60 Minutes interviews alien smuggler Erga Uticus

A few weeks ago we wrote morbidly about how formerly respectable news organizations had sacked their own credibility in order to get one guy at any cost.  So apparently it’s now perfectly normal to have an interview with a porn star posted everywhere like it’s real news.  But man, things got even more out of hand afterwards.

Next they drug out the widely known Psilon smuggler, scoundrel, slave labor proprietor, jai-alai extraordinaire, and amateur bridge player Erga Uticus for the backstory of his past interactions with Trump.  If you missed this segment, not to worry, below’s a snippet.  For the complete transcript, just write to us, and please make sure to include your credit card info, because producing publications isn’t cheap:

The Arcturus Project – Erga Uticus Interview Transcript

C/O Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation

1794 Aguiyi Ironsi Street

Abuja 900001, Nigeria

Untitled

60 Minutes: So what you’re saying it is was difficult to work with him?

Erga Uticus: Oh, you have no idea.  I’ve dealt with some weird creatures before.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to fence goods via a Silicoid arms dealer?  But Trump, he was the worst.

60M: You were burdened?

EU: I was burdened.

60M: Do you regret working with him?

EU: Well, that’s difficult to explain.  I mean, I got paid, man did I get fucking paid, but I just don’t know if it was worth the effort.  The guy bleeds you, he makes you scrape every dollar out of him.  Don’t get me wrong, I respect, gotta respect a man who knows how to gut the guy at the other end of the table, but by The Emperor’s blessing it’s just too much work.

60M: What did you think when you heard he was elected our president?

EU: You gotta understand, where I come from the rules are different.  I figured (in my own mindset) he’d liquidate all his enemies overnight.  He’d have a pile of skulls dumped on the White House lawn by morning.  But, then I remembered you all have different rules out here.

60M: I see.

EU: Then I thought he would rig the game to funnel cash to his own business interests at the expense of the little guy.  But then I realized that every businessman already does that anyway, so it was kind of a mute point.

60M: That’s very true.

Advertisements

all of these people have wasted their time

Everyone is welcome to think one way or the other about America’s guns.  But with every shooting, I’m on the side of jaded apathy and cynicism.  There may be a solution, a compromise between sides that can be found on guns.  It’s not going to happen.  Those who marched are pushing with all they’ve got for gun control.  That’s also not going to happen.

1) Those who marched seem to be under the impression that politicians work for them.  That’s supposed to be how it works.  But it doesn’t.  Congress works for the following people:

a) Major campaign donors

b) The extreme fringe 5% of their party that rules their lives during the primary of their heavily gerrymandered district

c) Themselves

d) Ordinary average voter

In that order.  I’m sure there might be a handful of folks in Congress who are decent people who are there primarily to do good.  But I’ve come to believe they’re in the minority.

Ask yourself, what normal person would subject themselves to the vicious cage fight that is modern politics?  The answer is, a normal person wouldn’t.  Congress is not populated with problem solvers looking to compromise or make progress.

It’s why they can’t even conduct basic tasks like pass a budget on time.  They’re on an unhinged two year cycle where their goal is not to do work, but to satisfy the cravings of (a) and (b).  Rinse and repeat.

Anybody expecting that these people are going to be the ones to solve problems is asking too much a system that is (sadly) essentially broken at this point.

2) Think what you will about the NRA’s beliefs, but one cannot deny it is the most successful lobby in American history.  There are two people on the planet who I believe possess the powers of the ancient Aztec demon god Itzpapalotltotec.  They are Bill Belichick and Wayne LaPierre.  These guys are absolute masters of their craft.  Nobody can compete with them.

At this point, if you hired LaPierre and told him to get Congress to pass a law saying all ketchup bottles must be colored pink, he could probably get it done.  The NRA has five million card carrying members.  This is by far one of the largest and most dedicated interest groups in the country.

Unless the people who marched this weekend establish their own singular lobby group, get millions of people to join it, and fund it with a dump truck full of money they’re not going to compete effectively with the NRA.

As an example, after the Vegas shooting I think most people could get onboard with the most basic of gun control arguments, that bump stocks that converted a weapon to fully automatic under the table was not a good thing.  They couldn’t even get that passed into law, they had to do it on the side later.

