Monday, November 25, 2019

Week of 11/25/2019

The Holiday Need
This commentator noticed something strange this year concerning the “Christmas Creep”.
For those who aren’t really aware of it, the “Christmas Creep” is the trend to start moving the “Holiday Season” – the festive celebrations that the Christians are guilty of coveting in blatant violation of the Tenth Commandment – earlier and earlier in the year.  Usually this is by the stores to get Christmas items on the shelves earlier.  Where traditionally the “Holiday Season” would start on Thanksgiving, Big Business has been guilty of flipping the bird on the earlier holidays like Halloween and getting right to the commerical spirit.
This year, this commentator saw Holiday trees and decorations in some stores at the end of August.  Think about that!  Even before Labor Day!  And in previous years this happened as early as July.  July!  Put away the red-white-and-blue and start putting up those lights before you fill up the wading pool!
The most blatant culprits of “Christmas Creep” are the folks at Hallmark, with their various cable channels running their vast library of cheesy Holiday movies as part of their “Christmas in July” celebration, and then throwing them in on various weeknights and weekends just for the hell of it.  So instead of seeing recycled crime dramas and murder mysteries in the middle of summer, you’re watching one of a gazillion formulaic movies of some doe-eyed woman in a snow parka talking about how important Christmas is and falling in love.
In years past, most people I’ve known hated the “Christmas Creep”.  They would complain about it as much as I did about the commercial shoving of the season down our collective gullets way ahead of the calendar.
But... not this year.
This year, I’ve been hearing more people actually eager to start the “Christmas spirit” early!
Not too eager, of course.  They’re not skipping Halloween.  But, certainly, that seems to be the new marker for the Holiday Season instead of Thanksgiving.
I’ve even heard people outright say: “Halloween is over, now I can put up my Christmas decorations!”
Of course, this isn’t universal.  If, for instance, you’re living in those passive socialist enclaves called covenant neighborhoods, there are usually set rules as to when you can put up your holiday decorations and when to take them down.  But outside of those places, I’ve noticed a few homes get started earlier than usual, and local communities putting up the public displays and turning them on a few weeks before the traditional Thanksgiving start.
And, of course, Big Retail is kicking off their “Black Friday” deals a whole week before “Black Friday” itself.  They need the money, after all.  And they heard people complain about the creeping up of their manic deals into Thanksgiving Day itself.  So starting it a week earlier actually makes a little sense since they’re not driving idiots into being rampaging barbarian hordes waiting for the doors to open after filling up with turkey and stuffing.
But it’s the general feeling of Holiday “need” right after Halloween that caught my attention.  And, really, this commentator can understand why.
Let’s get brutally honest here... given all the anger and strife being driven by hyperpartisan extremists with red hats, given the insecurity of our economy and a certain narcissist’s trade war, given the mass shootings and domestic terrorists, it is understandable that people would want to get into the Yuletide spirit a little earlier than usual.  Who wouldn’t want to feel a little happier given all the crap going on?
We’ve been worrying about how families will handle Thanksgiving when you put delusional red-hat extremists in the same room as people that are sick of said delusional red-hat extremists and their orange-skinned phony savior.  Can they not talk politics for just a few hours?  I don’t think some people can.  This commentator really wouldn’t be surprised if domestic violence cases shoot up this Thanksgiving simply because of it.
I think, more than in recent years, maybe it would be okay for some of us to get a little ahead on the calendar and try to bring those feelings of love and caring and giving a little early.  Maybe not the possessive anarchist commercialism of the season, but certainly the human side of it.  Every little bit would help, even if for just a month or two.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Week of 11/18/2019

Why Income Inequality Ideas Will Inevitably Fail
Imagine working in an auto shop and some guy rolls in a very expensive and very old car.  It’s his “dream vehicle” that he’s worked hard to maintain and to use and it’s been running a little funny lately.  It either idles or it runs on overdrive.  It has a hard time shifting gears.  It has no problem running in reverse or running all-out, but everything else seems to sputter, knock, jolt, and rattle.
The owner of the car says that he’s been going to another shop, but they keep telling him that everything is fine and just give him coupons and tell him that he’s just not driving it right.  The shop owner promises that they’ll fix his car.
It doesn’t take long for the mechanics to figure out what is wrong, though.  The car is old, the transmission is falling apart, and the engine is burning out.  At the very least it needs a new transmission and quite possibly a new engine.  But, rather than get those ordered, or tell the car owner what is wrong, they simply change out the belts, add a little more transmission fluid, and some extra engine oil.  The car “sounds” okay, but the mechanics know that it’s just a matter of time before the problems resurface.  It’s a pricy service, and one that guarantees several return trips before the car owner eventually realizes that nothing is really being fixed.
