Thursday, August 13, 2020

Whether from pandemic or riots, our lifestyle is changing fast

Bloomberg and an associated company teamed up to analyze how Americans are using, or visiting, or interacting with, a number of institutions in our society, and compared it to pre-COVID-19 figures.  The results are eye-opening.

By counting phone signals in 15 designated areas each day for the past three months, the data offer a way to see how many people are returning to where they eat, play and spend money — at mega malls, upscale retail streets and nightlife hotspots. Golf courses are humming again, but so are the nation’s non-profit food banks, underscoring the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

The picture that emerges is not of a V-shaped recovery, but of an economy that’s being reshaped, taking its time to heal and threatening to leave permanent scars.

Like a Hurricane

Months of home confinement have left many Americans itching for a night out at the bars, or maybe a getaway to one of those cities where whatever happens there stays there.

Such is the allure of Las Vegas, Nashville and New Orleans. But pedestrian traffic in the main nightlife districts in the three cities ranges from just 15% to 44% of year-earlier levels, according to Orbital’s phone tracking data.

. . .

At the other end of America’s economic strata are those who find themselves without enough money to eat. In March, nearly 200 U.S. food banks suddenly became lifelines to the thousands who never needed such assistance.

Mauled at the Malls

As many as 25,000 stores are expected to close in the U.S. in this year, mostly in shopping malls, according to Coresight Research. Bankruptcies are piling up, leaving landlords and their retail tenants to worry about the future.

At South Coast Plaza in Southern California, the Mall of America near Minneapolis and King of Prussia mall northwest of Philadelphia, activity is returning slowly but still looks down 44% to 76% from a year ago, Orbital’s phone data show. That matches up with what mall tenants are seeing.

. . .

In upscale urban shopping districts from Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills to Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, the summer flocks of tourists aren’t materializing like usual and activity looks to be 25% to 36% of last year’s level.

There's much more at the link.  Interesting and worrying reading.

What concerns me is that such economic effects aren't being correlated with the influences that may affect them.  For example, if shopping districts are less patronized now than they were before, how much of that is due to lack of spending money (thanks to the economic consequences of COVID-19), and how much due to a lack of security in big-city environments?  If rioting mobs can strip Chicago's Magnificent Mile bare, what hope do the stores there have of persuading regular shoppers to return?  I'd say it's likely that the lack of security is a dominant factor, but I can't be sure about that, because we simply don't know the facts.

Wolf Street provides correlation of the Bloomberg report from other data sources.

... foot traffic in Kansas City is 74% of where it was in the week ended January 15; and ... in San Francisco, foot traffic is 43% of where it was in the week ended January 15.

. . .

Foot traffic into the security zones of airports – the TSA’s daily checkpoint screenings, a real-time indication of how many people are flying – shows similar stall in the recovery, but a much lower levels, still down about 70% from a year ago.

. . .

Office occupancy collapsed in March and April as people stopped going to the office, and the 10-metro average hit a low of around 15% – meaning that office occupancy, as measured by employees entering the office, was down 85% from pre-Pandemic levels. Then there was a mild recovery. But the recovery stalled in mid-June. The average of the top 10 metros (red line in the chart) is at 22.6%, just below where it had been in the week of June 17.

Again, more at the link.

I think security - physical security - is going to be a dominant factor, reshaping the way many of us live, particularly in larger cities.  ASM286, blogging at Borepatch's place, quotes Detroit mayor Coleman Young on the impact of the 1967 riots there:

The heaviest casualty, however, was the city. Detroit's losses went a hell of a lot deeper than the immediate toll of lives and buildings. The riot put Detroit on the fast track to economic desolation, mugging the city and making off with incalculable value in jobs, earnings taxes, corporate taxes, retail dollars, sales taxes, mortgages, interest, property taxes, development dollars, investment dollars, tourism dollars, and plain damn money. The money was carried out in the pockets of the businesses and the white people who fled as fast as they could. The white exodus from Detroit had been prodigiously steady prior to the riot, totaling twenty-two thousand in 1966, but afterwards it was frantic. In 1967, with less than half the year remaining after the summer explosion—the outward population migration reached sixty-seven thousand. In 1968 the figure hit eighty-thousand, followed by forty-six thousand in 1969.