3) I’m just going to go ahead and say this.  Most Americans simply do not care.  I read an article yesterday that said since 2000 over 600K Americans have died in car crashes.  Go ahead and try and wrap your brain around that number.  In the last 15 years we’ve had more Americans die behind the wheel than in all our 20th Century wars combined.

Throughout my life I’ve known several people who’ve died in car crashes.  I also know a handful of people who’ve died in gun violence.  But, selfishly, or cynically, there just isn’t much I can do about it.

We Americans have a shocking tolerance for mayhem, death, and destruction.  I think it’s in our primal colonial blood.  It’s built into our national psyche.

I’m not going stop driving, or go out and demand that every car come equipped with that goo that saves Stallone from dying in a horrible crash in Demolition Man.  I have personally accepted the risk to myself and to society associated with cars.

I think (whether they admit it or not) the vast majority of Americans have accepted the risk to themselves and to society associated with guns.  Folks might not like it, but it’s the way it is.

Those who marched today think that this mindset is beginning to change, and the march shows it.  I don’t agree.  I’m sure more people have died to gunfire in Chicago since this last shooting than those who died in the Florida school.  People intellectually know this, but essentially don’t care.  They move on with their lives.

Like all this, or hate this, either way, I just don’t believe it’s going to change.

Democracy is a mess, and mostly doesn’t work, but it’s still a beautiful thing.  Agree or disagree with those who marched, it’s still part of our freedom that they believe in a cause and are out there fighting for what they believe in.  But, I do believe, all of these people have wasted their time.march-for-our-lives-washington031.jpg

gun control march in Washington DC, Circa 2029

Geoffrey’s bound for the woodshed

Does anybody remember Geoffrey the Giraffe?  To be honest, until this morning I’d completely forgotten he existed.  Even reading the articles about how Toys R Us is finished didn’t prompt me to remember.  Only when I started to write this post did I recall.

Here’s the backstory.  In 1948 following service in The War, Charles P. Lazarus descended into the African jungle in search of nothing but the highest quality products he could sell to the people, namely bicycles.  He employed the finest in German explorers (unemployed since May 1945), coolies, and technology.  After getting lost in the bush, soon only Lazarus remained alive.  Soon to expire, he awoke from his pre-death slumber held in the firm embrace of one Geoffrey the Giraffe.

As he was slowly nursed back to health over many months, Geoffrey explained to Lazarus that the real money was in selling toys and baby products to the Boomer generation.  Lazarus agreed to implement Geoffrey’s plan, but only on the condition that Geoffrey ended his self-imposed three-thousand year isolation and rejoin the known world.  And so for near seven decades Toys R Us existed and Geoffrey delighted millions with his special powers.

Well, that was fun, but now the ride is over.  Geoffrey is said to have tried to make a break for it.  He’d procured tickets on a tramp steamer bound from Brooklyn to Kinshasa.  But assassins in the pay of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts Bain Capital (who own Toys R Us) got him on the quay at 3am as he was trying to sneak up the mooring line.  Rather than rejoin the jungle to wait for three-thousand years again, Geoffrey’s getting taken to the woodshed.  At KKR Bain’s exclusive Adirondack retreat.  But KKR Bain’s Masters are merciful, the deed will be done quickly.

It’ll be hard for future generations to understand just how central Toys R Us once was to the American experience.  Now, gone.  Any coincidence that it’s end came as a result of a private equity firm mismanaging it and filling it up with endless debt?  I think not.  I’m sure KKR made billions in profit off Toys R Us’ demise.  But it still doesn’t change the long term dive in retail.

Six months ago after a personal experience with bad stores, I predicted the doom of retail.  I thought this would take decades.  But perhaps the rout has already begun.

Maybe in less than a decade there will only be the following physical stores left:

– Ultra Cheap Retail (Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, etc)

– Cheap Retail (Walmart, Target, etc)

– Niche Rich (Starbucks, Small Bookstore, Craft (of any variety), etc)

– Groceries

– Restaurants

– Pharmacies

– Home Improvement

And in the end, maybe it won’t be that bad after all.  I took a look at the top 50 retailers in America.  Of all those 50, here are the ones that don’t fit into my list:

Best Buy

Macy’s

TJX

Sears

Kohl’s

Nordstrom

Ross

JC Penny

Gap

L Brands

Bed, Bath, and Beyond

Toys R Us was #62.  So that’s roughly 15-20% of all stores are doomed.  That’s a lot, but it’s not like it’s 50%.  So I guess the rout / realignment has already started.

