Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Haggen: How to Kill a Grocery Store, Part 2

I wrote about this six months ago. Haggen, a small regional grocery chain, tried to nonuple its size by expanding from 18 to 164 stores almost overnight. At the time I described it as an insane, doomed to fail, enterprise. As predicted, Haggen is declaring bankruptcy and will close almost all the stores they had just bought.

What Happened
When Albertson's bought the Vons grocery chain the SEC ordered Albertson's to divest themselves of 146 stores to prevent them from having a non-competitive monopoly. Haggen bought the whole kit and caboodle for $1.4 billion and quickly converted the stores to their brand. Haggen's first impression was horrible. Their prices were shockingly high and their advertising almost non-existent. Customers, including me, stampeded to other stores. Haggen has been bleeding red ink for months, losing  over $400,000 a day by one estimate.

At the beginning of September Haggen filed for bankruptcy with plans to close 27 stores. By the end of the month they want to close another 100 stores.

Why? - Theory #1: Stupid as Shit
Comvest board meeting
Haggen is owned by a Florida private equity management firm, The Comvest Group, which had no experience in groceries let alone the competitive California market. They screwed up everything that could possibly be screwed up.
  • They didn't do any due diligence, they just bought everything Albertson's wanted to unload (i.e. all their under-performing stores).
  • They didn't do any market research. They set prices more on whim than on what is competitive for the region.
  • They didn't hold sales or advertise assuming, they like us in Spokane so they will love us in Los Angeles.
  • With bankruptcy they initially hoped to sell their stores for ten cents on the dollar but now admit there are no buyers out there.
  • And they naively relied on their competitor, Albertson's, to provide brotherly love and help them through the rough patches. Albertson's treated Haggen as the competition to be crushed into the dust.
Haggen is suing Albertson's. I've read the lawsuit and it's mostly complaints that Albertson's has been mean by holding sales, undercutting Haggen prices, and not stocking the stores with fresh food before leaving.

Why? - Theory #2: Crooked as Fuck
First, let me assure Comvest Group attorneys that I am not saying they did anything illegal. Crooked, yes. Illegal, no.

This theory suggest Haggen was trying to fail the business and that Comvest Group did what come naturally to private equity firms - fuck everybody for fun and profit. This theory suggests that Comvest bailed Albertson's out for future considerations. They would overpay for unwanted stores and run up a shit load of debt from suppliers, vendors, and employees. Stick the little people with the debt by filing for bankruptcy (from the Donald Trump School of Financial Fuckery). File a lawsuit so the settlement can distribute the financial booty equitably. And close the stores so Albertson's get the monopoly the SEC was trying to avoid. Also, by forcing thousands of unionized workers into unemployment this process has kneecapped the Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Win-win for the millionaires; lose-lose for everybody else.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Why Can't We Find Extraterrestrials?

The report of liquid water on Mars, and the increased probability that life will be found on the planet, reminded me of this old article hoping humans are alone in the universe because the alternative is too terrifying. The search of extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) has been going on for decades will no success. Why?

We're Too Dumb
There are intelligent creatures on Earth - apes, dolphins, elephants, ravens. While we can train them to understand us and even teach them languages so they can communicate with us, we have never been able to understand their languages. If we can't understand dolphinese in the wild how can we hope to understand an extraterrestrial. Evidence of extraterrestrials may be all around us but we are too stupid to recognize it. This is the most likely answer.

They Killed Themselves
This is the Great Filter theory mentioned by Nick Bostrom. Any civilization that achieves interstellar travel would have to be both aggressively expansionist and an aggressive user of resources. Aggressive species are, necessarily, warrior species. Like humanity, a dominate warrior species will likely develop weapons capable of destroying their planet's ecosystem. Likewise, rapacious consumption of resources can deplete the planet and collapse the civilization before space travel can be achieved.

Why Leave?
Civilizations that don't want to kill each other or rape their planet live in Nirvana. What would motivate them to venture into the vast emptiness of a hostile galaxy? If they are not seeking to pillage and conquer, why go anywhere?

