Category Archives: Current Affairs

Quote of The Day: A teacher Who Dreads Carrying A Gun to Class

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Ms. Fennelly, the former poet laureate of Mississippi, teaches at the University of Mississippi:

Last year, one of my students turned 21, and her friends tied two giant Mylar balloons, a “2” and a “1,” to her chair to celebrate. Later, deep in our discussion of John Donne, we heard what sounded like a gun shot. Everyone jumped. A few screamed. One student — I can see him still — hit the floor.

When we realized, all of us, that our active shooter was none other than an exploding Mylar “2,” there was a painful pause. Then we laughed a shaky laugh, and I slowly resumed the discussion.

I wish I hadn’t. I wish I’d given them the rest of class to share how difficult it is to learn when one is always listening for a bullet.

From “I Love My Students, but I Won’t Use a Gun to Protect Them,” New York Times

Exclusive: A Leak from the FBI Mar-A-Lago Raid!

My sources are tireless . . . .

Imagine the Feds this past Monday morning, sweating in their suits and ties, but with rubber gloves up to the elbows, hands thrust deep in each of the Mar’s 477 (gold-plated?) toilets, searching fearlessly, searching relentlessly, thanking god no selfies were allowed, and no alligators have been seen nearby for a couple of weeks.

But the G-Mens’ –or G-persons’ — thoroughness paid off. . . .

And the implications of their find, as they unroll, are sure to be historic, once they dry out and if need be are deodorized.

But a source who insisted on anonymity leaked this sample. (The White House declined comment.) Our analysts are still poring over it.

We can’t wait to see more; especially the real stuff.

AR-15s In All Schools? A Carolina County Says Yes

AR-15s put in all Madison County NC  schools to enhance security in case of active shooter
Johnny Casey — Asheville Citizen Times — August 5, 2022

MARSHALL, North Carolina – In response to the Texas school shooting that left 19 children dead May 24, the (Madison County] school system and Sheriff’s Office are rolling out some beefed up security measures in 2022-23, including putting AR-15 rifles in every school.

Madison County Schools and Madison County Sheriff’s Office are collaborating to enhance security in the schools for the upcoming school year after the Uvalde, Texas, tragedy revealed systemic failures and poor decision-making, with responding police disregarding active-shooter trainings, according to a report from the Texas state house.

“Those officers were in that building for so long, and that suspect was able to infiltrate that building and injure and kill so many kids,” Madison County] Sheriff Buddy Harwood said. “I just want to make sure my deputies are prepared in the event that happens.”
[Wikipedia: “Madison County is located deep in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina, and much of the county’s terrain is rugged, heavily forested, and sparsely populated. The county’s northern border is with the State of Tennessee.” The county’s 2021 estimated population was 21000+, 90% white, less than 1% Black, 3-5% Hispanic.]

Continue reading AR-15s In All Schools? A Carolina County Says Yes

Kansas Kartoons & Updated Classics

After Tuesday this week, I read about a political “earthquake” in Kansas. And a thunderbolt.  Even a “tsunami.”
Naaaah.  What happened there was a real surprise, for sure. Maybe a game-changer? ?

We’ll see. But the proper metaphor had to be what the hired man shouted to Dorothy and Auntie Em in the classic taught and watched in all true-blue American schools worthy of the name. Right?

But there’s more . . .

And pushback these days even comes through the mailbox . . .

But of course, the Original is still the greatest! Here are two, with minor updates:

 

It’s Wednesday Morning in Kansas, and America . . .

 

Quote of the Weekend: The Senate Saves the Billionaires (Again)

From, Farhad Manjoo, “Private Equity Doesn’t Want You to Read This” — New York Times — Aug. 4, 2022

One of private equity’s main plays is the leveraged buyout, which involves borrowing huge sums of money to gobble up companies in the hopes of restructuring them and one day selling them for a gain.

 

But the acquired companies — which range across just about every economic sector, from retailing to food to health care and housing — are often overloaded with debt to the point of unsustainability. They frequently slash jobs and benefits for employees, cut services and hike prices for consumers, and sometimes even endanger lives and undermine the social fabric.

It is a dismal record: Private equity firms presided over many of the largest retailer bankruptcies in the last decade — among them Toys “R” Us, Sears, RadioShack and Payless ShoeSource — resulting in nearly 600,000 lost jobs, according to a 2019 study by several left-leaning economic policy advocates.