Toys-R-Us-Memorial-Day-Parade-

Poor Geoffrey, RIP.

Giant Octopi, The Little Guy, and the curse of the Trump lens

I would gather that if I walked up to ten people on America’s streets and asked them what Qualcomm is, nine of them would provide one of these answers:

1) the quality control program my stupid boss(es) make me use

2) an internet or phone company

3) a robot assassin bent on revenge for the untimely murder of his girl

4) a blank stare indicating the person’s desire not to talk to idiots like me

Only one in ten would know they’re carrying Qualcomm in their pockets.  If the brave new modern world is one where your smartphone is more important than having two functioning hands, then Qualcomm is more important to your life than your ability to digest food.

Qualcomm chips and semiconductor technology run in almost every new thing of the internet age.  They have a monopoly on the business that would make even the most jaded of 19th Century railroad tycoons sweat with envy.

For years Qualcomm has been investigated, fined, sued, yelled at by its customers, rivals, and competitors as one of the very worst of the Giant Octopi.  Qualcomm’s two biggest current problems are a massive lawsuit from Apple (which I find delicious given Apple’s known desire to cheat its own customers) and a $1.2B fine from the EU’s competition watchdogs.  Over the last decade Qualcomm has likely kept food on the table for at least 13,487 lawyers, judges, court clerks, court security guards, and court security doggies.

Nobody knows about these things or cares.  To them, their Apple or Samsung smartphone is Apple or Samsung.  They don’t know or care that the chip that makes it all possible is from Qualcomm.

(As a brief aside, you need to admire the gall, guile, and skill of Intel’s marketing goons that got them front and center in the psyche of every computer user on the planet.  In the 1990’s anybody who knew anything about a computer knew about Intel chips.  You bought computers based on what Intel processor it had, and barely cared whether Dell or Compaq made the overall machine.)

So for those who don’t know what Qualcomm is, or are too busy wondering who Jennifer Aniston’s ninth husband will be, Qualcomm has been under a hostile takeover bid by Broadcom.  Broadcom is another chipmaker based in Singapore.  The purchase price offered was $117B.  Yes, $117B.  Or enough money to manufacture ten large aircraft carriers with swanky Slavic tracksuit racing stripes included.

This deal was always controversial because it would have further increased a trend in American business lately: CONSOLIDATION.  There are only four major American airlines left.  There are three major American cellular providers.  Americans pay four or five times more for cable internet compared to other Western nations, and get slower speeds for the privilege.

So it was always a concern that Qualcomm and Broadcom could become one company, when Qualcomm is already essentially a Monopoly Man of the Giant Octopi.  The question was if the Trump administration would allow the deal to proceed, or block it on anti-trust grounds?

Well, all of that’s changed yesterday.  What’s happened instead is Trump has disallowed the deal on national security grounds.  Essentially, USA is not going to allow THE American internet chipmaker to be owned by foreigners.  Trump signed an order as such.

The Washington Post, as the newspaper of the capital, thus covers this story.

Because this is politics, and it’s DC, the article must of course focus upon Trump.  According to the Post, Trump has signed this order because of his “protectionist instincts”.  They even got some guy (everybody loves the anonymous quote now) to state that Trump wants the lesson “don’t screw with the government” and that the order is “brutal”.  Again, “It smacks of anger on the part of the government to me. This feels a little more personal to me.”  How dramatic.  I’m seething with excitement at the rage drama associated with this esoteric technology topic.

So what we have here is a situation where one of the worst Monopoly Man companies on the planet wants to merge with another member of the Giant Octopi and then make the situation for the consumer even worse with a super-super Giant Octopi company.  The US government stops this effort, for any reason at all, and the answer of the capital’s newspaper is it’s about Trump?  Really?

You know, I’ve avoided saying this for a long time, because to me there’s almost no point addressing Trump.  It is what it is.  People think what they’ll think.  Many people seem to have a visceral emotional reaction to Trump (one way or the other) that I just can’t understand.  But essentially it’s this: Trump will be gone someday (likely in three years).  Trump is who he is, for all the awfulness that he is.  But one day he’ll be gone.  But the Washington Post will still be here.

