Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Not Excited: 2016 Elections

There's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip. ~ Old Proverb
In April 2007, Hillary Clinton led Democratic polls with 41% followed by Obama (20%) and John Edwards (12%).  She peaked in September 2007 at 53%. It wasn't until March 2008 that Obama was at the top.

Rudy Giuliani led Republicans in April 2007 at 35% followed by John McCain (22%) and Fred Thompson (10%). By June, Fred Thompson was leading the polls. In December it was Mike Huckabee at the top.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. ~ Even Older Proverb
While Hillary has an insurmountable lead she also has more than enough campaign flaws to give any political consultant chronic heartburn. She ranks high on the testiness scale, not at the Chris Christie level (he peaks the scale), but more along the lines of Rand Paul bitchiness.  She hires consultants who habitually burn through her cash like it was kindling at a wiener roast. Part of the reason she lost in 2008 is that she started running out of money in January. Then there is her luggage, including Bill and the dynasty meme. While much of it is Republican invention there is still enough luggage to give an elephant a hernia.
A donkey can haul only so much.
And the Republicans, if anything, have it worse.

The poll leader with a whopping 16.5% is Jeb Bush. Jeb may have more campaign money than God (Remember, Rudy was a fundraising god in 2007.) but his luggage dwarfs Hillary's (Can you give a continent a hernia?). His dynasty problems are worse than her's too with his idiot brother George tarnishing the very name "Bush." Yet Jeb is so far the only star in a very lackluster constellation.

Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum all give wackadoodles a bad name. Cruz would have to mellow out to be an anarchist while Paul is a mellowed out anarchist. Carson is just a grifter who is demanding appearance fees for his campaign speeches. Huckabee and Santorum both think the world has been going down hill since the 12th century and want to return to a time when heretics are burned at the stake like a loving Jesus intended.
They all make the British 'Monster Raving Loony Party' look sane.
And adding them all together they don't have enough experience to be president of the Rotary Club. Cruz and Paul have been in the Senate for two years and believe their massive talents are wasted there. Ben Carson has never bother to run for any elected post, even the Mayberry Town Council. Huckabee, Santorum, and Jeb Bush have all been unemployed for eight years, longer than my uncle Jasper, and are totally out of touch with the modern electorate.
At least Uncle Jasper understands the plight of urban and rural poverty.
Scott Walker is currently polling second (14%) but may have peaked too soon. People have taken a good hard look at him and noticed there is nothing there. Marco Rubio looks like a veteran compared to Cruz and Paul. He has four years in the Senate. But he inspires all the visceral excitement of a paint drying contest. Rubio's polls will probably peak during the next few weeks in the low teens. Chris Christie peaked years ago but has the rare talent to be equally hated by both Democrats and Republicans.

My much belabored point is that now is way to early to focus on the 2016 presidential race. Wake me six months from now when the grifter, wannabe, and just-wants-to-make-a-statement candidates have done a few preliminary jousts. No one will have dropped out yet and a few more may have entered. By October we'll have a sense of who's legit and what they think is important. There will still be plenty of time to get excited and/or panic over who's the frontrunner.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Playing Cop With Real Guns

You're rich and retired. You're bored and want some excitement in your life. And, let's be honest here, you love the tingling sensation you get in your loins when you strap deadly weapons to your waist. It's better than Viagra.

If you live in Tulsa, OK you're in luck because you can buy your way into the Sheriff's Department as a reserve officer. You might be 15 years past the mandatory retirement age but you're a volunteer so that doesn't matter. Your law enforcement experience might consist of one year a half century ago but you've had training so who needs experience.
Tulsa Sheriff Dept. role call (unconfirmed)
If you're lucky you can reach the rank of "advanced reserve" and buy all the life and death rights a full time officer has to earn. And if your unlucky you can accidentally shoot some poor smuck to death because you can't tell the difference between a taser
and a gun.
But, don't worry, your fellow officers will have your back.
Reserve Deputy Bates was a victim, a true victim, of slips and capture
That "slips and capture" reference is apparently a "real thing" where an inexperienced or panicking police officer is reaching for his taser and accidentally draws his gun. Allegedly, in the heat of the moment you can't remember where the taser is (on your left hip, idiot) and reflexively reach for the gun you have drawn thousands of times in front of the mirror while pretending to be Dirty Harry.