It's no longer just "white flight", of course - it's the flight of economically self-sufficient people of all races from the rioting mobs who expect the authorities to support their lifestyle and put up with their nonsense.  People with sense won't shop in riot-torn areas, won't travel to cities where that sort of danger is more likely, and won't spend their money there either.  More and more, average Americans are voting with their feet, as we've discussed in these pages on several occasions.  I think the exodus is growing by the day.

Cities who, by their tolerance of riots and unrest, have caused that exodus, will probably (and real soon now) rue the loss of ratepayers and consumers that it represents - because there's nothing and no-one to replace them.


Doofus Of The Day #1,065

Today's award goes to Bouygues Telecom, a telephone company in France.

A woman in south-west France, who received a telephone bill of nearly 12 quadrillion euros, has had the real amount she owed waived - after the company admitted its mistake.

Solenne San Jose, from Pessac outside Bordeaux, said she received a huge shock when she opened the bill for 11,721,000,000,000,000 euros.

This is nearly 6,000 times France's annual economic output.

. . .

The former teaching assistant said she "almost had a heart attack. There were so many zeroes I couldn't even work out how much it was".

The phone company, Bouygues Telecom, initially told her there was nothing they could do to amend the computer-generated statement and later offered to set up instalments to pay off the bill.

In the end, the company admitted the bill should have been for 117.21 euros only, and eventually waived it altogether.

There's more at the link.

In case you're interested, that bill amounts to US $13,821,872,040,000,000.00 at current exchange rates - almost US $14 quadrillion.

Isn't it typical of such companies that, when called out for their mistake, instead of admitting their error, they offered a payment plan?



Cultural appropriation - food edition

Courtesy (?) of Gun Free Zone, I found food for my nightmares last night:

Haggis?  On a pizza?  Talk about cultural appropriation - but who's appropriating what?

On the other hand, I suppose it fits.  After all, the Scottish influence in Italian food is well-known.  I mean . . . where do you think Mac-aroni got its start?


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

*Sigh* I guess I'm a technological dinosaur . . .

I started working with computers in the 1970's, as an operator, then as a programmer, then as a systems analyst, project leader and manager.  I remember punched cards (I wrote and ran my first programs using them, and heaven help you if you dropped the deck of cards on your way up the stairs to the computer room!);  JCL, with all its demanding, finicky standards to trip up unwary programmers and sabotage their tests;  System/360 and System/370 mainframes (including upgrading the mainframe's magnetic-core memory - using real magnetic cores strung on wire frames - from one to two megabytes, which everyone thought was wildly extravagant and costly at the time);  minicomputers such as DEC's PDP and VAX machines;  the very first PC's (yes, including the Apple 1 and the first IBM PC);  the use of CICS for online systems;  and so on.

In particular I remember the agonizing process of developing programs from scratch.  One would diagram the specification in the form of a flowchart, which one would have to "defend" in a meeting with the senior programmers, who would try to pick apart the logical sequence one had established to accomplish the task(s) concerned.  Once one had passed that step, one coded the program (I used COBOL in business, plus a number of other, more esoteric languages - not excluding profanity - for specialized tasks), compiled it, then ran a series of test data through it to ensure it did what it was supposed to do.  While all this was going on (and it could take months for a big, complex program), changing user requirements and modifications to the specifications kept one busy chasing one's tail (and using even more profanity instead of COBOL!).  When the first artificial-intelligence-based tools came along, later in the 1980's, to help automate the systems design and programming process, they were a godsend.

Things have come a long way since then.  It's bittersweet for me to read about "apps" that don't require much programming knowledge at all.