God Zaps Them
The universe is a dangerous place. The other Great Filter barrier is the universe smites planets every few billion years. An advanced civilization might be able to defend itself from asteroids or super volcanoes, but there are things that no civilization can survive. Take Gamma Ray bursts. When a star goes supernova it releases a beam of gamma rays that, quite literally, will fry any planet in its path. Gamma rays travel at the speed of light, there is no seeing it coming. Estimates are they happened in the Milky Way some 5,000 times since the Earth was formed. It is suggested a gamma ray burst struck the Earth 450 million years ago causing a mass extinction.

Reptilian shape-shifting extraterrestrials are among us now and Barack Obama is their king.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ben Carson's Religion

Carson's obsession with Islam makes his own religion fair game. The only thing most people know about it is that they consider Saturday to be their holy day. But there is much more.

Seventh-day Adventist - Beginning
His faith is one of those American religious inventions like Mormonism and Jehovah's Witness. It developed in the mid-19th century out of the Millerite Movement where William Miller predicted the Second Coming on Oct. 22, 1844. When it didn't happen (the Great Disappointment) the Millerites splintered. One faction decided that Jesus had in fact returned on that date just not to Earth but to the heavenly sanctuary.
What religion will grow from our latest Disappointment?

It's sorta like Jesus had taken a really long vacation. I guess getting crucified really takes it out of a god. Anyhow, Jesus came back ready to work as Perry Mason in the ultimate courtroom procedural.

Investigative Judgment
A major tenet is that everyone who ever lived has a book. Since 1844 there has been a court trial with Satan prosecuting and Jesus defending. Everything is examined. This was only supposed to take a few years but apparently there have been more motions, evidence, and witnesses than expected, so we are in the second century of trials and the court backlog is only getting bigger.

I don't care if Carson is a doctor, he is still a scientific idiot. Adventists are Young Earth creationists. They believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old, that it was created in six literal days, and that dinosaurs and humans coexisted.
Adventists are health nuts, over a third are vegetarians. They also hate masturbation, believing it pollutes both body and soul. These views famously merged in the person of John Kellogg who invented a new category of foods, including Corn Flakes and Grapenuts, to keep people's bowels moving and right hand still.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Presidential Candidates: Historic Parallels (Dems)

This is more difficult for me than doing Republicans. I like Democrats but my general snarkiness may not show that.

Hillary Clinton
Hillary is Bill and Bill is Hillary. Both are mostly great progressives. Both have too many ties to the industrial part of the military-industrial complex. And both are surgically attacked to Wall Street hedge fundies and bankers.

Bernie Sanders
In the early years of the 20th century, Eugene Debs ran for President four times on the Socialist Party ticket. He was beloved by workers and violently hated by wealthy industrialists and bankers. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson had Debs arrested for sedition. His crime? He was accused of opposing World War I and criticizing President Wilson. (Were these still crimes I'd be in prison today.)

He was sentenced to ten years in prison for being an opposition politician. In 1920, he ran for President from his prison cell. The government banned him from appearing on the ballot but he still got over 900,000 votes as a write-in candidate.

Joe Biden
Joe reminds me of Martin Van Buren. He was universally regarded as a nice guy. He was Vice-President to Andrew Jackson and ran for President in 1836 to carry on the policies of his predecessor. Martin was a rather poor public speaker and something of a nebbish. He served only one term.

Martin O'Malley
That is Denali (nee Mount McKinley). William McKinley was an Irish-American and favored military adventurism; so is O'Malley. Unlike McKinley, O'Malley is not cozy with big bankers and not a vile racist.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Presidential Candidates: Historic Parallels

Who in history do the Republican candidates remind me of?

Donald Trump
Donald is a three-headed viper. He has the intellect of Warren Harding(l), universally regarded as the dumbest man to ever sit in the Oval Office. Like Trump, Harding was a womanizer, at least Trump marries some of his flings. Harding used illegal substances while in office - he was a drunk during Prohibition. Watching Trump, it is easy to believe he does a couple lines of cocaine before going on stage.

In the middle is Huey Long, the Kingfisher. Populist popinjay, Long campaigned on a platform of soaking the rich with a folksy persona that appealed to a certain type of voter.
Hain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And hain't that a big enough majority in any town? ~ Mark Twain
On the right is Benito Mussolini, fascist dictator of Italy. Like Trump, he was media savvy and a showman. Like Trump, he made outlandish promises to restore his country's imperial greatness. And also like Trump, he had a rubber face that made weird expressions that the public, somehow, found endearing.