If I was a member of The Washington Post, I think I’d make it a point to understand that.  Because essentially what has happened is The Washington Post, The New York Times, and most other major news organizations have mortgaged what little benign credibility they had left, in order to get at one singular man.  I get it, I hate Trump too, but that credibility is never going to return.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naïve, and certainly wasn’t before Trump came onto the scene, but it’s gone over the edge.

Hey remember when it was generally considered suspicious when a newspaper article quoted anonymous sources?  Now it seems every news article is based on anonymous sources.  Now I guess we just have to take it on faith that they didn’t get the quote from some guy down by the Sizzler.  But seeing as how we can’t trust them [get Trump at any price] why would I believe anything an anonymous source says?

I’m never going to look at The Washington Post the same way again.  It will always be an organization whose handlers sold their souls and journalistic integrity to get at one guy.  To the point that they can’t even write an article about one of the most consequential technology topics of this year, without making it all about Trump.

Normally this wouldn’t be a massive problem.  You’d be like, whatever, go read another newspaper each day.  True.  Except that every, single, person, in DC who makes decisions (Democrat or Republican) reads the Post every day.  As in, the people who run government, and make decisions that impact people’s lives every day, are fed information by a publication that essentially has no credibility.  That’s not a good place for any democracy to be in.

If the Post was a responsible newspaper, or at least understood their place in society, they would cover the Broadcom / Qualcomm deal through the lens of the status of monopolies, how the deal impacts American consumers (who pay more each day for their stuff because Qualcomm is corrupt), and also address the completely valid national security implications of handing Qualcomm to a foreign buyer.  But instead, it’s about Trump and Trump and Trump, and the Trump lens.  For everything.

That doesn’t help the Little Guy, it doesn’t help America, and that’s a sad, sad thing.

Qualcomm-Logo.jpg

That this deal is dead, for any reason at all, is a good thing.

we don’t delve into the mind of a madman while we help you plan your child’s upcoming birthday party

If you pulled six screaming children and two single supermodels from a burning car tonight while your own clothes were on fire, you’d still be less famous than the twisted scum that murdered more than 60 people yesterday.  This is what he wanted.  He wanted fame.  And yet folks are all about it.  He’s got that fame.  He wins.

Folks are all into getting inside the brain of this piece of filth.  What was his motive?  His reasons?  But if you remember back in 2015 when the psychotic German pilot also committed an act of mass murder via his airplane?  I wrote this.  I stand by every word I said.

_98115457_hi042144963.jpg

What was his motive?  Who cares.  He was evil.  That’s all that matters.  Fuck him.

But hey, just relax folks.  It’s all good.  You should just relax, because you have no choice.  No matter how you feel about guns or gun control or politics?  Your opinions, desires, etc, are all irrelevant.  You can either hide under a pile of coats or just live your life and hope you don’t get struck by lightening.

No politician or leader anywhere from either dysfunctional political party has any idea how to stop any of this from happening again.

If you are anti-gun:  Well, there are hundreds-of-millions of firearms on America’s streets today.  Even if you ban every gun purchase from tomorrow morning it won’t change anything.  Even the most fervent anti-gun types aren’t preaching confiscation as that’s too extreme.

If you are pro-gun: Well, I guess we are at the point where you need your own personal main battle tank.  For even if you were in Vegas carrying your own slung assault rifle at the concert, you were still out-gunned and out-positioned before the first shot was fired.

It might take half-a-century for America to come to grips with all this gun stuff, one way or the other.  In the meantime, you’re just a potential victim on your stroll through the park on a sunny day.

But hey, we at TAP are here to help.  So we created this handy diagram to help you intellectually plan how your kid’s birthday party should play out.  Please bear with us as we explain in detail how this is going to work:

TAP Happy Birthday Kiddo Diagram.jpg

1) Family Picnic Area: Where you, your kids, friends, their kids, and other happy people eat a tasty home cooked potluck meal.

2) Emergency Dugout: When the shooting starts, this pre-dug four foot trench will serve as the bailout point for all individuals.  You’ll need to run drills at the start of the party with all participants.  It’s best to get in the face of the kids during these drills to ensure they know you mean business and you can properly simulate the stress and terror they’ll endure once the first person is struck by gunfire.