As a recent MBA graduate, Leytus had plenty of ideas for apps, though he lacked skills in software development, a common barrier to would-be tech entrepreneurs. But then he discovered Bubble, a drag-and-drop builder with a deceptively simple interface. It’s one of several advanced ‘no-code’ tools enabling hundreds of thousands of people without technical backgrounds to create their own apps, effectively eliminating the need to learn a coding language before launching a start-up.

To demonstrate what the tool could do, Leytus relied on the novelist’s adage – ‘show, don’t tell’ – and used Bubble to hack together a fully functional web app he named Not Real Twitter. He gave it a cheeky tagline: “Just like Twitter, but worse… a lot worse.” While it worked like the real thing, his goal wasn’t to give disaffected Twitter users a new home. Leytus was in the early phases of co-founding AirDev, where he today helps start-ups and enterprise clients leverage no-code app builders. He wanted to show his prospective clients what he could quickly build without actually writing code himself.

“It was very difficult to explain to somebody without giving them something to look at,” says Leytus. “[Cloning Twitter was] more convincing than me just saying, hey, this can actually make pretty powerful stuff.”

He added an all-caps note on the clone’s homepage addressed to Twitter: “PLEASE DON’T SUE US.” Luckily, they didn’t. He posted about the app on Hacker News, a social news website, and his story quickly became an example of the no-code movement’s potential.

Five years later, Leytus decided to repeat the challenge again, as the 2015 version is “no longer representative of what you can build with no-code technology”. He and the AirDev team have built an updated clone, dubbed Not Real Twitter v2, with a design that looks like modern Twitter. He says it reflects how much tools like Bubble have matured, with improved functionality and greater support for mobile devices.

It may be surprising just how much you can accomplish without knowing an iota of programming language, or writing any code at all. Projects like Leytus’s show the potential for nearly anyone to jump into development – a field that’s currently opaque to those without certain skills. Could no-code development be the future of web-based innovation – and, if so, what does that mean for how we build the ‘next big thing’?

There's more at the link.

When an entire company - no, almost an entire industry - such as Twitter is based on a program (or series of programs) that can be written without any of the hard-learned expertise that we had to master in the "bad old days" . . . that's depressing.  Talk about feeling redundant!

Of course, I haven't been involved in data processing, except as an end user, for many decades;  but I haven't forgotten how it felt to be a much-sought-after specialist in a top-end field.  Things sure have changed . . .


The US Postal Service as an election football

I'm growing more and more annoyed at left-wing and progressive complaints that President Trump is trying to neuter the US Postal Service, in order to disrupt postal voting and "steal the election".  (Right now, of course, anything and everything he does is painted as "stealing the election".  I'm waiting for someone to insinuate that when he ties his shoelaces, he's actually tying the election up in knots!)

Let's remember that the current process of reforming the USPS began in April 2018, as CNBC reported at the time.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

President Donald Trump on Thursday issued an executive order to set up a task force to study the United States Postal Service and recommend reforms.

. . .

The task force will evaluate the operations and finances of the USPS, the order said. That includes examining the postal service’s role in competitive markets, the state of its business model, workforce, operations, costs and pricing. The task force was ordered to look at the decline in mail volume and how that affects the USPS’ self-financing and the agency’s monopoly over letter delivery and mailboxes.

“The USPS is on an unsustainable financial path and must be restructured to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout,” Trump said in the executive order.

The USPS has incurred ”$65 billion of cumulative losses since the 2007-2009 recession,” the document said. It added that the agency had been unable to make payments for its retiree health benefit obligations that “totaled more than $38 billion” at the end of fiscal 2017.

“It shall be the policy of my Administration that the United States postal system operate under a sustainable business model to provide necessary mail services to citizens and businesses, and to compete fairly in commercial markets,” Trump wrote.

There's more at the link.

Any business running at those sorts of losses would have been forced into bankruptcy long ago.  USPS reforms were, and still are, vitally necessary from a business standpoint.  Anyone with a couple of working brain cells to rub together can see that.