Carly Fiorina
Carly's doppelganger is Roscoe Conkling (in red above) who ran for the Republican nomination for President in  1876. Physically, they are nothing alike. Beside gender, Roscoe was a big man. He got his start in politics as a Tammany Hall thug who would beat up anyone suggesting reforming political corruption. Roscoe believed in patronage - to the winner belong the spoils. He hated the civil service and wanted the President to have the power to fire any government employee he wanted. Roscoe was the poster-boy for corrupt politicians throughout the second half of the 19th century.

Carly wants to fire tens of thousands of government workers. Her business record is rife with corruption - circumventing sanctions to sell HP products to the Iran government and using debt to generate phony sales growth while at Lucent.

Ben Carson
Carson's holier than thou campaign strategy reminds me of the first televangelist, Bishop Fulton Sheen. Bishop Sheen never ran for President but he did think of himself as a kingmaker. He flirted with fascism in the 1930's. He felt non-Christians were corrupting the nation and a threat to Christianity. Both Carson and Sheen were soft-spoken men with the stench of religious bigotry about them.

Jeb! Bush
Is his older brother George without the charisma.

Ted Cruz
Cruz reminds me of Rudolf Hess. Both were hate filled, well spoken, more than a little insane, and thought themselves more popular than they actually are. Terrifyingly, they look a lot alike. It's like Cruz is Hess, reincarnated.

Scott Walker
That's Deputy Dawg. A not very lovable oaf, swollen with his own sense of self-importance, that the rest of the world considers a pathetic clown. I thought about going with Pat Paulsen but Pat was way more popular than Scott who is down to asterisk in the polls.

Marco Rubio
I almost forgot Marco, mostly because he is eminently forgettable. Marco reminds me of Calvin "Silent Cal" Coolidge. I don't think he has said anything the least bit interesting. For all I know, Marco has never said a word. He is currently leading the race of the people with at least a few seconds of government experience so I guess there is something to being young, cute, and boring.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Debate

I tried to watch. I really did. I guess I'm not a political junkie.
I stopped watching presidential debates now that they are produced by the TLC channel. Sort of a mash-up of 19 Kids and Counting and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. But I did try this time.

I tuned in a little late and caught Scott Walker in the middle of his prayer to Saint Ronald the Reagan. Overwhelmed by a mixture of boredom and revulsion, I turned it off 15 seconds later. I felt guilty, like maybe I hadn't given it a fair shot so, a half-hour later, I turned it back on. This time Ben Carson was talking about something, I don't know what he said because I quickly slipped into a coma.

After that, fearing for my health, I decided to do what I have in the past and rely on pundits, blogs, and Twitter for the highlights.

Jeb on Point
I predict the moment that will get the most laughs on late night TV is the group photo when Jeb Bush stood on his tiptoes to make himself taller than Donald Trump. It's a kindergarten move that I predict will have a longer life that any of the words spoken.

Tapper as Don King
The consensus is that Jake Tapper didn't act as a debate referee but as a fight promoter. He spent the evening trying to get people to fight the schoolyard bully (Trump) and mostly succeeded. It makes for more entertaining television than thoughtful discussions of important national issues. It also makes Stephen Colbert's "Hungry for Power Games" skit frighteningly accurate.

Carly Won
Everyone from National Review to DailyKos agree that Carly Fiorina won solely because she forced the bully to back down because he was afraid to hit a woman on live TV. Some think that will make her the Great-Not-Trump Hope for the GOP establishment.

Carson: Nice or Wuss
Ben Carson stood out as the only person to not do a turn in the mud wrestling pit with Trump. While being the uber nice guy will appeal to some, the notoriously belligerent GOP base hate weakness and, for them, being nice is the ultimate weakness.
I couldn't resist putting this photo here.
Rubio: "I wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire."
Marco Rubio made a joke about the California drought that landed like a proverbial lead balloon. Sure, no Republican is going to win the state but, Marco, whoever wrote that joke for you needs to be fired immediately. I mean, insensitive much.

