Monday, November 19, 2018

Week of 11/19/2018

Amazon’s Seductive Game Played America’s Suckers
Here is a story, sad but true. 
Let’s see if it sounds familiar to you.
A lonely boy meets a beautiful girl.  That lonely boy falls hard for the beautiful girl.  The beautiful girl knows he has fallen for her, and, while there is nothing expressly said, it is carefully implied, or at least suggested, that there could be “something” between them.
So the lonely boy begins a careful dance to woo over the beautiful girl.  There is time spent, gifts purchased, meals bought, attention given, fantasies woven of the two of them together.  There is always the lure of “something better” just over the horizon.  The payoff that the lonely boy believes will end his time alone.
But then the truth is revealed.  The beautiful girl really doesn’t feel the same way for the lonely boy as he does for her.  In truth, she really finds him somewhat pathetic.  But she gave him attention and strung him along because of the things he would give her.  He wasn’t even the only lonely boy in her life.  There were several that she strung along just like him.  Sad and lonely guys who would give her anything on the suggestion or the hint that she could be theirs.  And sometimes they would know this, but they still played the game because they would each believe that they were truly the one for her.
And then the lonely boy learns the ultimate truth.  It’s not that he had to “compete” against all these other lonely guys just like him.  There was no competition; because she was already in a relationship with someone else.  Someone who may have thought her little game was amusing, but still knew that, at the end of the day, she’d only be with him.
I know this story all-to-well, because I was always that lonely boy.  And now, decades later as a lonely guy, nothing has really changed aside from the fact that I can no longer play those games where I always leave a little sadder and a lot poorer.
But having that experience, I cannot help but feel angry when it is played on others, especially for amusement or even for profit.  Brutally Honest supporters can recall when I showed my anger and outrage over the game when it was played on a TV series called “Average Joe”.  It was a horrible tease that took three seasons for the beautiful girl to finally choose the lonely boy, and she had to be nudged by others into doing it.
We’ve seen it in movies like “Dangerous Liaisons” and the “Cruel Intentions” series.  Yes, the tease was so good, they made it into a film series.
And now we’ve seen it nationwide.
The “beautiful girl” in this instance is the mega-company known as Amazon.  Its owner is so rich, he can afford to play pissing games with the narcissistic President of the United States and not bat an eyelash, and that’s even before you remember that he also is the owner of the Washington Post newspaper.
And the “lonely boys” in this story?  Well those are all of the politicians in the various municipalities all across the nation that were vying to be Amazon’s much-desired second corporate headquarters.  A high-priced move that would supposedly bring in high-paying jobs.  They each believed that Amazon would choose them over all the others.  This would set them apart from all the others. This is their “Mega Millions” dream.  Their “Powerball” fantasy.  They would never have to worry about budget shortfalls or poverty ever again, or so they pathetically believed.
The seduction game was nothing short of retching.  Various cities and states offering Amazon the world for this “honor”.  Tax breaks, tax credits, free parking, an exclusive airport lounge, a private transit line, one city in Georgia even promised to change their name to “Amazon” if they were chosen.  No, I am not making that up.  Over two hundred municipalities were Amazon’s potential suitors, and they each promised everything they could possibly have and even stuff that they couldn’t afford to give.
And then came the reveal.  After months and months of teasing and seducing, Amazon chose not one but two locations.  HQ2 would be in New York City.  HQ3 would be in a suburb of Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac from Washington DC.  Nashville would get a smaller logistics site for 5000 jobs.  Everyone else: too bad, so sad, thanks for playing.
Of course, we wouldn’t know just what was being promised in all our names until after the big reveal.  Each municipality was under non-disclosure agreements to prevent other cities from trying to out-bid the other.  Amazon played the seduction game like a webcam queen.
And, when you really think about it, their big reveal was really a joke on the rest of the nation.  New York is oversaturated with billion-dollar corporations.  Adding Amazon HQ2 to that city is like putting a slice of cheese on the world’s largest cheeseburger.  And HQ3 in Arlington?  Yeah, the same neighborhood as another business that CEO Jeff Bezos owns... the Washington Post.  Gee, what a “coincidence”.