As for the latest measures, Bloomberg reports (bold, underlined text is again my emphasis):

The U.S. Postal Service overhauled its organizational structure, as Democrats called for an investigation into whether the changes implemented by President Donald Trump’s postmaster general pose a threat to mail-in ballots for the November election.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Friday said the new structure, organized around three business units, will increase efficiency by reducing costs and boosting revenue.

. . .

Democrats ... wrote Friday to the Postal Service’s inspector general asking for an investigation into staffing and policy changes implemented by DeJoy, a Republican donor appointed in May.

Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York, who also joined the letter, said Saturday in a statement that the operational changes at the Post Office were “inappropriate” so close to the election.

“The drastic changes to the Postal Service by an overtly partisan Postmaster General are another example of the president’s attempts to prevent millions of Americans from having their votes counted,” she said.

. . .

The Postal Service on Friday reported a quarterly net loss of $2.2 billion on revenue of $17.6 billion, compared to a net loss of $2.3 billion in the same period last year.

Again, more at the link.

I point out that the massive USPS losses reported since 2009 were largely incurred under a Democratic Party administration, which supervised it for eight out of the ten years prior to President Trump's reform initiative in 2018.  At any time, measures could have been taken to solve the problem, but were not.  However, when a Republican president attempts to tackle the Augean stables of USPS deficits, suddenly his critics are screaming that it's all about politics, not about efficiency.

If the USPS is now losing quarterly what it used to lose annually, that's simply unsustainable.  The taxpayer can't be expected to bail out deficits and arrears of that magnitude.  Things have got to change.  Reform has got to be implemented.

For the first time in a long time, the USPS is being run by a (very successful) businessman, rather than a bureaucratic or political apparatchik.  I wish Mr. DeJoy every success in what is by any standards a gargantuan endeavor.  He has to overcome not just years, but generations of bureaucratic and institutional inertia, and an entrenched trade union mentality among many of the Post Office's workers.  It's going to be extraordinarily difficult to overcome those obstacles.  I hope he succeeds in spite of them, because if he doesn't, the USPS will soon collapse under the weight of its own maladministration and the consequences thereof.

Meanwhile, I think a lot of the progressive and far-left angst about USPS reforms is due to their wanting to use them as a convenient excuse if they don't do as well in the November elections as they think they should.  Note, for example, what Common Dreams - a Democratic Party "talking points" organization that gives the lead to many other left-wing commenters and media - has to say.

Already under fire for recent policy changes at the USPS that mail carriers from within and outside critics have denounced as a sabotage effort to undermine the Postal Service broadly as well as disrupt efforts to carry out mail-in voting for November's election amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the moves unveiled late Friday were viewed as an overt assault on democracy and a calculated opportunity to boost Republicans' long-held dream of undercutting or privatizing the government-run mail service while also boosting their election prospects in the process.

"Another Friday night massacre by this administration—and this time dealing another devastating blow to our postal service," said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) "The American people deserve answers and we're going to keep fighting for them."

. . .

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, warned what occurred Friday is designed to weak the Postal Service, slow vote-by-mail, and disrupt the 2020 Census ... Clarke said the administration's intentions are clear: "DeJoy, a Trump donor with no experience inside the postal service, has been installed to cause chaos and disruption at a time when the timely delivery of mail could not be more critical."

More at the link.

Not one word from Common Dreams about a quarterly USPS deficit running into multiple billions of dollars.  Not one word about deficits, inefficiencies and abuses running back not just years, but decades.  Not one word about the real, undeniable need for USPS reform - just bitter complaints that those reforms are actually a Republican plot to disrupt the election.  When I see that, I see attempts to manufacture an excuse for electoral failure, not honest, balanced reporting.

I doubt very much that the reforms implemented by Mr. DeJoy are politically motivated.  I've been in business myself, hold a Masters degree in management, and was a company director before I became a pastor.  When I look at what he's doing, I see undeniable, basic business reality staring me in the face.  As far as the USPS goes, it's reform, or collapse under the weight of accumulated inefficiencies - and collapse pretty darned soon, at that.