Who Lost?
No consensus. The answer depends entirely on who the pundit supported going in. Some say Trump lost, others that he won. Trump got the most air time, by a large amount. That made him the sun around which all the lesser candidates revolved. I suspect the ultimate losers were the people being ignored. Scott Walker got less than half the air time of Trump and, according to reports, made nothing of his brief opportunity. So, Walker is probably the biggest loser.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Way Donald Talks

When I was very much younger I went through a "write like Hemingway" phase where I tried to keep my writing short and simple. I went so far as to analyze my writing using a readability calculator. This is an abysmally stupid way to write and, thankfully, I outgrew the phase.
Donald Trump's speaking style is bizarre. While Sarah Palin may talk in a convoluted word salad, Trump's speeches are word deserts. His most commonly used word is the shortest word in the English language - I. His sentences are often minified, short and verbless.  He wanders off and gets lost in random non sequiturs like a drunken field mouse.

I ran his announcement speech through a readability calculator and it scored at a third grade level. But more than having a speaking style that would get a D+ as an elementary school essay, Trump also oozes the homespun charm of a medicine show barker.
I seldom (never) agree with rightwing asshole Cal Thomas but he is right to compare Trump to the character Lonesome Rhodes in the 1957 film "A Face In the Crowd."

Trump's speeches are all ego. He doesn't talk about what he will do. He talks about how great he is. He treats his supporters like trained seals. "I toss them a dead fish and they’ll flap their flippers." Lines from the movie sound like Trump speeches. It is remarkable and at the same time utterly terrifying.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Trump's Deportation Plan by the Numbers

Trump has announced that his deportation plans will remove 11 million people from the United States in 18 to 24 months.
Mass deportation of 1,300 striking miners from Lowell, AZ in 1917.
  • This is 50 times the capacity of all the federal prisons in the country.
  • It is a deportation of 15,000 people a day every day for two years.
  • It will take over 30 jumbo jets flying daily to carry this number at a price of $25,000 an hour per plane.
  • Or over 300 buses a day.
  • Or, 100 cattle cars a day using the Nazi figures of 150 deportees per rail car.
Speaking of Nazis...
Deportations circa 1942

  • 11 million, perhaps not coincidentally, is the same number of undesirables (Jews, Gypsies, Catholics, etc.) who were killed during the Holocaust.
  • Trump's plan is the equivalent of emptying the Warsaw Ghetto of Jews every month for two years.
  • During the height of the Warsaw Ghetto deportations (July 22 to Sept. 12, 1942) the Germans were only able to remove 6,000 people a day. Trump's deportation czar would have to be three times more efficient that SS-Brigadef├╝hrer Odilo Globocnik.
To move that much humanity will require extensive logistics. It will require large holding facilities close to transportation hubs where they will be processed and held for some time before their deportation can be arranged. Since they will certainly be unwilling detainees these large holding facilities will have to be ringed with barbed wire with numerous guard towers to prevent escapes. Some place like this...
Buchenwald, Germany 1945.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

How Are They Not Stormtroopers?

The thing to remember about all of these incidents is that they are merely the tip of the iceberg. For every such event that reach the news media because the victim's innocence is glaringly obvious there are another hundred incidents that are ignored because the victim is too poor or perhaps guilty of a minor crime. Police have become a fully American version of the Sturmtruppen.

Tennis Star Tackled
Former tennis player James Blake was attacked by six plain-clothed detectives in the lobby of an upscale Manhattan hotel (Grand Hyatt rooms start at $350 a night). He was shoved face first into a wall and battered him. He was mistaken for someone suspected of the incredibly non-violent crime of selling stolen cellphones. You know, all black people look alike.

Police slam a pregnant women to the ground over a scratch
A white woman in Barstow, CA calls police over a barely noticeably scratch her car got in a school parking lot. She blames a black woman who is eight months pregnant. The policeman confronts tth black woman. He slams her to the ground on her stomach, inflicting serious and potentially deadly pain, and arrested her for resisting arrest over the scratch.

