the Democrats’ job to make them wear this around their necks until November. Every candidate should have a commercial asking if storming the Capitol, ransacking the offices, and assaulting and killing police officers in an attempt to overturn a valid-by-every-legal-standard election, counts as “legitimate political discourse.” They should run pictures like this constantly:

Republicans need to be shown as the party of political extremists trying to seize power by any means necessary, which is most certainly NOT the “American Way.” We do not stage coups in America and that’s exactly what the riot on 1/6 was.

Local Outrage

Back in 2019, when Chicago elected Lori Lightfoot as their first Black female mayor, I wrote a post with words of caution that merely checking statistical boxes for race, gender, and sexual orientation did not guarantee clean, effective leadership. I pointed out that Baltimore’s last three mayors had been Black women and all three left office under a cloud or an indictment. Now there’s another local scandal, this time involving our State’s Attorney, Marilyn Mosby.

If you’ve heard of her, it’s probably because she took center stage in prosecuting the cops in the Freddie Gray case, the one that caused days of riots here in Baltimore.

Well, it seems she filed a request to withdraw money from her 401k without penalty, as allowed as small business relief to compensate for losses due to COVID. The problem was that she had no business and her career income hadn’t suffered in the least. In fact, she was awarded a $10,000 raise on her annual salary.

She did have two businesses set up but it was on paper only. There were no actual businesses there to lose money. No building, no payroll, no service, no staff, no nothing. So there were no losses there to be a basis of compensation. That’s illegal. There are also issues with fraudulent statements on her loan application.

When all this came to light, she went right to the typical excuses of the day, that this was a political witch hunt from her enemies, and that she was innocent of all charges.

But the thing is, the Feds don’t bring charges like this unless they have you dead to rights. No doubt they’ve seen her paperwork claiming financial hardship. They know she withdrew the money and what she spent it on. (Property in Florida.)

So it’s true that her prosecution might very well be executed by political enemies, of which she made a lot. Prosecuting the Freddie Gray cops was a big part of it. And she also made public that there was a list of Baltimore cops that her staff could not use to testify in court because they were considered unreliable witnesses, due to investigations into their professional misbehavior.

She’s also decreed that her department would not be prosecuting cases of marijuana possession and wanted police to direct their effort to harder drugs and violent crime.

Now, I’m all for all of those things, but the police department is NOT on her side.

She’s also married to a guy who became City Council President, meaning she wields outsized influence over city government.

But the mere fact that her enemies are after her doesn’t mean she’s not guilty. If she’s so worried about people gunning for her, then why on earth hand them something so easily provable, right there on a silver platter? If people are trying to take you down, keep your nose clean! Is that really so difficult?

I swear, I’m amazed by the degree to which politicians think they can hide things. This stuff always comes out, eventually.

More Local Outrage

I enjoyed watching the Super Bowl last night and was looking forward to the analysis in this morning’s paper. But alas, there was none. The game ended too late to make the morning paper.

When they say newspapers are dying, it seems to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. The game was over by 10:00 PM (Eastern), so it’s not like it went into the wee hours. They should have held space for what they knew would be a big story with high interest and provided at least cursory coverage. Sure, they refer readers to their website, but if I wanted to go there, I wouldn’t have a paper delivered in the first place. It’s like they’re just begging me to cancel my subscription.

Note from the Next Day: Tuesday morning's paper featured one local opinion piece on the Rams' coach and an AP piece on how they built their team this year. Not a word about the actual game.

While I didn’t have a dog in this Super Bowl fight, I was rooting for the Rams. There were a couple of reasons:

·        Cooper Kupp was very good to me in fantasy football this year. So was Matthew Stafford, to a lesser degree.

·        I’m a Steelers fan and I'll never root for division rivals.

·        And even more pointedly, I will never root for any team whose fans have threatened, harassed, or attacked me when I’ve been in their stadium. (Basically just for being there, wearing the visiting team’s jersey.) I never want to see their fans be happy. I want them to question their self-worth constantly.