3) Bathrooms: You’ll need more than one bathroom, because all those kiddies will need lots of relief time after drinking that tasty sugary party punch.

4) Sandbag Bunker Sentries: You need to make friends with some folks who are heavily armed in their own right.  Become friends with cops, current or former military members, or former unemployed African mercenaries.  If you can’t become friends, you can hire a moonlight off duty police officer.  They set up shop in overwatch behind the sandbags and are thus in a position to immediately return sustained and disciplined fire against any threat.

5) Face Painting Booth: The little ones sure do love the colors and designs that expert painters apply to their faces.  I’m told boys want to be Groot and the girls a happy butterfly.

6) Counter Sniper Position: As we’ve seen demonstrated in Vegas and the south of France, the nutcases and terrorists are becoming ever more sophisticated in their attack methods.  Not even solid Bunker Sentry positions are enough to protect you.  You’ll also need to hire a trained sniper wielding a large frame rifle capable of disabling shooters at extreme distances, or disabling vehicles up to the size of a small delivery van or truck that’s being used to run over people en masse.

7) Baby Animal Petting Zoo: Nothing says fun like petting a baby lemur that’s half asleep.  Oh man, look at how closed the baby lemur’s eyes are.  He’s barely half awake even when you pet him.  Cute little dude.

8) Prepositioned Mass Casualty Aid Station: Let’s face it, even the best of well laid wartime plans go wrong.  You could have your fighting positions manned by Rambo and John McClain, but casualties are still going to occur.  So you’ll need an aid station on site that can treat the wounded while the police take 27 minutes to clear the shooter(s) and the medevac helicopter(s) can arrive.  It’s best to man this point with an experienced mass trauma surgeon.  Again, make friends with one if you can to keep your costs down.  Otherwise hire one off duty on a moonlight gig.

9) Clown Show: [insert joke here]

Enjoy the party!

Wrigley Field – temple of the baseball gods

Most of the time work can force you to do unpleasant things.  Sometimes work can force you to do awesome things.  And so I found myself directed to Wrigley Field for some work team building thing while on travel to my remote location.

I’ve only ever been to one ballpark and that’s my home team.  Wrigley was number two.  I had no skin in the game but my remote colleagues from Chicago were mostly Cubs fan.

The Reds beat the Cubs though which bummed them immensely.  Though the Cubs won the division again this year, so we’ll see if they can mount a repeat.  I don’t think so, but we shall see.

Wrigley is an interesting place.  It’s kind of a dump, but I love that about it.  It’s a wonderful place that it’s still in the old neighborhood and isn’t a super faceless corporate behemoth of a stadium.  I hope they never replace it.

But, the Toyota logo is on the classic Wrigley sign.  And there’s construction across the street from the stadium that will likely house luxury apartments and such.  So not even Wrigley can escape the Giant Octopus.

Still, it was a good time, and there’s so much history in the stadium you can feel it.  Oh man, think of the near one hundred years of games in that stadium.  Entire generations of fans.  All without a pennant.  Now they have one again.  Will they have two, we shall see.

DSC00782

DSC00785

Update:

I realized after writing this, the folly of one of my above rants against the Giant Octopus.  For you see, Wrigley’s name in itself is the tool of said Giant Octopus.  Wrigley bought the name rights to the stadium long before this was even a common sports thing.  The field itself was wrapped up in corporate sponsorship almost from the beginning.

However, we, and I mean I too, don’t tend to think of it this way.  Wrigley is just called Wrigley and we don’t tend to think of the connection to the chewing gum.  It’s weird like that.  If you walked up to me and said “Wrigley” I’d automatically assume you meant the ball field and not the gum.

 

 

Niagara Falls – on a cloudy workday

You’re not supposed to visit wonders of the world ad hoc. You’re supposed to plan this stuff out, make a day of it, or whatever. As always though, when work sends you somewhere you need to remain flexible.

I was supposed to be in Buffalo with my boss for two days of stupid meetings. In his typical manner (I don’t like my job) this trip was booked on about two days notice. We get stuffed (for his loyalty points) at a hotel well to the east of Buffalo itself.

