Tag Archives: Trump

The Politics of Whine

I can handle just about any behavior from children from tears to tantrums, and I can tolerate a whine from someone about 34 inches high, from 26 to 28 pounds in weight, who lives in a world of extremely oversized furniture, adults who walk too fast, and often demand too much.  It’s when the person isn’t two years old anymore, is over 5’4″ and weighs 128 or more pounds, I lose all patience.  This is why I was pleased to note the news networks didn’t choose to broadcast the last presidential rally in full.

The presidential speeches are the Politics of Whine.  He’s whining again.  Hillary Clinton, bless her soul, won more popular votes than he did; he’s not forgotten it, and he isn’t going to let the rest of us forget it either.   His Attorney General properly recused himself from an investigation in which he was a witness, the Whiner in Chief hasn’t forgotten this either, and he isn’t going to stop whining about it anytime soon.  No, Buddy, Sissy doesn’t have to give up the coloring book when you want it all to yourself.

The Mexican government isn’t going to pay for his wall.  They’ve been very explicit about this. One of their former Presidents has been brutally honest on the subject. [CNBC] What part of “never, never, never,” did our Whiner in Chief not comprehend? [CBS] There’s a teachable moment when Sissy complains Buddy won’t voluntarily hand over his oatmeal cookie, a lesson the Whiner in Chief appears to have missed along the way.

If people don’t like me then they’re nasty people who have nasty friends!  Or, translated into political whine:  If you don’t like my racist immigration policies then you’re just trying to protect the bad guys.  Brown = Immigrant = MS 13 = Bad.  Most people get past the toddler logic stage: me good, other bad.   Granted we don’t do all that well introducing kids to the relational concept of an equal sign in equations, and the not equal sign doesn’t show up until later in the curricula, but most grown ups understand Brown ≠ Immigrant ≠ MS 13 ≠ Bad.  Unless a person wants something to whine about.

Buddy’s being mean to me!  What’s he doing? He’s making faces.  Or any of the other variations on this theme common to what’s happening in the back seat of the family motor vehicle five minutes after ignition.  She called me a fish face!  If you two continue this the trip to the grocery stops, we go home, and we can always have the brussels sprouts from the freezer for dinner.   (By the way, there’s no cheese.)  At some point being a grown up means letting petty arguments slide, or taking the high ground, or using the moment to make a larger, more important, statement.   It doesn’t mean taking everything personally!   ABC canceled Roseanne’s show, but they never acted when people said things critical of me!  Whine³

Someone far wiser than I once said, “You have to love your kids enough to say ‘no’ to them.”

No, we don’t pre-judge people based on their ethnicity, religion, or gender.

No, we don’t obsess on slights, real and imagined, from others.

No, we don’t demand to get everything we want when we want it.

No, we don’t make everything all about ourselves.

If a person is over 5’4″, weighs more than 128 pounds, and has reached an age we assume to be mature, then failure to successfully cope with these four simple “no’s” is little more than a public demonstration of childish behavior most of us would immediately associate with little Whiners.   Perhaps it’s time to inform the Whiner in Chief the trip stops here, we go home, and face the defrosted brussels sprouts without cheese tonight?

 

 

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President Cheapskate and the Amazing Non-Appearing Wedding Gift

One can only hope the gift is “in the mail” as we speak, but I am definitely not going to hold my breath.  As we might expect, the newlywed Duke and Duchess of Sussex ask for charitable donations in lieu of wedding gifts.  Some national leaders donated to local charities promoting causes related to the young people’s interests, others were more creative, and some responses were just heartwarming —  an abused Indian bull rescued, a couple of namesake koalas in an animal shelter with accompanying donations for habitat maintenance, and so on.  And, then there was Donald J. Trump:

“White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters said last week the Trumps will make a contribution to one of the seven charities on the royal couple’s list but did not specify which one. Neither Trump tweeted about the wedding.”  [USAT]

We’ve seen this movie before — and thanks to the intrepid reporting of David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post, we know that ‘the movie’ is an entire series, with more versions than Star Wars and Planet of the Apes combined.   So, the contribution will be made to “one of the seven charities.”  Which one?

