nature reminds West Coast of approaching nightmare

Lost amidst yesterday’s revelry, fireworks, beer, my dog’s inability to detail with percussive sounds, political mayhem, massive blatant disregard for local laws dealing with the employment of explosives by the citizenry, and so on, was the news that California endured it’s largest earthquake in 20 years.

A relatively mild 6.4 on the American scale yielded minor damage but the usual television mayhem as C grade news organizations tried to hitch viewers by showing helicopters following police cars around open desert communities like they were after the ghost of some 1849 horse thief.

In case most folks forgot, because I know I did, the entire West Coast has nature’s handgun held to its temple.  20 years!?  That’s how long it’s been since California has seen anything approaching a reasonable earthquake.  In geologic times this is less than a fraction of a heartbeat, but it’s quite a long time for us.

But these are not things to be ignored.  A good chunk of the West Coast is built on glass.  The supposed ‘big one’ might never happen, but if it does, oh man that’d be quite the mess.  A full scale cascadia subduction zone quake with the accompanying tsunami would make the 2011 Japanese tsunami look like a wave in a kiddy pool.

I wonder how much planning has been done in California, Oregon, and Washington lately to deal with these eventualities?  Or has all that institutional knowledge been lost after 20 years of not caring at all about it.  Not sure.  I hope folks are still thinking about it and planning.  Yesterday’s earthquake had only one minute’s warning.

When the nightmare of nature calls, there are only seconds to answer.  So after 20 years, maybe a thought or two needs to occur in case the nightmare actually comes.  It’s way more important than some tweet, or celebrity outfit, or whatever.  Here’s hoping the West Coast takes yesterday as a needed wakeup call.

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how not to conduct a coup

One cannot deny Juan Guaidó’s guts, even bravery, at taking the stand he has. I still don’t know how this man is still alive. Any number of deliberate accidents could have occurred by this point, to him or his family. Maduro’s drug trafficking gang regime is not exactly known for its restraint, having already used live rounds against unarmed demonstrators and raping the family members of defector soldiers.

Nevertheless when Guaidó appeared on television yesterday calling for a coup, I had a bad feeling about it all. I felt he was overplaying his hand, reckless, and doomed to fail. Which is exactly what happened. Guaidó seemed to not understand the basic law of coups or war, you need guns and lots of guns. Guaidó had only a few dozen soldiers, who are now hiding in the Brazilian embassy. Leopoldo Lopez, another key opposition figure who broke house arrest to appear in yesterday’s video, went to the Spanish embassy. Guaidó’s whereabouts are unknown.

What did he expect to happen? Well, here’s the insanity of it folks. This was the “plan”:

1) The chief justice of Venezuela’s supreme court Maikel Moreno was supposed to declare “legally” that the Guaidó led legislature was the legitimate arm of the Venezuelan government. This is the point that Guaidó has made all along, that Maduro’s election is fraudulent and thus by the constitution Guaidó is the legitimate acting president.

2) Using this legal decision as his basis the Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez was then supposed to throw his weight behind the opposition and order the armed forces to shift their support to Guaidó. There are unconfirmed claims that other key regime figures such as the head of the domestic intelligence agency were also in on the plot.

3) It seems the key details of this plan were brokered between Guaidó, the coup plotters, and the US National Security Council. As in, John Bolton himself. We know this because Bolton laid out the plot itself in the last 24 hours, essentially explaining how the coup he engineered had failed. Bolton apparently still seems to think he’s a Fox News contributor and not a functioning government leader who should know when to keep his mouth shut.

4) What this means is the plan was never about soldiers fighting for Guaidó, or street demonstrators overthrowing the regime, but instead focused around what amounts to a palace coup where the main effort, the chances for any success, rested entirely on the personal decisions of hardcore Maduro regime loyalists.

That’s just about the dumbest plan I’ve heard all year. If that’s how this actually played out, then Bolton is an idiot. And Guaidó is either naïve, desperate, or stupid.

a) What would possess them to think that two of the most hardcore of Maduro loyalists in Moreno and Lopez were suddenly going to change hats, when their fortunes, their freedom, and perhaps their very lives depend on Maduro remaining on power?

b) Russia and Cuba have actual armed forces on the ground in Venezuela to support the regime. Their mission is to ensure the regime’s survival. For better or worse, the number of guns Bolton had on the ground is zero.

c) The Venezuelan armed forces and their paramilitary gangs have used live fire against unarmed civilians before. When this was always going to remain the case, and since Guaidó and Bolton essentially had zero guns of their own? So, … ???

Here is singular example of why one should not put their trust in the USA. Regardless of what political party happens to be in power, it’s not a wise bet. America’s enemies are serious. America is not. Bet on evil folks, it’s going to keep winning for a while.