You'll have to decide for yourselves who's right about this.  For myself, I'm in no doubt at all.  I daresay Benjamin Franklin (the first US Postmaster-General) would approve of Mr. DeJoy's reforms.


Falling crime rates? Not so fast . . .

We've spoken before in these pages about how bureaucrats "fudge" statistics to present the most favorable image to the public.  It's long been the practice in many cities to either not record, or mis-classify, violent crimes, in order to allow local politicians to boast that they're being "tough on crime" and point to the statistics as evidence that they're doing a good job.

Of course, the reality is the diametric opposite.  City crime, particularly inner-city crime, is way up across the country, and getting worse.  Therefore - inevitably - the efforts to mask that are getting more blatant by the day.  Philadelphia is the latest example.

"They're definitely cooking the books," agreed one veteran detective. "At least 50 percent of them [suspicious deaths] are really homicides, and that's being generous."

The murder rate in Philadelphia -- already the second-highest in the nation among the ten largest cities -- is on a  record pace this year with 255 murders as of Aug. 2nd. That's a 34 percent jump over this point in 2019, when we had only 190 homicides. At that monthly rate, the city will hit 437 murders for the year, the highest number since 2006, when the city racked up 406 murders. The all-time record, which could be broken this year if the weather stays hot, is 497 murders in 1990.

Along with a record number of murders, the number of dead bodies being classified by the cops as "suspicious" is also on the rise. So far this year, there have been a reported 97 deaths classified as "suspicious," which kept them out of the homicide total. While the department faithfully tracks homicides, it does not publish annual statistics for suspicious deaths.

About the rising number of suspicious deaths this year, the veteran commander said, "Most are definitely being used to hide homicides." He speculated that of the 97 suspicious deaths, as many as 80 of the cases marked "S" are probably murders.

There's more at the link.

There are many other crimes that are not being properly classified.  Take rioting, for example.  How many actual riots, involving property damage and/or injury to citizens, have taken place in cities like Minneapolis, MN, Portland, OR or Seattle, WA over the past few months, yet have never been recorded as such?  Instead, they're noted as simply "creating a disturbance" or "simple assault" or "disorderly conduct".  Those aren't felonies, and therefore don't show up in the serious crimes statistics.

This can have a direct and immediate effect on people across the country.  If you're looking to move to a safer place, and rely on official statistics to decide what fits that category, the odds are fairly good that you'll be misled - but in the absence of accurate information, no-one knows they're being misled (unless they have access to local people who can tell them more accurately what's going on).  In the same way, national crime statistics are skewed, because the FBI and the Justice Department can only classify the crimes reported to them by local and regional police forces.  If those reports are incomplete or manipulated, that'll carry over to the national figures as well.

Just one more thing to be aware of as you try to chart a safe course for yourself and your loved ones through the mess that is America today . . .


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

It's time, and past time, to form local groups for mutual assistance and security

I've said on several occasions in the past that we should get together with like-minded individuals and families, to help each other through economic and social hard times such as we're presently experiencing.  I suggest that's now become a need rather than a nice-to-have.  Things are deteriorating to the point that, as Benjamin Franklin said:

We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.

Brandon Smith tells of how he tried to expand his small group of like-minded individuals, and the reaction against his efforts from local leftists.

I feel it is time for bigger discussions with the wider community on what people plan to do if the dangerous situation does not improve. In other words, are they going to work together? Or, are they going to remain isolated from each other?

This is a vital question, because it is becoming increasingly possible that a full spectrum collapse will strike the US in the near term.

. . .

I decided to engage with the larger community by starting a local club that discusses firearms, preparedness and current events. I put the word out in as many places as I could, including tacking up fliers around town ... The initial response was overwhelmingly positive. A lot of people are ready for this kind of information, and setting up the discussions in a more public forum gives people a greater sense of involvement and shows them they are not alone in their concerns. To that end I decided to hold the discussion at a local public park.