But I’m not really going to criticize Amazon for this.  Because the game is not just about the tease but those that went along with it.
In hindsight, I always look back at all my years and on all of the money that I spent on those fruitless pursuits that never could be.  I think back to all the things that I could have done with the money that I was spending for a dream that never could come true.  I would always ask myself “Was it worth it?”  If it led to that fruitful relationship, then, yes.  But when the result is always no, then of course I would have to say that it really wasn’t worth it.
And that’s what I want the taxpayers in all those other municipalities to do as well.  Think for a minute about what your elected grifters and shysters were promising in your names to Amazon.  Think about what they were ready to give away just for the “honor” of being HQ2 or HQ3.
I have yet to find a community that isn’t struggling for revenue.  Infrastructure is collapsing everywhere.  Teachers are underpaid and overworked.  Police are overburdened and underpaid.  Municipalities all rely on tax money for their revenue.  The streets cannot be fixed, the traffic lights and street lights cannot be maintained, schools cannot get new materials without that tax money.  And here were over two-hundred municipalities that were ready to give tax breaks and tax credits to one of the wealthiest of corporations.
I wasn’t exaggerating when I made references to Mega Millions and Powerball.  This is like spending the mortgage money on either of those lotteries on the delusional conviction that you will win the jackpot.  It’s only worth it if you win; even though, statistically, you won’t.
So you have Amazon, a huge multi-billion-dollar corporation, coming into your community, which is strapped for tax revenue... and you promise them that you won’t get a dime in taxes from them?
Oh, I know... they were lured by those high-paying jobs!  All of those high-paid tech jobs that would need to be filled by the community that is currently barely getting by on mediocre pay and being nickel-and-dimed by Big Healthcare and Big Pharma and the rest of Big Corporate.  You presume that those jobs will be filled by people in *your* community!
The idea that Billy, your local IT guy who fixes five-year-old computers when he isn’t selling second-hand iPhones, would somehow be getting one of those high-paying tech jobs is yet another one of those delusional fantasies.  Amazon wouldn’t be giving those high-paying jobs to the local people.  Amazon would be bringing in those high-paid people.  People that would already have the education and the experience that they need.  And those salaries would also be tax-free thanks to those sweetheart deals.
So you have a whole bunch of people who have a lot of money suddenly going into your little “city”, seeing what you have and what you don’t have, and they are saying “We need better homes than what you have here.  We need better schools than what you have here.  Your roads are crap.  Your traffic is crap.  We want someplace better than Walmart to shop.  We need more cops to keep us safe.  Your restaurants are too small for us.  And we don’t care where the money comes to pay for these things just as long as it isn’t from us.” 
This kind of transition goes by another name: gentrification.  You’re not bringing up the community.  You’re replacing them.
Still worth it?
And then there is something else that all of those municipalities should keep in mind.  Thanks to those hidden bids, Amazon now knows more about all of those communities than they did previously.  They know the population base, where the communities are by general income, what kind of schools are in your community, what kind of services you offer, and what kind of leadership your community actually has.  They know how desperate you are.  Some of that information could be collected elsewhere, true, but some of it wouldn’t.  Now Amazon has it all, to use as they see fit.
Let’s get brutally honest here... this whole seduction from Amazon was one of the biggest teases in the world.  It dwarfs the bid for the Olympics, which, I can tell you from two decades ago, is a nightmare.  But at least you didn’t have every podunk little community that fancies itself as a “city” thinking they could get the Olympics.  Not so with Amazon.
And the thing is... just how much was your community willing to whore out to get it?  That’s the most dangerous part of this seductive game; that your elected officials were willing to give up the very things that your community needs to keep going just for that “honor”.
I did some stupid things when I was trying to win that “beautiful girl”.  I spent money and time on women that only really wanted the former and didn’t care about the latter.  But at least it was only that.  What your elected officials were willing to give to Amazon in your name is a whole lot worse, and you really need to evaluate that before the next elections.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Week of 11/12/2018

What Needs To Be - And Will Never Be - Done Next
So the 2018 Mid-Term Fraud is over and done with.