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Keeps winning

I think the Democrats want Trump to win

After the very lengthy hiatus I took with this blog I decided I would post far, far less about politics.  Mostly because I believe it’s futile, spoiler alert, we’re doomed.  But every once and a while I still will.

I’m only partially joking with the headline of this post.  There’s got to be a strategic argument that four more years of Trump would suit the Democrats just fine as Trump gets four more years to grind what’s left of his now soulless party into glass sand.

But seriously, here’s who stepped up to the plate for the Democrats for what should be the easiest election win since FDR won while World War II was still freaking happening:

– Two Western state governors who make John Kasich look charismatic

– The Bern, a man who I have second hand knowledge is “a complete idiot” and who will lose badly because he’s a hasbeen and he’s been outflanked by even wackier far left policies by his competitors

– An openly unapologetic opportunistic racist who if she had done what she had done as a Republican would be considered unfit for public office by the political and media establishment

– Not one, not two, not three, nor four, but FIVE completely bland faceless political lawyers likely unfit to run a coffee shop

– A ten year old boy on meth, who is also most recently a loser

– Five people barely worth mentioning but who will look great on the debate stage that has 17 podiums

– Two thirteen year old boys who also were mayors once, I guess

– Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, two reasonable people who might stand a chance if they weren’t both rushing to outcompete the field by who can spout more extreme, unrealistic, unaffordable policies that would make even Lenin or Jessie Jackson cringe

– Then there’s Joe.  I maintain my position that if Joe had run in 2016 he’d have beat Hilary and then crushed Trump.  But he was losing his son at the time and so I get it. 

Now Joe wants in.  I’m not entirely a big time Joe fan, Joe has massive problems.  But, when you compare him to the above listed competitors, Joe comes off as the only sane person in the room.

But wait, now Joe’s got himself wrapped up in the mass hysteria where if a man shakes a woman’s hand without asking permission first, I guess that’s sexual assault.  When did sexual assault become a disqualifying factor and problem for the Democrats, it never seemed to be before?  To me, until they cast Clinton to the woodshed, it’s all hypocrisy.

This is where I kind of truly believe my headline for this post.  If Joe runs, he beats Trump, it’s the easiest play ever.  But the Democrats are trying to kill his candidacy before it even begins.  Do they truly, actually want to lose?  Or are they just this stupid?  Or both?  Who knows.  Like I said, we’re doomed.

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Doomed.

 

 

 

“to see more clearly to the end of the business”

242 years ago 56 men signed a document that made them traitors.  This incredibly brave and reckless act changed humanity.  We take their ultimate success as a fact of history.  For them it was far less certain.  Not all of them lived.  All of them suffered.  All of them fought.  And victory was ultimately theirs.

If I can manage to remember, every year we’ll take a look at one of these men and reflect upon their lives.

Thomas McKean – Delaware

Son of a tavern keeper whose parents immigrated from Northern Ireland.  He was a lawyer at age 21 and already on the move.  Like many of his contemporaries he bridged the gap between the law and politics.  In many cases he held jobs in both camps at the same time.

County attorney general, general assembly representative, judge, and ultimately assembly speaker were just some of the titles he held.  He married at 32 and spent ten years with Mary and had six children with her until her early death.

Often forgotten is that the Revolution was as much as civil war as anything else.  McKean was a member of the pro-independence faction of Delaware and spent many years prior to 1776 in the political fencing act with his neighbors who were pro-British.  He remarried in 1774 to Sarah and had four more children.  I would gather he ultimately had a hard time remembering his grandchildren’s names.

As early as 1765 he is already an openly active member of political organizations dedicated to resisting the power of the British crown.  During the crucial years came in 1774-1776 he’s one of the most fervent speakers pushing for Independence.

Immediately after his 1776 Independence vote at Congress he assumed command as colonel of a regiment of militia.  And so bizarrely it’s believed he didn’t actually sign the Declaration in 1776.  It’s thought he signed it many years later as one of the original voting members was permitted to do so.

He spends most of the war in Congress and is it’s leader at the time of the surrender at Yorktown.  He also began service as chief justice of Pennsylvania in 1777 and would hold that title for twenty years.  Apparently back then you could be the ranking judge of one state, represent another in Congress, and lead Congress, all at the same time.  I don’t think any of our jobs are hard by comparison.

He played a key role in the subsequent creation and signing of the Constitution.  By 1799 he settles down for the rest of his life not in Delaware but Pennsylvania and serves three terms as governor there.  He had a rocky time as state boss.

He seems to have had such a fervent view of things that he frequently quarreled even with friends and was known for his temper.  Yet maybe that was what was needed during those chaotic times of change?

John Adams said of him: “one of the three men in the Continental Congress who appeared to me to see more clearly to the end of the business than any others in the body.”

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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.

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.

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Poor Geoffrey, RIP.