Then, I started getting emails and friends of mine started getting angry Facebook responses when discussing the club...

Officials from the city council using the primary city government email were not happy, though they did not identify themselves by name. They claimed the club could not hold an “event” in the park unless we got permission and permits from the city council, along with insurance. If we did not, then police would be sent to kick us out of the park.

. . .

I thoroughly researched the use and legality of public parks for free assembly and found that as long as your group is not blocking access to the park for other people, blocking roads or engaged in criminal activity then the demands for permits do not usually hold up in court and removal by police is not justified. Constitutionally, you are protected.

I emailed the official or officials back and reminded them that they risk a civil court issue by trying to stop people's free speech on public property, and warned them that the city would be subject to bad press as well. I was perfectly ready to refuse removal and to be arrested if it came to that.

Another interesting discovery: The park in question was host to a bunch of BLM protesters only two weeks earlier. Did they have to get permits and insurance to hold their “event” in the park?

. . .

This was clear political bias applied to the usage of public property.

I have learned from past experience that these types of people do not like a stand-up fight; so they prefer to try to frighten you away from doing a thing through intimidation instead. They try to get you to give up voluntarily by painting a host of consequences in your mind. You start to worry about all the things that MIGHT happen; no one wants to have confrontations with cops these days, you don't have to be insane like BLM to have concerns.

. . .

Long story short, the meeting was a success. I met a lot of locals that I had not talked with before that had the same concerns I did, and we discussed primarily the issue of community security if the system completely breaks down.

There's more at the link.

There are a number of points to take away from Mr. Smith's article.
  1. There are probably a great many people like us out there, needing only to be informed to come together and work towards goals and objectives we share in common.
  2. We can expect opposition and interference from those on the left, particularly so-called progressives.
  3. We need to understand the system of laws and regulations under which we live, so that we can use them to defend our rights and not be intimidated by their wrongful use by opponents.

I'm not sure that so overt an approach is viable in many larger towns and cities - the risk of confrontation with Antifa/BLM supporters is too great.  However, I think a discreet word-of-mouth approach to friends and colleagues whom you think are trustworthy is not a bad idea.  They, in turn, can approach others they know.  This can lead to the organization of local "cells", for want of a better term, for mutual assistance and cooperation.  These need not be anything like a "secret society" or something like that.  They're simply a tried, tested and time-honored way to organize in support of a particular goal or goals.  Nevertheless, if you live in an area dominated by hard-left-wing politics (for example, Seattle, Portland or Minneapolis, to name but a few), a more clandestine cell network might be a suitable way to keep your activities under the radar, so to speak, and avoid unnecessary confrontation.  That's not a bad idea, IMHO.

With the elections approaching, and the forces trying to destabilize our society growing bolder, we need to take our stand against them and work to shore up, support and protect what we hold dear.  We also need to help each other through the current economic hard times, which may get much worse before they get better.  We can't do any of that as scattered individuals.  We need each other.


What's the consumer economy doing in your neck of the woods?

I've been watching local shops for some time, and I'm seeing trends that don't bode well for the future.  I'd like to describe them, then ask you, dear readers, to let us know in Comments whether you're seeing similar or different things in your area.  Let's help each other stay informed.

The quantity and variety of consumer goods available has diminished fairly drastically over the past couple of months.  Yesterday, for example, I went shopping for a few necessities, including canned tomatoes.  To my astonishment, a local supermarket (Aldi) and a big-box store (Sams Club) had no canned tomatoes whatsoever in normal sizes on their shelves.  Sams Club had some (not many) of the big five-pound commercial catering cans of tomatoes, but that was all.  I've never seen both stores completely out of so basic a product before.  I'm sure I would have found some if I'd tried other stores, but I didn't have time for that.