Man killed during drug raid on the wrong house
SWAT raided a house in Lebanon, TN. It was a no-knock raid, just bursting through doors unannounced, screaming and brandishing automatic weapons. While his wife was being violently assaulted by the raiders the man got his shotgun to defend his home, just like the NRA teaches. He fired wildly, the police killed him in a volley of return fire. It was the wrong house, he was totally innocent.

Police shoot the man who called them
In Phoenix, a homeowner calls police because there is a man acting bizarrely. Police arrive, see the man who called them, and fires six shots at him, striking him twice. Your classic case of "shoot first, ask questions later."

Police arrest a man for refusing to allow a warrantless search
In Texas, police demand the right to search a home. They have no warrant and are refused entry. Police then break in, rough up the homeowner, and ransack the house. They find nothing and leave.

Twitter parody leads to arrest
A man creates a Twitter account to make fun of the mayor of Peoria, IL. The mayor, lacking either a sense of humor or perspective, sends a fully armed SWAT team to arrest the culprit and everyone else in the apartment.

Barber License Raids
In Orange County, FL, SWAT teams are sent to barbershops where they force out the customers and handcuff the barbers so they can check to see if the barbers have the correct license.

Burn, Baby, Burn
In Georgia, SWAT is making a bust on a $50 drug sale. It was a no-knock warrant. Police broke down the door and toss in a flash-bang grenade that landed in the crib of a 19-month old child. The infant suffered serious injuries. The person they wanted was not there. Public officials refuse to contribute even a penny to the medical bills of the child they nearly murdered that night.

SWAT raid a food co-op in Venice, CA for the crime of selling raw milk.

Another food Co-op
This time in LaGrange, OH. SWAT broke into the co-op and held the Stowers family at gunpoint for nine hours on suspicion of not having the proper license.

There are more than 80,000 SWAT raids in the United States annually. More than 90% of them do not require a SWAT level of force.

Even rarer than finding out about police excess use of force is charges actually being filed against the offender officers. It is also unusual for police to reveal their standard practices in front of the well-to-do as they did in their attack on James Blake. They try to confine their violence to poor neighborhoods where their brutality will go unnoticed and serve the purpose of cowering a potentially rebellious underclass.

American police forces have become the go-to profession for psychopaths who want to subject pain, suffering, and humiliation on innocent people without going to jail. Until police forces police themselves and and carve out the cancer they are cultivating in their ranks such outrages will occur daily and seldom reach public scrutiny.
German police ransacking a Jewish home in Lodz, Poland.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

"Yankee Doodle" Deconstructed

If you went to elementary school in the United States it's a good bet you learn this classic American song. But what do you know about it?

"Yankee Doodle" first appeared during the French and Indian War. British troops would sing it to make fun of the Americans fighting with them. Let's break down the words.

Yankee - A derogatory word used by the Dutch in New Amsterdam (New York) way back in the late 17th century for English colonists. Probably from the Dutch word Janke, "little John." In the 18th century British troops would demean Americans by calling them "Yankees" in the same way US soldiers used to call all Koreans and Vietnamese "gooks" and currently call all Arabs "haji."

Doodle - a slang word for "penis." Also meaning dolt.

Riding on a pony - Men ride horses. Children ride ponies.

Stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni - If you're like I was, you couldn't figure out how a feather was like cheese covered pasta. Macaroni in 18th century England was a fad where men wore make-up, outlandish wigs and clothes, and walked and talked in an exceptionally effeminate fashion. RuPaul is Macaroni.

So, to translate the song into modern understanding:
An American dickhead came to town
Riding a tricycle
He stuck a feather in his hat
And called it "simply fabulous!!!"

Monday, September 07, 2015

Kim Davis Saga

I've stayed away from the Kim Davis story because, well, I didn't give a shit. But Josh Marshall boiled her down to a simple, accurate phrase. She wants to "have her cake and eat it too."
Davis is your standard Appalachian government functionary. She inherited her elected position from her mother and intends to pass the job down to her son because in rural Kentucky education and qualifications are worthless, what matters is whose birth canal you passed through.

She's a serial polygamist - four marriages to three different men - her children were conceived by her third husband while she was married to her first husband and before she married her second husband. Typical Appalachian morality. Which, of course, more than qualifies her to impose her religious beliefs with the iron fist of an Iranian imam.