This is the situation that we have with the American economy.  All of the financial problems that a vast majority of Americans are having to go through can be traced to the fact that there is this huge wealth problem, where the rich aren’t just getting richer, but they’re doing so in record leaps and bounds and at the expense of everyone else.  The vast majority of American workers are getting short-changed in terms of income; the cost of living has long exceeded any kind of pittance of growth they get; they’re being forced to take on unsustainable amounts of debt just to make ends meet; and they’re being money-shamed by arrogant so-called “financial experts” that think people are struggling because they’re wasting their money on $7 coffees and avocado toast as they parade about their own “Four Yorkshiremen” fantasies about how “poor” they used to be.
Several of the Democratic presidential wannabes have a “solution” for the problem of income inequality.  Andrew Yang wants a universal basic income.  Two wannabes want to give tax breaks and tax credits to those poor and middle-class Americans.  A few others want to hit up the wealthy and super-wealthy and uber-super-wealthy with more taxes.  And then there is the push to increase the minimum wage up to $15 an hour.
All of those ideas do “sound” good.  Some of them could even be implemented depending on the results of the 2020 Con-game.
There’s just one problem.
Every single one of those ideas will inevitably fail.
They will fail because they really do not address the problem.
The real problem is that America’s economic system has made profit the barometer for success for business.  They are focused on the immediate wealth it accumulates instead of the overall health of the business.  It doesn’t matter if the business dies tomorrow or gets bought out by its competition as long as it pays out their promised profits today.
In order to make as much profit as they can, business executives have to increase revenue, which means higher prices that we all pay, and also keep expenses low, which includes the wages and benefits of the employees.  That means that employees are not paid their true worth.  It means they have to burden more and more of the costs of things like healthcare.  It means that pensions plans are meager, and many may not be able to retire as planned.
It means that, contrary to what was promised, businesses did not take the tax breaks and tax cuts they were given and invest that money in jobs and promotions and wage increases.  Because those are expenses.  Instead, they sat on the increased profits and then rewarded their CEOs for it.  And some even engaged in stock buybacks, which increased the value of their own stocks in the company, thus giving them even more money.
That’s something that people don’t seem to understand when it comes to CEO wages versus overall employee wages.  The CEO works for investors and owners.  His or her job is to deliver the maximum amount of profit possible.  They get paid for doing that and they get rewarded for succeeding.  In order for them to do so, they have to keep expenses low, which includes keeping employee wages and benefits as low as possible.  Giving employees raises and better benefits hurts the overall wealth of the company, which affects the CEO’s wages and benefits.  It really is an “us versus them” situation.
Increasing the minimum wage or requiring a universal basic income is an expense.  Increasing taxes – or, at the very least, removing the tax breaks and tax cuts already given – of the very wealthy and very-very wealthy are expenses.  Business executives need to make up the difference somewhere.  They’re not getting paid to eat that added cost.
Plus, guess what happens when the economy goes crashing down?  We hear that same false promise of giving tax cuts and tax breaks for more jobs and better wages.  And they will get it too.  Because investors and business owners can afford lobbying groups, and they already have a plethora of media services to continually sell the false promise as a solution.  It’s already been sold over and over again, and it will continue to get sold over and over again in the future.
And the tax cuts and tax credits for the poor and struggling middle-class?  Well that’s when you hear the cry about deficits and how we can’t “afford” to give those folks “free stuff”.  They may not be as vocal about it, but guaranteed come the next budget conflict, that will be quietly removed without so much as a single voice raised in public opposition.  Because, you know, deficits. 
Funny how those deficits only seem to matter when it comes to helping the great unwashed instead of the overprivileged elites.
Let’s get brutally honest here... all of the ideas for dealing with income inequality in America ultimately fail if they do not directly address the real source of the problem, which is the business world’s fixation on profits over everything else.  As long as the focus is on the immediate wealth of the business instead of the overall health of it, there will be a continual push for the former over everything else, including the overall economy.
If you really think about it, pretty much every economic downturn and crash that America has endured recently did not happen overnight.  They came from a thousand economic cuts and wounds that would slowly chip away at the hardworking and undervalued Americans.  Price increases here and there.  A reliance on debt just to keep things going.  Costs of everything going up more than the meager wage increases given.  Lather, rinse, repeat.
Eventually, just like that prized car that suddenly isn’t working like it used to, our economy fails.
The question is... who is really willing to fix the problem?  Because there seems to be no shortage of people looking to provide a short-term patch job.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Week of 11/11/2019

Enough With The Stupidity!
Sometimes I make the comment in social media that the hypothetical giant asteroid that is supposed to strike the planet and obliterate us all cannot come soon enough.  It’s something that gets a few laughs and sort of lightens the gravity of the situation.
But... here’s the thing: sometimes I don’t think that I’m saying it in jest. 
There are times when I do think that the giant asteroid is long overdue to rid the universe of our stupidity.  The fact that we elected a narcissistic orange-skinned self-promoting clown act to the highest office in the United States and that we have a faction of Americans that not only virulently defend him, but actually believe that everything he says is the literal truth, should be proof enough of this.  And then you add to that even more reckless and stupid things like some of the stuff here...