I'm also noticing a definite reduction in consumer choice.  Where one used to be able to buy, say, ten different kinds of canned beans, there may now be three or four.  Furthermore, some brands are simply unavailable.  Aldi's house brand of canned beans was so sparse that the store had brought in several lines of Goya beans at twice the price per can, something it would normally never do.  I asked the manager about that, and she shrugged and told me it was the only way they could keep some products in stock.  The factories that produce Aldi's house brands are sometimes unable to buy enough stock to process it, or enough cans to pack it.

There's also a definite and relatively rapid upward trend in prices.  Almost across the board, consumer prices are increasing.  I'd guesstimate that they've gone up at least 20% since the onset of the coronavirus, and up to 50% for some products (for example, eggs) that are in strong demand.  Gasoline had dropped to below $1.40 a gallon locally, but it's back up in the $1.90-$2.00 range already.  Meat is up at least 30% across the board, with some prime cuts of beef almost double what they were at the beginning of the year.  Anything imported from China, including automotive parts, is more expensive, and some can't be had for love or money, thanks to the disruption in shipping from Chinese factories.  Automotive spares and consumables are also in short supply, presumably because more people are changing their own oil and doing their own minor vehicle repairs to avoid having to pay dealers and service centers for the privilege.  A local dealer where I take my car has furloughed some mechanics due to the drop in customer demand.

While certain products that were formerly hard to find have come back into stock, others have not.  Toilet paper appears to be readily available once more, but paper towels are still scarce.  (Sams Club had only one brand available yesterday, and was limiting sales to one pack per customer.)  Soda manufacturers are apparently producing only their most popular lines, due to shortages of raw materials.  I'm partial to orange soda like Fanta, but it's very hard to find in these parts, because local producers simply aren't making it.  They're reserving production for what's most in demand, and "niche" customers like me will just have to put up with it.  Same with diet sodas;  I'm seeing far fewer diet brands available than normal.

I've spoken about firearms and ammunition shortages in these pages several times in recent months.  It's getting worse, not better.  My favorite online ammo vendor, SGAmmo, had no 9mm. ammunition at all in stock the other day - the first time I've ever known their cupboard to be bare.  My local firearms dealer is still reasonably well stocked with both guns and ammo, but that's because the owner is a canny soul who built his stockpiles in the "fat years", in order to be ready when the "lean years" arrived.  He has people driving two to three hours each way to buy from him, because no other store in the area is as well-stocked as his.  He's not gouging on prices, either - at least, not his regular customers - which is praiseworthy, IMHO.

What's the consumer economy doing in your area?  Please let us know in Comments.


No, snowflake, you don't get to tell the cops what to do

I couldn't help laughing at a tweet from an observer about the Portland riots last week.

The responses are alternately funny, and depressing in their stupidity.  An example of the latter:

Uh, Abby, how shall I put this?  When the riot is ongoing, and the cops have to move on to stop other rioters doing stupid things, they are not required to wait for a female officer to arrive.  The circumstances don't allow for that.  Therefore, they're entirely within their rights to search you and render you harmless to them, regardless of gender issues, then move you someplace you can't pose any further threat to law and order.  That will free them to address the crimes and violations still being committed by your fellow rioters, without having to remain on their guard against you.

That's settled law all over these United States.  Circumstances alter cases.  If the situation requires it, the niceties of preferred conduct give way to cold, hard reality.  After the fact, if you think abuses were committed, you're free to sue those involved - but not until the danger is over.

You may be upset at the cops making fun of transgender issues.  That's your privilege.  However, there are many others who find that very amusing.  As American Thinker points out:

... the Portland cop shop is applying Alinsky:

Rule 4 ("Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules"), Rule 5 ("Ridicule is man's most potent weapon"), and Rule 6 ("A good tactic is one your people enjoy").

Sounds fair to me!  If Alinsky tactics are being employed against the cops, turn about is fair play.  Furthermore, you're complaining about the conduct of those you're openly trying to defund, denigrate and demoralize.  What else did you expect, snowflake?  Did you think they were going to curl up into a ball and cry about it?  I suggest a (rapid) study of Newton's Third Law.  It applies to street demonstrations as much as it does to physics.