In accordance to her religious beliefs she refuses to allow anyone in her county to get a marriage license because...God and gays. A government official who refuses to do her job has committed a crime in Kentucky (Revised Statute 522.020). She threatened to punish any of her employees who don't break the law.

Davis believes that God is just fine with all the sinning of the previous two paragraphs. Her lawyer has declared the Supreme Court unconstitutional. So she languishes in jail on contempt of court charges while refusing any of the several alternatives.
  • Do her job without complaint. You know, the job she is paid $80,000 a year to do.
  • Delegate to her staff the work she finds distasteful. She stubbornly refuses to allow her staff the freedom to do their jobs.
  • Resign. If in good conscience she cannot do the job that she swore an oath, on a Bible, to do she can resign and no one will think less of her. But, it's a really good paying job and she intends her son to inherit the position from her.
By the way, another sin there. She swore an oath to God and broke that oath.

Davis, no doubt, plans to milk her jail time into a seven figure payday from the gullible rubes who think she is a martyr. Those Indiana pizza makers turned hate into an $800,000 windfall and Davis is way more famous than they were.

UPDATE: Davis is being released on condition of the second option above. My guess, like any two year-old, she will test the limits of her release from judicial "timeout" at her first opportunity.
Kim Davis is God's heroine.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Propaganda Films

I stumbled on the WWII propaganda film, Why We Fight, a few days ago and it got me thinking. I grew up during the hottest part of the Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam, so I saw more than my share of propaganda films in school and on television. I don't recommend watching any of the films I'll link to. Propaganda is invariably over long, over repetitive, and over boring. Still it can be a fascinating study for a history nerd.

Triumph of the Will (1935 - 1 hr, 40 min)
Generally considered the greatest propaganda film of all time. Leni Riefenstahl was commissioned to film the 1934 Nazi Party rally at Nuremberg and she produced a masterpiece. She makes none of the mistakes propagandists usually make. 

There is no narration and no long repetitive speeches. The film shows, wordlessly, grand vistas of the massive, 700,000 strong rally. It shows laughing children, stern faced Aryan men, half naked Hitler Youth frolicking homo-erotically in a huge tent city, and women swooning orgasmically at the sight of der Fuhrer. And there are enough sieg heils to make you want to stick a pencil in your ear. There are clips of speeches by the likes of Joseph Goebbels and Rudolf Hess. The only long speeches are given by Hitler including an eight minute speech that closes the film. It was required viewing in German schools to the end of WWII.

Just about any modern documentary about the Nazis will use parts of this film. It is the only foreign language propaganda film you can buy from Amazon. You will feel inspired, disgusted, and profaned by watching it.

Why We Fight (1942-1945 - seven 1hr films)
In 1941, Oscar winning director Frank Capra enlisted in the US Army to head their domestic propaganda efforts. This opus was his crowning achievement. I haven't watched all of them because, you know, I have a life. I've only seen episode 5, the Battle of Russia.

They are narrated by Walter Huston. They use enemy film footage (including clips from Triumph of the Will), actual combat footage, Hollywood action sequences, and animation by Disney Studios. There is lots of sugarcoating such as totally ignoring the Nazi-Soviet Pact that divided Poland between them. But they do mention things like the mass starvation of the Siege of Leningrad.

You can also find this series on DVD. There is some good history in these films if you can ignore the overly martial music and excessively trite narration.

Prophets and Lessons (circa 1960 - 9 min)
The Soviet Union had a love of animated propaganda and this is a good, and watchable, example. Each time the fat capitalist (who morphs into Hitler at one point) predicts or tried to bring down the Soviet Union the heroic Communist worker (above) raises his hammer and smites their efforts. In the end the fat capitalist throws a blithering fit and morphs into a general frantically waving his atomic bomb. The great Soviet people brings the hammer down to end this last threat. There is sort of a Thor theme to this short film.

The Thrifty Pig (1941 - 4 min)
The Canadian Film Board took the Disney film, the Three Little Pigs, and turned it into a propaganda film. The only changes they made was adding a Nazi armband to the Big Bad Wolf and the third pig didn't build his sturdy house from bricks but out of Canadian war bonds.