Other investigations have shown that when private equity firms buy houses and apartments, rents and evictions soar. When they buy hospitals and doctors’ practices, the cost of care shoots up. When they buy nursing homes, patient mortality rises. When they buy newspapers, reporting on local governments dries up and participation in local elections declines. Continue reading Quote of the Weekend: The Senate Saves the Billionaires (Again)

Pelosi & Taiwan: Curtain Raiser On A New Nuclear Suspense Drama?

Taiwan – Nancy Pelosi’s Last Hurrah

Gwynne Dyer — Aug 04 2022

People walk past a billboard welcoming U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, August 2, 2022. Pelosi . . . becomes the highest-ranking American official in 25 years to visit the self-ruled island claimed by China, which quickly announced that it would conduct military maneuvers in retaliation for her presence.
CHIANG YING-YING/AP

Gwynne Dyer is a UK-based Canadian journalist and seasoned commentator on international affairs.

OPINION: Nancy Pelosi’s brief visit to Taiwan this week caused
great if somewhat confected anger in Beijing, but the Chinese Communist regime was not her main target. Continue reading Pelosi & Taiwan: Curtain Raiser On A New Nuclear Suspense Drama?

Shining Light on the New Church of Rightwing Dark Money

ProPublica: A Right-Wing Think Tank Claimed to Be a Church. Now, Members of Congress Want to Investigate

Andrea Suizzo — August 2, 2022

Forty members of Congress on Monday asked the IRS and the Treasury to investigate what the lawmakers termed an “alarming pattern” of right-wing advocacy groups registering with the tax agency as churches, a move that allows the organizations to shield themselves from some financial reporting requirements and makes it easier to avoid audits.

Reps. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., and Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., raised transparency concerns in a letter to the heads of both agencies following a ProPublica story about the Family Research Council, a right-wing Christian think tank based in Washington, D.C., getting reclassified as a church. Thirty-eight other lawmakers, including Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Jamie Raskin, D-Md., signed onto the letter.

“FRC is one example of an alarming pattern in the last decade — right-wing advocacy groups self-identifying as ‘churches’ and applying for and receiving church status,” the representatives wrote, noting the organization’s policy work supporting the overturning of Roe v. Wade and its advocacy for legislation seeking to ban gender-affirming surgery.

“Tax-exempt organizations should not be exploiting tax laws applicable to churches to avoid public accountability and the IRS’s examination of their activities,” they wrote.

The Family Research Council did not respond to requests for comment. The IRS told ProPublica that it does not comment on congressional correspondence.

The FRC’s website describes the organization as “a nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to articulating and advancing a family-centered philosophy of public life,” noting that it provides “policy research and analysis for the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government.” Continue reading Shining Light on the New Church of Rightwing Dark Money

Take THAT, Inflation! (COSTCO Keeps Its Cheapo Hot Dogs. And Pizza.

My apologies in advance to those readers who are not COSTCO members, for whatever reason. Many folks I know live out of range of a store, and I comfort them when I can.

But I also wax enthusiastic about the place. I was first drawn to it because of reports that COSTCO paid store workers well above the other big box rates, yet still managed to have good prices and stay seriously profitable; almost a capitalist dream-come true. Wall St. likes it, and those reports seem to be accurate.

But a big box store, however well-paying, is still a big box store; which is not my favorite environment. Yet COSTCO knows that, and has psyched out ways to draw in folks like me. And the main way to my heart, these days (as of old, for that matter), is through my tummy.

Here, COSTCO’s slimmed-down version of a food court is a winner. And the company aims to keep it that way.

The heart of its menu is big hot dogs; the soul is pizza.  There are a couple other items, tho they move much more slowly. But the dogs are big, the pizza is bigger, and comes in any combo you want, as long as it’s cheese or pepperoni.  (You can get some frozen yogurt if you’re feeling flush; otherwise, a bottle of very cold water is a quarter.)

And the dog plus a soda is a buck-fifty flat. A whole large pizza, on which they’re not stingy with toppings, is $10; you’d pay $20 or more at the chains.

This is not cuisine for Whole Foods picky eaters (tho COSTCO  carries plenty of organic stuff too). Instead, it’s an inflation-fighter’s feast for less than two bucks, or two-three big gooey pieces each for a family of four, a budget banquet at barely a buck a slice.

I read a clip that said the hot dog price goes back to the 1980s, when COSTCO was just starting out. It figures; the dog is not only a cheap meal: it’s an icon, a sacred edible object.

Normally, icons are not to be messed with; but “Hello, COSTCO, meet your new neighbor. He’s in a hot new band:  N. Flation and the Supply Chain Stickups. You’ll be hearing a lot from him.”