So while some evil nigger lies dying on the street your fellow officers will be comforting you, reminding you that these things happen all the time and it's no big deal, besides, you just saved the county the cost of a trial.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The Deadliest Months

There is a website, Killedbypolice.net, that goes through the effort of recording nearly every instance of police officers killing people on the streets and in the homes of the United States that has been reported through news media. It is a far more thorough reporting that what the U. S. Justice Department does.

According to the Justice Department, police kill some 400 Americans a year, but their data is tainted. They only collect data of "justifiable" killings, accidental or questionable killings are excluded. Also, most police agencies don't bother reporting at all. The actual number of Americans killed by police exceeds one thousand people per year. Police kill more Americans per year than Americans soldiers died during the worst year of Iraq War fighting (904 in 2007).

In 2014, American police killed at least 1100 people. On average, police kill someone in this country every seven hours. I took a look at two of the deadliest months.

In August, 2014 police kill 109 people. In March, 2015 police killed 115 citizens. Almost half were black or latino while over a third were white. For the remainder their race was other or listed as unknown.

The vast majority were shooting deaths. In one case a policeman killed a crew member for the TV show "Cops." Police fired 30 rounds towards a robbery suspect in Omaha, hitting both the suspect and the innocent. Nine people died from police using "non-lethal" tasers.

In most instances the only witnesses to these killings were either dead or cops. It is impossible to say how many of these shooting deaths were "righteous." As the now notorious case of the execution of Walter Scott shows, police shooters will spin outrageous yarns and, as the initial reporting of the killing shows, his fellow officers swallow those yarns without question. Prior to the video being made public there was no indication the shooting officer even faced a reprimand.  An excuse you'll find with rote frequency is "officers feared for their lives." While that is certainly, at times, true, the excuse is used so freely it has ceased to be believable.

Traffic accidents are also a frequent cause of deaths, I found eight cases of death by police driving cars. On two occasions the officers were off duty and driving drunk. One case in Hawaii is of an on duty officer suspected of alleged hit-and-run homicide.

One of the saddest, in terms both of heartbreaking and pathetic, is the case of the youngest person to die. On August 15, fifteen year old Austin Dukette was struck and killed while on his bicycle by a patrol car driven by Lee County (FL) Sheriff Deputy Douglas Hood. Allegedly, Deputy Hood was distracted by his laptop computer when he hit Austin. Rather than charge him with vehicular manslaughter, Cape Coral police gave him a ticket for a moving violation, "failure to maintain a proper lane." Deputy Hood fought the ticket in court and Circuit Judge Frank Porter (a Jeb Bush appointee for whatever that is worth) found Hood not guilty of even a traffic violation.

In March, five people were killed while in jail. After Gregory Smith died on March 30, the Lake County (IN) Sheriff Department issued a press release saying, "officers used the restraint techniques they are trained to use."

In August, two officers straight up murdered three people in two separate acts. On August 11, New York patrol officer Robert Mroczek shot and killed his estranged wife Pammi and her boyfriend. He committed suicide four days later. Atlanta police officer

Monday, April 06, 2015

Opening Day Stories

Baseball's Opening Day, when the season of renewal meets the sport of never ending Spring.

The Greatests
Ted Williams (l) was always ready to go from day one. He never failed to get at least one hit and batted .449 in his fourteen opening day games. Bob Feller (r) probably had the best single opening day in history. On April 16, 1940, Feller pitched the first of his three no-hitters. On opening day in 1974, Hank Aaron hit his 714th home run, tying Babe Ruth for the most in history.

Not So Greats
The New York Mets lost their opening day contests in each of their first eight years. They didn't record a win in a season's first game until 1970. They won the World Series before they won an opening day. 

My home team, the San Diego Padres, is the second worst team in baseball history (.462 win/loss percentage, slightly better than Tampa Bay) yet they won their first ever game. They beat the Houston Astros in 1969 using a lead-off batter, Rafael Robles, who hit .100 for the season. Their catcher (Chris Cannizzaro) and pitcher (Dick Selma) were both New York Met outcasts.

Absolute Worst
Ron Karkovice inherited the Chicago White Sox catching job when Carlton Fisk got too old to do a full season of squats. Ron wasn't much of a hitter (.221 career batting average) but on March 31, 1996 he hit bottom. Facing Randy Johnson in an opening day game, Ron struck out five times in five at bats. There is no record if he cried.