Duck and Cover (1951 - 9 min)
This is the only propaganda film I clearly remember watching as a child. It was 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and schools were showing this film and films like it constantly in schools so we children would know how to survive a nuclear holocaust. I remember watching this film and talking about it with my schoolmates at lunch. We all agreed it was the stupidest thing we had ever seen.

We all agreed that if a nuclear bomb went off hiding under our desks would not save us if the school was blown to pieces like the film showed. We also agreed that we all would rather die than live in a post-apocalypse America. Ten year-olds are a lot smarter than adults believe and extremely fatalistic.

Red Nightmare (1962 - 28 min)
A classic Red Scare film from the Defense Department notable because it was produced by the head of Warner Bros. Studios. As such it had an array of WB contract players, so fans of 1960's television stand by.

The narrator is Jack Webb (Dragnet). The star, Jack Kelly (Maverick) is your average American family man blissfully unaware of the looming Red Menace. There is also Commandant Peter Breck (The Big Valley), shop foreman Robert Conrad (Wild Wild West), boyfriend/soldier Peter Brown (Lawman), and judge Andrew Duggan (Bourbon Street Beat).

The story is told Twilight Zone style. Kelly falls asleep and wakes up in Communist America. His beautiful daughter has volunteered to work for the state on a farming collective. His wife tells him he is required by the state to speak at a public meeting where he will be told what to say. His foreman tells him to work harder or he will be reported to the labor commissar. He takes his protesting children to church only to find it has been turned into a state museum of Soviet inventions (mostly telephones). His young son turns him into the state to be charged with anti-Soviet behavior. At his trial even his wife testifies against him and he is sentenced to death.

He wakes up relieved to find out it was only a dream but he is a changed man. He is now dedicated to being a good citizen actively seeking out and turning in Communist sympathizers.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Poor Jeb!

I'm starting to feel sorry for poor Jeb! Bush. Like a punch drunk palooka, he is staggering around the ring, leaning into left hooks. He's cut and bleeding and the crowd is loving his humiliation.
In the clearing stands a boxer,
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev'ry glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame,
"I am leaving, I am leaving."
But the fighter still remains
He shoulda been a contender. He shoulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what he is. It's embarrassing.

When Jeb! hit at Trump for his barbaridades he did it in Spanish. That was stupid on many levels. In Spanish it means "stupid and reckless" but to the English speaker it sounds like he is calling Trump a barbarian which makes Bush sound like a pretentious ass. Calling Trump a barbarian in Spanish makes Bush sound like a coward afraid to attack in English. And he set himself up for the obvious counter punch.
[Bush] should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States.
Really, if you are going to attack a nativist don't do it in Spanish.

Bush Vows to Support Trump
In an ABC interview, after calling Trump a divisive joke, perfectly good jabs, he adds that, "of course" he would support him if he were the nominee. A clumsy, puppy dog, answer. Better footwork would be to deny the premise. "I'll sign the pledge but I have no fear that a discordant clown like Trump will be the party's nominee."

It does at least make the reassuring claim, that where it is inaccurate it is at least definitively inaccurate. In cases of major discrepancy it's always reality that's got it wrong. ~ Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Jeb! has staggered around the ring on this issue like a classic stumblebum. If anyone, including Bush himself, knows what his position is I'd be astonished. It's better to pick a position, pick one at random if you have to, than to lurch about like a marionette controlled by a drunken puppeteer.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Killed By Cops in August

The most famous of the 106 killings of Americans by their police officers is Gilbert Flores who was gunned down by an officer while Flores was holding up his hands and clearly surrendering. Bexar, TX County Sheriffs are now suggesting Flores may, perhaps, they don't know, have been holding a knife while surrendering. If they can make that story fly then maybe they can twist the story into a righteous kill.

Of the others, the youngest was 15 year-old Andre Green from Indiana. The oldest was 77 year-old Robert Quinn from Pennsylvania. Both were killed on August 9. As usual, most were shot but seven were killed by Tasers.

The total, including the five people killed on Sept. 1, is now 799 people killed by American police officer this year, an average of 3.3 a day. For comparison, British police killed their first suspect of the year on August 30 for an average of 0.004 a day.