“The couple have chosen charities, which represent a range of issues that they are passionate about, including sport for social change, women’s empowerment, conservation, the environment, homelessness, HIV and the Armed Forces. Many of these are small charities and the couple are pleased to be able to amplify and shine a light on their work.” [eonline]

Sport for social change? How likely is it that Trump will donate to a sport for social change charity while he’s busy vilifying professional athletes who are protesting police brutality toward ethnic minorities?  Women’s empowerment?  A donation from a man who has at least 16 public allegations of unwanted sexual conduct against him? Who faces legal actions from Summer Zervos and Stephanie Clifford?

Conservation?  A donation from the father of two trophy animal slaughtering sons? A man whose administration allows the hunting of hibernating bears and their cubs? Allows the killing of vulnerable animals swimming in Alaskan rivers? Who allows the killing of wolf cubs?  Probably not.

The environment?  A donation from the man who won’t fire the egregious Scott Pruitt from his well protected perch at the EPA? From the man who promotes pipelines across sacred lands? From the self-same person who wants to roll back fuel efficiency standards?

Homelessness?  A donation from a man whose administration is cutting funding for programs to help homeless people? [Newsweek]  Whose administration is on track to make the situation worse? [WaPo]  Not much chance for this category to make the cut.

HIV?  Remember the interview with Bill Gates who describes two meetings with the President:

“Both times he wanted to know the difference between HIV and HPV and so I was able to explain that those are things that are rarely confused with each other.” [NBC]

Gates is being entirely too kind,  almost NO ONE confuses the two diseases.  Most people who don’t know, understand the difference when it’s explained ONCE.

Armed Forces?  “Cadet Bone Spurs™”  As he was so aptly described by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) seems content to lie to newly minted Navy officers about pay increases [MilTimes] and to insure there’s funding for his parade.  Other military and veterans’ issues not so much.

In addition to his endemic lack of interest in social change, empowerment, ecological, and real military issues Fahrenthold’s discoveries should be kept in mind.  Trump will make grand promises.  He will then:

  1. Try to get someone else to come up with the coin of the realm to actually pay for the donation.
  2. Try to avoid payment until there’s so much publicity he can’t stand the spotlight any longer.
  3. Stall until he doesn’t have to actually pay up at all.

Therefore, the best unsolicited advice for the young Duke and Duchess might be to enjoy their honeymoon and not worry about whether the ersatz leader of the US political system will cough up for a wedding gift donation — he probably won’t, and if he does you can be just as amazed as the rest of us.

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Filed under conservatism, ecology, homelessness, housing, Politics, troop pay, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Conflation, Obfuscation on Immigration

Not much imagination is required to conclude the Trump Campaign is back on the trail with its prime topic for the upcoming elections.  Immigration.  “Make America Great Again,” was never much more than code for “make America white again,” and the persistent reference to immigration policy, combined with vague commentary about who is under discussion, compounded with a conflation of immigrant with “criminal” doesn’t leave much room for conjecture about intent.  Those who advocate for DACA recipients, or who champion comprehensive immigration policy reform, are to be painted with a three inch gesso base-coat brush as protecting the “animals,” and the “criminals.”  Consider the following items from this past week:

As he has in numerous private meetings with his advisers at the White House, Mr. Trump used the session to vent about the nation’s immigration laws, calling them “the dumbest laws on immigration in the world.” He exhorted his administration to “do much better” in keeping out undesirable people, including members of transnational gangs like MS-13.

“We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them,” Mr. Trump said in the Cabinet Room during an hourlong meeting that reporters were allowed to document. “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.” [NYT]

We can drill down a bit more into the nuances, if such there are, into this round of conflation.

SHERIFF MIMS: Thank you. There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.

THE PRESIDENT: We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.  [Vox]

As the article posits, there was a definite lack of specificity in this exchange, and a President who was in no hurry to clarify the matter.  Clarification was left to a question to the Press Secretary on May 17th, who asserted the President was definitely talking about members of MS 13.  This certainly sounds deliberate, and the pretext for the policy becomes subtext for the audience.