The fascists in the GOP keep the U.S. Senate but they lose the House of Representatives.  Unfortunately, that will most likely mean that perpetual failure Nancy Pelosi will end up being Speaker of the House once again.  And if you’re expecting her to somehow keep the Narcissist President Donald Trump in line, you are delusional.
Nancy Pelosi is a power-monger.  She lords over power and leverage.  That is how she got to where she is today.  I suspect that she will never do the right thing as Speaker as long as she can leverage what she knows about Trump.  And I’m not talking “leverage” in terms of helping out America.  I’m talking “leverage” for her own sake.  History has already documented this from her first time as Speaker.  She’s already outright said that she will not support impeaching Trump, so if the Dems in the House let her become speaker again, they are letting Trump prevail.
Some of the fascists in the GOP were knocked out of power, but some of the key offices that people wanted to see changed didn’t.  And that’s really on the Dems and their failure to deliver in those races.  Don’t sugar-coat it, Dems.  You lost those races.  “Close” doesn’t count.
And now is the time when things need to be changed for the 2020 elections.  Now.  Not next year.  Not in 2020.  If we want to make the 2020 con-game just a little better for us non-politicians, then we need to fix things now.  Yes, “we”.  Not just one party or another.
Here’s something that needs to not happen, but you know it will anyway.
Stop calling for reconciliation and “healing”!  Stop asking for peace after the elections.  You’ll never get it.  Thanks to the politicians, and the political “experts” and the lobbying groups, we are in a never-ending campaign.  Every election is a battle in an endless war for power and control.  Every election.  Every year.  Every election is polarized, purposely designed to fragment society, not bring them together.  And this is especially true with the conservative extremists.  Conservatives don’t want peace with their enemies.  They want their enemies to surrender.  And if they lose, then they refuse to recognize the loss anyway, so they will never “make peace”.  This has been documented from 2007 when the GOP lost control of Congress all the way until Trump’s inauguration.
So stop asking for something that you know you will never get and you don’t really want.  We Americans are in a mental state of perpetual war.  Own it and accept it.
Now... here are a few things that need to be changed:
Get rid of the “Fifty-Plus-One” rule!  I can understand why that would be needed for a primary or caucus.  You want to give the illusion of a majority support when it comes to those races.  But when it comes to the general election, that whole fifty-plus-one garbage needs to be shut down.  The whole purpose of that kind of rule is to eliminate third party choices, since a candidate that doesn’t get fifty-percent-plus-one majority means there is a run-off between the two leading candidates.  That means several more weeks of psychological assaults in the form of lies and misinformation pretending to be “campaign ads”.  And you’re not going to convince people who didn’t vote for those two candidates to do anything different.  They just won’t vote.  Period.
So let the third party votes stand in the general election and end the prolonged psychological assault on the voters.
Stop allowing elected officials to keep their jobs while campaigning for higher ones!  It’s one thing to run for re-election, but if you are an elected official looking to run for another office, then you need to resign from your elected job the minute you get the nomination for another office. 
Georgia’s gubernatorial race was a blatant conflict-of-interest case with GOP nominee (and winner) Brian Kemp still holding on to his cushy job as Secretary of State while also running for Governor.  The problem with that is that the Secretary of State’s position is to oversee the elections, including for the higher office he was running for.  That means he was campaigning for one job while still on the taxpayer dime for another.  We were paying for him to run for higher office.  Plus, every move his office made concerning voting rights was now suspect.  Was it truly to fight “voter fraud” as Kemp’s office repeatedly said, or was it to keep people from voting against him?  All the denials in the world from him and his office mean nothing because of that blatant conflict of interest.  That office’s integrity and impartiality was trashed by Brian Kemp just so he could be governor!