True enough, lots of prices at COSTCO have gone up. But as of the end of July, their CEO is holding the line on lunch:

In a July 25 interview on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street,” CEO Craig Jelinek had a one-word answer when asked whether he would raise the signature food court item’s price: “No.”

Costco has continued to put up strong sales, even as other retailers have spoken about consumers becoming more budget-conscious and spending more on services instead of goods. It’s also avoided another recent problem for many retailers: excess inventory that’s racked up in warehouses and stores, which must now be packed away or marked down.

Yet amid nearly four-decade high inflation, Costco has raised the prices of some food court staples. Earlier this month, its chicken bake jumped from $2.99 to $3.99 and its 20-ounce soda rose by 10 cents to 69 cents. That prompted speculation that its hot dog’s super low price could be due for a hike, too. The hot dog and soda combo . . . was the subject of a Mental Floss article from 2018 that recently began circulating again.

The article recounts a time when Jelinek approached Costco co-founder and former CEO Jim Sinegal. He told him the company was losing money over the iconic food item.

“I came to (Sinegal) once and I said, ‘Jim, we can’t sell this hot dog for a buck fifty,” Jelinek said, according to the Mental Floss article, which cites 425Business. “We are losing our rear ends.’ And he said, ‘If you raise (the price of the) effing hot dog, I will kill you. Figure it out.’ That’s all I really needed.”

Another aspect of Costco’s business has also been under scrutiny: When its membership fee might increase. Costco membership costs $60 a year or $120 a year for an executive membership, a higher-tier option that includes additional discounts and perks.

The vast majority of Costco’s profit comes from the annual fees rather than from selling items. It has historically raised it every 5½ years and the last increase was in June 2017, putting it on track for a rise soon, according to Corey Tarlowe, an analyst at Jefferies. Its membership fee typically increases by $10.

Jelinek told CNBC that a membership fee hike is “not on the table right at the moment.”

“I made it very clear,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the right time. Our sign-ups continue to be strong.”

Note that Jelinek didn’t mention pizza. But this weekend when I came in, it was the same price too, and still just as gooey greasy good.

Of course, their strategy is obvious: we come for the cheap dogs & pepperoni, and stay for less dramatic bargains on organic tofu bits, computers and couches.

Taking on inflation is a kind of trench warfare, and few emerge unscathed. Checking mine against the menu marquee, it seemed clear that while the dog was as big, the bun was an inch or maybe two shorter.  Plus, the chopped onions, which I used to heap on and call salad, are gone.

But war is hell. In a battle of inches, they’re fighting the good fight. Add in a well-paid and highly efficient staff, and COSTCO works for me.

PS. I did not get paid for this rave review.

Political “Miracles” of the Week

Some amazing things happened in public life the past few days. Here are a few of my picks:

Imagine that: Democrats came up with a brilliant political slogan.

I’m not sure that’s happened since “Yes We Can” burst on the scene with Barack Obama in 2008.

This one is the “rebrand” of the last year’s luckless “Build Back Better.” I was okay with BBB, but it sure went down, choked in  coal smoke from Manchin’s mines, then lost in Krysten Sinema’s deserts.

A caveat: I’m speaking here only of the title; what’s in it is another matter, as are its actual prospects for passage. But certainly it will be an asset in the Dems’ midterm electoral campaign.

Next, a spate of stunning campaign ads popped up. The best, which delivers a horror message worthy of Stephen King, with wickedly sardonic wit and wordplay, comes from Texas and a new PAC, Mothers Against [Texas governor] Greg Abbott “MAGA”:

In an instantly viral ad, a doctor tells a distraught couple that their fetus has suffered a catastrophic abnormality.
If she were to make it to full term, he continues, the baby girl would die just hours after birth. “She will suffer,” the doctor adds, before telling the tearful parents that a decision must be made on terminating the pregnancy — a choice that “only one person can make.”

“And that person is Greg,” the doctor says.
“Who the F—- is Greg?” The father asks. The doctor reveals a portrait of Abbott. With a direct phone line.
[Click here to watch the ad. ]

“Greg” turns thumbs down. Then . . . .

I think the ad is brilliant in every way: production, acting, targeting (Republican Abbott is up for re-election), its daggerlike wordplay, and packing its thrust into less than ninety seconds.

Speaking of a quick thrust . . .

 

PS. A real Grass-Roots snapshot, from In The Yard:

Welcome to your Weekend . . . .