“If Trump understands his own administration’s policy, he’s never acknowledged it in public. He sticks to the same rhetorical move every time: refer to some specific criminals, call them horrible people and animals, say that their evil justifies his immigration policy, and allow the conflation of all immigrants and all Latinos with criminals and animals to remain subtext.”  [Vox]

The problem, of course is that his actual policy doesn’t match his rhetorical flourishes.  A quick look at FY 2017 statistics belies the President’s assertions on who is being deported for what:

“Deportations overall were down during the 2017 fiscal year, most of which was under Trump’s presidency, from the previous year, in part because fewer people were caught illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. But the number of undocumented immigrants without criminal convictions deported from the interior of the country rose dramatically.

People with no criminal convictions accounted for 17 percent of those deported after getting arrested by ICE within the country ― a sharp increase since former President Barack Obama’s last full year in office, when those without criminal convictions made up 8 percent of interior deportations. In total, nearly 14,000 noncriminals were deported from the interior of the country in the 2017 fiscal year, compared with about 5,000 the year before.”  [HuffPo]  (emphasis added)

One more hammer blow on the nail head — there has been an increase in the number of NON-criminal deportations under the current administration, while the President insists on talking about members of a specific gang.  We can probably safely estimate there are between 8,000 and 10,000 members of MS 13 in the US.  [AzCentral] Insight Crime has a helpful publication, available in pdf, describing the gang and its operations which is well worth the time to read carefully.  One major point to consider from the report is that MS 13 is a transnational gang, not a transnational criminal enterprise.  Secondly, it should be noted that the gang follows traditional migration patterns — it is not pro-actively ‘setting up cells.’  The members, indeed are vicious and violent, however neither their numbers, nor their significance deserves the emphasis placed on them by the administration in its efforts to gin up a good Two Minute Hate.  They certainly do not stand as proxy for all immigrants coming to this country.

The President, as usual, is basely playing to his base.  Nor will it do much good to present facts and figures to the members of that flock.  Their response to immigration policy isn’t rational, if it were they wouldn’t be bleating “Build the Wall.”   What is necessary is a solution to the DACA recipients’ problems — created by the President himself — and a legislative package of comprehensive immigration policy reform legislation, which doesn’t reflect the ideology of the White Nationalists among us.  Given their proclivities, the hardliners in the White House and the Congress would have forbidden the immigration of Dolores Huerta’s grandparents to this country, while being more attuned to the philosophy of the likes of Anders Breivik from Norway?

We can make America great again by doing what we’ve always done. Recognize a problem, analyze it rationally, evaluate possible solutions, and discuss compromise legislative remedies.  None of this can occur during a Two Minute Hate, with Sheep, or in the midst of irrational rhetoric and flights of emotional fancy.  If 40% of the populace wish to be irrational fear-ravaged sheep, they need not take the remaining 60% of us off the cliff with them.

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Distraction to Destruction: The Great Immigration Diversion

If a political party doesn’t want to discuss problems like, say, income inequality? Or, gun violence? Or, vote suppression? Or, Heaven Fore-fend, the interference in our elections by a hostile foreign power? — Then what better diversion than Immigration.  Better still, the issue can be framed such that it appeals to the lesser little devils of our nature like racism, and thus be an “acceptable” way to insert racism into our national political discourse as if it were a legitimate topic of immediate consideration.

“Immigrants today account for 13.4% of the U.S. population, nearly triple the share (4.7%) in 1970. However, today’s immigrant share remains below the record 14.8% share in 1890, when 9.2 million immigrants lived in the U.S.”  [Pew]

Thus much for the Huge Wave of Immigrants. It shouldn’t escape anyone’s notice that the immigrants being vilified are coming to our southern border. Those would be the Mexican immigrants, and those from Central American nations — probably the brown versions of human beings, and therefore not likely to assimilate.

“Mexico is the top origin country of the U.S. immigrant population. In 2015, 11.6 million immigrants living in the U.S. were from there, accounting for 27% of all U.S. immigrants. The next largest origin groups were those from China (6%), India (6%), the Philippines (5%) and El Salvador (3%).  By region of birth, immigrants from South and East Asia combined accounted for 27% of all immigrants, a share equal to that of Mexico.”   [Pew]

Oops, there goes another bit of nativist mythology.  Interesting, those crowds bellowing “Build The Wall” aren’t chanting about the 27% of immigrants from South and East Asia.  We can drill down on this a bit more:

“About 1 million immigrants arrive in the U.S. each year. In 2015, the top country of origin for new immigrants coming into the U.S. was India, with 110,000 people, followed by Mexico (109,000), China (90,000) and Canada (35,000).