As for other police reactions in Portland, see these two articles:

I don't think they're joking.  I hope readers who live in and/or near Portland have taken note, and are taking steps accordingly.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Quote of the day

From Theodore Dalrymple, writing in Taki's Magazine:

America has ceased to be different from the rest of the Western world in remaining religious, with the result that politics is the new religion. It has removed transcendence and salvation from the private and personal sphere to the public realm, where it can lead only to conflict.

Well, if (according to Marx) religion is the opiate of the masses, I suppose we can update that expression to "Politics is the methamphetamine of the millenials!"  Looking at many of the Antifa/BLM demonstrators protesters rioters on our streets, it's hard to disagree . . .


Doofus Of The Day #1,064

Today's award goes to an Australian academic (?) who claims that the fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk" is a metaphor for male sexual awakening.  A tip o' the hat to Australian correspondent Andrew for sending me the link.

When creative writing lecturer and author Claire Corbett first learned that the iconic fairytale Jack And The Beanstalk was one long extended metaphor about penises, she laughed.

“First off I thought, ‘Oh this is ridiculous,’” she told

“But then when I thought about it, I saw something in it.”

. . .

Child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim first pointed out that the beanstalk was symbolic of a phallus in the 1970s.

. . .

Corbett’s first piece of evidence is the title.

“It’s Jack And The Beanstalk. Not Jack And The Golden Harp or Jack And His Adventures In The Sky,” she said.

“That’s because the beanstalk is driving the action.

“If the beanstalk is maturing male sexuality then Jack And The Beanstalk is a story about male individuation and growing up.”

“Jack and his mother are living alone in the cottage. No dad,” Corbett said. “His mother tells him to sell their beloved cow at market because she’s not giving any more milk.

“Could there be a clearer image of a post-menopausal woman? No more fertility, no more mummy’s milk.

“She’s dried up. Jack is understandably upset by this. He’s being asked to cut a childhood tie to his mother.”

There's more at the link (if you can stand to read such drivel).

That's what happens when academics (?) analyze something in the light of modern fads and foibles, instead of going back to their origins and analyzing them in the light of the times from which they sprang.  "Jack and the Beanstalk" originates in the late 1700's.  I doubt very much whether its original author had even the slightest inkling of male sexual awakening as a "thing", much less tried to write a literary metaphor about it!

(As for Bruno Bettelheim, I note that "Much of his work was discredited after his death due to fraudulent academic credentials, allegations of abusive treatment of patients under his care, accusations of plagiarism, and lack of oversight by institutions and the psychological community."  Why am I not surprised to read that?  Indeed, if the above article's citation of his theories is any indication, all I can say is "No s***, Sherlock!")

This is simply nonsensical.  It's a politically correct fairy tale all of its own.  I'd expect any self-respecting institution of higher education to immediately fire this "lecturer", and ensure that she never again works in education at all, at any level.  Sadly, in today's politically correct world, that probably won't happen.  Instead, she'll be given the chair of a newly established Faculty of Fairy Tale Analysis, and win a Nobel Prize for a post-doctoral thesis on "The Carnal Implications of a Wolf Blowing your House Down".



Memes that made me laugh 19

Seen over the past week on the Interwebs.

(Click to enlarge)


Sunday, August 9, 2020

Sunday Morning Music

I was playing songs from my music collection during a writing session last week when the software selected, at random, a couple of songs from a Gypsy Kings album I have.  It was great to hear them again;  it added a little Latin verve to my listening.

The Gypsy Kings are an interesting group.  They're from France, but mostly descendants of Spanish gitanos (Romani, or gypsies) who sought refuge in France after the Spanish Civil War.  Their Spanish music is therefore fully authentic - they were born and raised in that tradition.  They've been successful all over the world.

I thought you might enjoy a full Gypsy Kings concert, so here's one recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2004.

Verve indeed!