And, seriously, the Democrats in Georgia failed miserably to act on this until it was far too late.  The minute Kemp won the GOP nomination, there should have been calls, screams, howls, and marches on the Gold Dome for him to step down as Secretary of State.  There should have been screams of “conflict-of-interest” from every Democrat in Georgia!  That should have been cause #1 for the Dems.  But, no, they waited until the week before the election, when even that request would be interpreted as a campaign stunt.  That’s on you, Dems, and you need to own it.  You probably could have won the Governor’s office outright if you did that sooner rather than when it was too late.  So make the effort to fix the loophole that Kemp used for his victory.
One more...
Paper Trail!  The whole matter about the integrity of electronic voting machines and whether or not a vote is being changed after it is cast can be resolved with two words: paper trail.  Is it too hard to come up with a printed receipt?
Again, going back to Georgia, the suspect Secretary of State’s office claimed that it was just not possible to change out the voting machines in time for this year’s elections.  Fine.  Do it for 2020.  If the GOP was truly serious about fighting voter fraud and truly preserving voter integrity, then they should be making this their top priority now.
Then again, the GOP doesn’t seem to care about voter integrity unless they can use it as an excuse to suppress the votes of those that vote against them.  So, again, the Dems need to make this their top issue now rather than well into the 2020 fraud when it would be again dismissed as being “too late”.  And, if the Dems really want it to happen, then they will need to guilt-trip the GOP into helping them.  Sell it as a way to eliminate a major election complaint against them.
Remember the 2000 Fiasco?  The hanging chads and the dimpled-chads?  That led to the push for electronic machines to stop any future complaints about paper ballots.  So now have a machine that can print out a receipt once the vote is registered and end this complaint now before it becomes an issue for 2020.  If we can have this for automated checkouts at grocery stores and bank ATM machines, then we sure as hell can have them in the ballot box.
These seem like simple fixes, right?  I know that there are plenty more that could be done and need to be done, but these are some of the best fixes that need to happen and really should happen, because they involve the integrity of the election system itself.
Well let’s get brutally honest here… these changes, no matter how much we need for them to happen, are probably not going to happen.
These things, these bugs and flaws in the election system, are all tricks of the trade for politicians and their allies.  They didn’t just “happen”.  They were created.  As I’ve said before, this is an endless war of power and control, with every election just another battle in that war, and both the Dems and the GOP need every trick they can use.
The GOP’s “voter fraud” is a never-ending con-game.  It’s never about finding “fraud”.  It’s about limiting the number of people who could vote against them.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at the groups they target and the kind of “reforms” they impose.  They only focus on the groups that usually don’t vote for the GOP.  So if, for instance, you know the largest group that won’t vote for you have PO boxes, you claim “fraudulent voters don’t have a mailbox” and require them to have an actual mailbox in order to vote.  Crazy?  Already done.
The GOP and the Dems hate competition.  That’s why they created the “Fifty-plus-one” rule in the first place.  They don’t want third parties or independents at all.  They want the runoffs because it does force people to either pick one or the other or else not vote at all, so they get a fifty-fifty chance of winning no matter what.  That’s why the runoff campaigns are even nastier then the general elections, because they really do not want you to vote!
Like I said before, we are in a perpetual campaign war mode, designed to destabilize America for the benefit of the dominant political parties and their special interest sponsors.  Every election is just a battle in that endless war for power and control.  One election is just a prelude to the next one.  Even Trump repeatedly acknowledged back in 2016 that “it’s a rigged system”.  The problem is that he wasn’t saying that to get sympathy.  He was gloating and that’s how he got to where he was.
Yes, there’s a lot that needs to be done to fix that rigged system.  But the first step is to fix the easy bugs.  The ones that you know can be fixed.  You start with restoring the belief that the system itself isn’t rigged.  That you can vote, and that vote will be recognized, that it can’t be changed after you cast it, and that the people overseeing those elections and are overseeing your right to vote are not tainted by possible conflicts of interest or political bias.  You start with these, and you pressure both of the dominant political factions to make these changes happen.  Then you can look at fixing the harder problems.  We all have to start somewhere with this.