By race and ethnicity, more Asian immigrants than Hispanic immigrants have arrived in the U.S. each year since 2010. Immigration from Latin America slowed following the Great Recession, particularly from Mexico, which has seen net losses in U.S. immigration over the past few years.”  [Pew]

The “Build The Wall” Gang seem to have missed this point.  To miss the point is to base one’s perception of immigration on the situation before 2010.  Moreover, the Wall is whatever the audience wants it to be.  It’s a real, physical barrier [ChiTrib] [vox] or a metaphor for making white Americans feel like the government is ‘protecting’ them (and their privileges) from incursions by brown people. [Hill] [VanityFair]

What is generally missing from coverage of the administration’s use of the Build The Wall campaign litany is any factual context.  It seems sufficient to the corporate media to show clips of the incantations of “Build The Wall” during rallies, without offering any information explaining that the pretext is a vision of American immigration which is at least eight years old, and is currently statistically indefensible.

It’s also readily apparent the corporate media would rather not discuss the elephant in the room — the underpinning of this perspective on immigration is partially if not essentially racist.  This shouldn’t be too surprising.  This would be the same press that can barely enunciate the word, and applies a host of euphemisms to describe racist remarks as “racially charged,” “distasteful,” “derogatory,” and “racially tinged.” [HuffPo] Again, this would be the same DC press which keeps labeling Trumpian expressions as “counterfactual,” “factual shortcut,” “stretched truth,” and “misleading statement,” [Week] instead of the more accurate old fashioned term — L.I.E. [NYT]

The current occupant of the Oval Office may be right about one thing — his is a made for TV administration, replete with a continuing fountain of daily (hourly?) emissions which fill what might otherwise be dead air.  It is, “news” from a fire hose.  The problem is that it floods any time which might be spared for context and analysis.  Should even tenuous contextualization, analysis, and evaluation be applied the Occupant screams “fake news,” and the chanting rally crowds applaud Dear Leader.

Caveat Emptor.  The chanters are investing in a distraction to divert them from the destruction of their own economic well being, and sense of community.  Arguing with them doesn’t work; their fact-free bubble of Faux News precludes any analysis in conflict with their fundamental racism.  Better to speak to and for those who advocate for a rational and comprehensive immigration policy, and out-vote the ditto-heads who chant “Build The Wall,” and “Amnesty,” whenever it might be suggested that a rational comprehensive policy would be preferable to emotional, irrational, racism.

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Cases, Clues, and the Misinterpretation of Justice: Trumpian Edition

In 1989 five youngsters from Harlem were arrested as suspects in a Central Park rape case.  They were convicted based on coerced confessions.  They were later exonerated after the collection and analysis of DNA evidence, which demonstrated the identity of the actual criminal.  [NYT] There are several reasons to remember the Central Park Five Case, including the interrogation tactics of the time, the proclivity of the public to assign potential guilt based on race and ethnicity.  However,  there’s another reaction we should remember because it keeps inserting itself into conversations about our politics and our judicial system.

The reaction came from one Donald J. Trump, who famously took out a full page ad in the New York Times calling for the boys’ execution.   Trump defended his ads later during an interview with Larry King:

“I don’t see anything inciteful, I am strongly in favor of the death penalty,” Trump told King. “I am also in favor bringing back police forces that can do something instead of turning their back because every quality lawyer that represents people that are trouble, the first thing they do is start shouting police brutality, etc.” [CNN]

In light of Trump’s continual public comments about locking people up — Sec. Hillary Clinton should be locked up; former FBI Director James Comey should be locked up — as Lawrence O’Donnell’s program reminds us this evening,  perhaps if we reflect on the Central Park Five instance we can discern a pattern that’s been there all along.

Trump’s first line in the King interview is revealing.  He had then, and may not now, have any idea that what he did in placing his advertising in New York City newspapers was a racist reaction to the charging of Black and Hispanic boys in the rape of a white woman.  It’s hard not to miss the lynch mentality in Trump’s call to bring back the death penalty.  He said he saw nothing “inciteful” in his behavior, asserting by implication if he doesn’t see it as “inciteful” then it must not be.  So, not only do we have the lynch mentality at play, it is exacerbated by an incapacity for self reflection and analysis.