Play Ball!

Friday, April 03, 2015

Religion As a Story Pitch

This is the most religious weekend of the year with four major religions celebrating holy days. Easter for Christians, Passover for Jews, Hanuman Jayanti for Hindus, and it is the Buddhist New Year. What better time to get completely irreligious and look at religions from the point of view of pitching their stories to a publisher.

Judaism
A vast historic saga where the protagonists usually gets the crap beaten out of them.

Hinduism
A fantasy epic with shapeshifting gods, animals with super powers, and beings with multiple arms and heads.

Islam
The adventure story of a warrior monk on a mission of conquest.

Mormonism and Scientology
Science fiction tales with space alien gods ruling over distant planets.

Christianity
Snuff porn where you are made to care about the protagonist who is ultimately slowly tortured to death.
Christianity is the only story the publisher would reject.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Religious Odds and Ends

Brief thoughts passing through my busy mind....

Just Be Happy We're Not Stoning You
The biblically approved punishment for sodomites.
Sen. Tom Cotton, he of the 'See Spot Run' letter to Iran, thinks gays should not be complaining about the open discrimination they face in this country because it could be worse. He reassures gay Americans that, unlike in Iran, they are not being executed for their sexual sins in Arkansas. Yet.

Do You Know the Swim? You Better Learn Quick, Jim
The rapid retreat of Antarctica glaciers is moving up the the timing of the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet by decades. Of course, Florida is totally protected by the scientifically proven technique of sticking your fingers in your ears and making a loud humming sound. It's ironic that people who tout their devout belief in biblical prophecy are so deaf to modern day Noahs when they predict a destructive global flood.

'A Shameless Woman Shall Be Counted as a Dog' ~ Eccles: 26:25
When a female Wisconsin blogger had the impertinence to criticize police brutality a La Crosse Lutheran pastor had the calling to reproach her wickedness. He sent her an email attacking her evil lady parts ("fucking liberal cunt") and offering to gang rape her. Surprisingly, the First Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Lutheran synod did not recognize the pastoral nature of his email and the pastor had to resign. (Note: The pastor claims he didn't send the email but when police asked to see his computer to confirm that claim, the pastor refused.)

Being a Bigot Pays
The tiny Indiana pizzeria that proudly proclaimed its Christian duty to discriminate against gays has turned their bigotry into big bucks. Through crowd funding they have raised over $150,000. For perspective, the average pizza shop has about $60,000 in profits a year. There is more money in selling hate than selling pizza.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Haggen: How to Kill a Grocery Store

Haggen used to be a respected family owned chain of eighteen grocery stores in the Pacific Northwest. The family sold controlling interest to a private equity firm, Comvest Group, a few years back. Late last year, Haggen decided to rapidly expand, by 900%, buying 164 stores in a couple of months.

From a fiduciary point of view this is insanity and if I had money with Comvest I'd disinvest as quickly as possible. Groceries are low profit margin operations that require complex logistics. This kind of rapid expansion will blow up their logistical networks leading to massive losses that groceries can't sustain.

Additionally, they are buying up stores with no sense of planning. I know this because Haggen now owns the two largest stores near me, they are within a mile of each other and in direct competition with each other. The Haggen website does not list even one of the scores of stores they now operate in Southern California. I have not encountered any local advertising. It is as if Haggen doesn't care if the stores succeed or fail.

Why is Comvest Group doing this? I have two theories.

Theory One. They are trying to create neighborhood monopolies which they can then soak with inflated prices. Their shelf products are about 25% more expensive than other, smaller stores. Their produce prices are astronomical, orders of magnitude more expensive than a local farmer's market. 

Theory Two.  Comvest Group is sacrificing their investors capital to benefit Albertsons. Albertsons is buying Safeway (aka Vons). As a consequence, Albertsons and Vons are having to divest themselves of about 164 locations.  Albertsons, rather than closing the locations and writing off the losses, is selling the locations to Haggen. Since the Haggen business model is unsustainable most of those locations will have to close and Comvest investors will have to eat the losses.

I lean towards Theory Two. Normally, I don't care when private equity firms screw their investors, it's just millionaires fucking millionaires.  But, since both big grocery stores near me are now Haggens and filled with massively over priced products, their fucking is annoying me. On the other hand, I haven't seen my farmer's market this busy since the Southern California grocery strike of 2003.