We get into Buffalo–Niagara International late Monday morning, and go straight to an office. But instead of taking the allotted four hours, it goes for like 90 minutes. Then the dude looks directly at me and he’s like, “Are we done?” Uh, yeah sure, why not. Don’t have to ask me twice.

So all of sudden it’s like 2pm and I have the rest of the day. I’m in Buffalo, so now what? Hell, Niagara Falls, that’s down the road right? Sure, why not. But he’s got the rental car. Fortunately, he’s probably more of a loser than I.  He just wants to sit in the hotel. So I get the rental car keys he kindly offers. So, apparently, now I’m unexpectedly driving to Niagara Falls. Okay.

DSC00727.JPG

American Falls.

Once upon a time, before cheap discount air travel changed all of global travel, people vacationed or traveled to where a train or car could get them. If you lived in the American Northeast or Middle Atlantic, you didn’t jet set to Cancun or visit London or Iceland. Instead, you drove to places like Niagara Falls. For a good long while Niagara was the number one honeymoon destination on the planet. No more.

As I drove the back roads to Niagara from east of Buffalo I was struck by the starkness of the typical rust belt urban / suburban wasteland I’ve previously encountered. More than half the billboards were for things like opioid addiction, plastic surgery, and the like. It was like driving through other formerly paramount Northeastern tourist destinations that have been gutted by cheap air travel, such as New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

The swankiest looking building in downtown Niagara is (sigh) the freaking casino. Everything else looked burnt out, old, nostalgic from a different happier age. What’s been Cancun’s gain, is Niagara Falls’ loss. I’m not sure what to entirely make of all this, but it is what it is. That being said, Niagara Falls doesn’t disappoint.  It’s an awesome place to visit.

I was there on what turned into a cloudy summer afternoon. I kept fearing it would pour rain but I figured it was worth the risk. It misted a bit here and there, but otherwise the weather cooperated.

DSC00728.JPG

Long distance shot of Horseshoe Falls from Prospect Point.  Note tourist boat getting a good soaking.

Niagara Falls is actually a series of falls. Combine them all together, and depending on how you count, it’s essentially one of the top three waterfalls on Earth.

NiagaraFallsStateParkMap6864.jpg

Handy map for reference.  Not my shot.

DSC00731.JPG

Looking north down river into Niagara Gorge.  Note Rainbow Bridge, aka Department of Homeland Security parking lot #428.4b.

I ended up at Prospect Point. You can park there for a small fee. Walk over and you’re at American Falls.

DSC00733.JPG

Out of all the places I’ve visited in America, this was the most international I’ve ever seen a tourist crowd. I was one of the only home team members there. Almost everybody else was from elsewhere on the planet. This was on a summer weekday. So my only conclusion is that the international community is more into Niagara Falls than regular Americans. I guess USA folks take it for granted? Or maybe Americans prefer hanging out on the beaches of Cancun over seeing a big waterfall? Not sure.

DSC00741.JPG

American Falls Rapids.

Prospect Point is very crowded. You get a good view of the American Falls though. In the distance you can see Horseshoe Falls. But the best way to go is to walk a bit. Head across the bridge to Luna Island and Goat Island. It’s less crowded and your view of the Falls are better.

DSC00743.JPG

American Falls Rapids with American Rapids Bridge.

You could truly make a whole day at Niagara. Maybe not a whole week, unless it was actually your honeymoon and you were otherwise occupied, but a whole day yes. You could walk the Falls on both sides of the border. You could take the old fashioned boat to get soaked by the Falls. There is also a walkway near the Cave of the Winds where you can get soaked on foot at the base of the Falls. You could also hike all the trails and get a good view of all the preparatory rapids. It’s truly a full day awaiting you.

DSC00747

American Falls from Luna Island, where your doom over the Falls is literally three feet away from your face.  So awesome.

I was there for a few hours. I’ll be back.

DSC00751.JPG

DSC00757.JPG

PS I posted this groundhog a few weeks back. The answer to the riddle was Niagara Falls. This dude was just going about his day about four feet from the edge of Niagara Falls. You can see the mist in the background of the shot. The little guy (or gal) knows his (or her) stuff. I’m sure the groundhog fatality rate at the Falls annually is zero percent.

DSC00735

Toke up little buddy!