Natural Segue into a Dad Story

I totally get it from my Dad. Back when I was a kid, sometimes the Browns and Bengals would be playing each other and neither team winning would provide an advantage to the Steelers. I’d ask Dad who he’s rooting for and he’d say, “I’m rooting for a 0-0 tie with lots of career-ending injuries.”

I’m pretty sure he was kidding but it taught me to take division play seriously.

Monday, February 7, 2022

What Happened to Retail?

While going through Infidel753’s Sunday Link Roundup, I came across an interesting post about the declining future of brick-and-mortar retail. It posits that while COVID hasn’t done it any favors, the decline has been in effect for years now.

Anyone who lives near what used to be a mall can attest that physical stores are going away fast. The main culprit is, indeed, online shopping. COVID is just piling on.

While far from perfect, it’s hard to beat the vast selection of whatever you want, delivered to you within days, or sometimes even same-day (if you live in a market with an Amazon warehouse.)

When you look at what people want out of a retail outlet, it comes down to these main things:

·        Wide selection of items in stock

·        Helpful and available clerks

·        Low prices

These “wants” are why brick and mortar is fading. All three can no longer be had at the same time.

To have a wide selection you need room for it, or in other words, a large showroom. Retail real estate is expensive. You also have to front the money to buy the additional stock to sell.

To attract reliable, intelligent, personable clerks, you need to pay a living (or at least significantly above minimum) wage. You should also provide health insurance and benefits if you want serious, career-minded people. Multiply all that by the number of clerks you need.

Both of these two things raise costs considerably. To be able to turn a profit, prices have to rise accordingly, which is counter to charging low prices. Unless the owner is willing to take losses, (and what business owner would be?) you simply can’t have all three.*

*I suppose there could be a business where the product is dirt cheap to create and the demand is such that high prices are supported, but there aren’t many. How many iPhone stores can a market tolerate?

Add to that the convenience, low cost, and increasing reliability of online shopping and you see why it’s pulling people out of stores.

To run an online business, all the money goes into the nuts and bolts. You get your website set up, which is primarily a one-time outlay (aside from maintenance and security updates) you have your warehouse space, which is cheaper than retail space, buy your stock, and then have a minimal crew to stock the shelves and pack the boxes.

I, for one, leapt at the chance to avoid going out to shop and buy stuff from my computer in my jammies. I pretty much buy everything but groceries online and have since the mid-2000s. That probably has more to do with my own anti-social tendencies than anything, but it works for me.

To me, the real tragedy is that there’s a whole employment sector that was there when I was young that has since disappeared. Where are young people supposed to get jobs now, with a whole industry that relied on them is just gone? Grownups all say, “Get a job! Don’t be a slacker. Don’t take handouts,” etc. But where? Doing what? Malls are gone. Movie theaters are on life support. Restaurants are struggling. All carry risks of getting themselves sick with COVID or being abused by jerks who don’t care about anyone but themselves.

Frankly, I’m surprised there are any brick and mortar establishments left at all.

I spent 12 years in record/CD retail, video rental, and several more working in a grocery store and at a gas station. It wasn’t much but it allowed me to pay for my own college education. With the way tuition has skyrocketed (and wages haven’t) doing that is pretty much impossible today. The only way to get oneself a college education, (short of being independently wealthy or having parents pay your way), is to get student loans, which end up as a never-ending albatross around people’s necks for the rest of their lives.

As much as people have always complained about retail stores, we’re really going to miss them when they’re gone.

Book’em Danno

Regarding the book burnings in Texas, Tennessee, and other repressed places, I have only this to say:

Here endeth the lesson.

More Dad Stories

My dad used to be an altar boy so, in light of all the modern priest/altar boy scandals,  I asked him if a priest ever did anything untoward with him.

Dad said there was one certain very old priest with whom all the altar boys had a problem.  Seems that when they would help him up out of his genuflect, he was known to pass some gas on them.  He said when you saw those robes billow, you knew you were in trouble.  Anyway, the altar boys policed this themselves by assigning the altar boy with the least seniority to this honor.