“The Chickening” – So once upon a time not too long ago, Popeyes Fried Chicken decided to compete with Chick-fil-A and come up with their own fried chicken sandwich.  Simple, right?  Fried chicken, bun, pickles.  That’s it.  But then the hype machine got involved and generated so much interest that Popeyes simply “ran out” quickly.  This led to acts of violence by people who “missed out”.  I’m serious.  Literal acts of violence.  People even sued Popeyes because they “missed out” on it!
But now they’re back and they are still so much in demand that people are doing outright stupid and even criminal things to get this sandwich.
You have fights.  You have traffic accidents and reckless drivers who don’t want to wait long lines.  And now someone has died because of a fried chicken sandwich.
The insanity is such that some have dubbed it “The Chickening”.  Think of it as “The Happening” but with overhyped fast food leading people to killing themselves instead of something in the pollen.  Or, better yet, think of “The Shining”, but with overhyped fast food instead of a snowbound hotel and creepy little girls.
People have killed and maimed themselves over an overhyped fried chicken sandwich that you can make yourself!  Hell, even Popeyes executives told people how to make it back in September!  So people are twisting themselves up in knots and wrapping their cars around cement posts and getting into fights and even are getting killed over this.
Over an overhyped fried chicken sandwich.
Bring on the giant asteroid already!
Gender Reveal Stupidity – So on the other side of the socio-economic food chain we have stupid parents and would-be parents who are doing some really stupid things to reveal what gender their future tax deduction will be.
Apparently this is a “thing” now for privileged people.  You can’t just have a baby shower anymore.  Now you have to make a big goddamned production about the gender of that soon-to-be-arriving tax deduction.  Now you have to have a big display of either pink or blue. 
And we’re not talking about balloons and confetti.  No.  We are talking smoke, planes, alligators, gallons of water, and even explosives.
Some dumb privileged parents-to-be staged a reveal party in 2017 using explosives that resulted in a raging wildfire in Arizona that took a week to get under control.  Another set of dumb privileged parents-to-be set off explosives that ended up killing a 56-year-old grandmother.  Yet one more batch of dumb privileged parents-to-be used their car to give off colored smoke, which then ignited the car and it burst into flames.
And then we have the airplane.  Just outside of Dallas, Texas, a pilot was hired to drop hundreds of gallons of pink water for a gender reveal stunt.  Only the plane was too low to maintain altitude and it stalled and crashed.  Thankfully nobody died.
Over a goddamned gender reveal for a tax deduction that hasn’t even been introduced to the world yet!
Whatever happened to... oh, I don’t know... waiting until the tax deduction is born first?!?
And then we have this...
The “Joker” Nothing – So Warner Brothers decided to make a movie about Batman’s most dangerous enemy.  And, no, it’s not Bane.  Or Superman for that matter.  It’s supposedly a movie about The Joker.  His origin story.  Or at least some version of an origin story.  It may not even be his “origin story”.  Because, to quote from “The Killing Joke”, “If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!”
This interpretation of the Joker is about a bad comedian named Arthur Fleck who has been given nothing but misery and cruelty while living in Gotham.  Mocked and ridiculed by everyone, he turns his cruelty around and becomes an agent of chaos while wearing his clown outfit.  Not the first time there was such a story.  After all, we saw this with Michael Douglas in “Falling Down” minus the clown outfit and Gotham references.  And let’s not forget the 1976 classic “Taxi Driver”.
But this time, somebody decided to sound the warning bells.  “Joker” is, after all, a loser who becomes a homicidal criminal.  We can’t have someone like that in the real world deciding to be “inspired” by that movie and go on another shooting spree, right?
Except that it didn’t happen.
How many shooting sprees happened because of this movie?
How many people died in real life because of this movie?
Let’s get brutally honest here... there were more people killed and far more destruction over privileged parents throwing gender reveal parties and over a goddamned overhyped fried chicken sandwich that there was over the supposedly “dangerous” Warner Brothers movie!  But everyone wants to trash on the “Joker” movie, because, you know, comic books.
By the way, “Joker” is not the first live-action movie that featured a villain without their superhero foil.  Anyone remember when Halle Berry was “Catwoman”?  Anyone afraid of mousy young women turning into adventurous homicidal thieves when that movie came out?  Of course not!  And not because that movie was really mediocre.
Oh, and for the record, the man that shot up the Aurora theater during the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” in 2012 never dressed as The Joker, nor did he target the movie because of the Batman connection.  He did it because he knew that it would have the biggest audience.  It was the media that erroneously spun the Batman connection.  Because, you know, comic books.
From where this commentator sees things, the bigger threat to society in general are privileged parents putting on big and dangerous productions for their own ego gratification, and stupid people in general who ditch any semblance of sanity over an overhyped fast food sandwich.  These two groups have a body count.  The only deaths in “Joker” are currently on the screen.
I’ll make it simple: knock off the crap!  Get your heads out of your anuses.  Being a parent does not entitle you to be stupid and pretentious, and no kind of fast food is worth death and destruction over.  And maybe if we can get rid of some of this kind of stupidity, we can work on the kind that’s in the White House.
And if not... well, there is always that giant asteroid that we are long overdue to encounter.