Perhaps it’s a crowd pleaser on the hustings to get the “lock her up” chant going, or to point out members of the press for mob vilification; but, since Trump himself doesn’t see it as “inciteful” it can’t be perceived that way by other observers.

He is a ” retributivist,” as defined as: “A retributivist is somebody who believes in retribution. That is, as the principal purpose or justification for punishment. Very simply, [convicted criminals] deserve it. [They are] punished for the sake of justice.” [ARPubMedia] “I am strongly in favor of the death penalty,” he told King.   Trump’s consideration of the Central Park Five Case obviously extends no further than there were some young minority males who allegedly raped a white woman, and thus their crime demands retribution at the most serious level.  By extension, if Trump believes someone has done an injustice (especially to him?) then there must be retribution — lock’em up.

Since Trump’s predilection for word salad encompasses several decades let’s take the next sentence in pieces. “I am also in favor bringing back police forces that can do something…”  This portion of the statement might be interpreted as the complaint of a person trapped in a Film Noir world of rubber hose interrogations and the extra-judicial antics of hero-private eyes.  Phillip Chandler would be proud?  Except in many of the film noir classics the police are stumbling bumbling characters, who are relatively inept in comparison to the private detectives.  There’s another model, which at first glance appears more attuned to the Trumpian world view — the G Men.  Trump seems to like the “tough cop” imagery descending from this era?

This is Your FBI” was a self-congratulatory radio series broadcast from 1945 to 1953.  The G-Men always got their man; the villains were nearly always male. “I Was A Communist for the FBI” ran during 1952 and 1953.   The spirit of McCarthyism got a boost from the stories of Matt Cvetic.  Then, of course, there was Dragnet, and the launch of more police procedurals. These pre-date Trump’s formative years in which he’d have been directly aware of the narratives, but a combination of “pro-police” attitudes and the subsequent challenges to police (read: white, male) domination during the late 1960’s could certainly have formed an authoritarian perspective.  Perhaps Trump absorbed the vestiges of the old narratives and the delusion that “toughness” is a matter of physicality.

Thence we move to: “…instead of turning their back …”  this remark seems to indicate the police weren’t actually policing.  It’s difficult to contend the police were the heroes, always getting their “man,” with the notion that the police could “get their men” if … they weren’t restrained in some artificial manner.

“…because every quality lawyer that represents people that are trouble, the first thing they do is start shouting police brutality, etc.”   Here we have the artificial barrier Trump sees preventing effective policing.

There is no evidence to indicate that initial defense strategies involve challenging the nature of the arrest.  Actually, more common defenses are that (1) the wrong person has been detained; (2) the person acted in self defense; (3) evidence was illegally seized; (4) arrests were made based on unreliable witnesses or informants; and (5) the state cannot prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. [CDcom] However, Trump isn’t exactly known for his reliance on observable evidence. He’s assuming that because he disagrees with the opposition to heavy-handed police tactics this must be a serious problem, and if he believes it then it must be true.  At this point the “etc” may be important.

Since we know that “police brutality” isn’t the first resort of criminal defense attorneys,  the “etc” could be a clue.  “Et cetera” can be very useful for truncating long lists, or it can be extremely sloppy, standing in place of any clarification of a series of contentions.  In this instance we’re probably justified in believing the latter.

Why, then, are we surprised when Trump inveighs against his political opponents in terms which repeat his declarations against the Central Park Five?  No evidence is necessary — membership in a minority group will do; opposition to authority (especially his own?) is automatically suspect; a mythologized version of policing is embraced; and it sounds ‘tough’ to call for someone to be locked up even if there is no legal justification.

And, so we need to be watchful should we become inured to the outrageous nature of calls for extra-judicial punishment for political opponents.  This is serious stuff, on display since at least the Central Park Five advertising, and should be taken seriously.

 

 


 

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The Good Old Days? White House Fights the Free Market

The current occupant of the Oval Office would have me believe he’s The Champion of Small Business In The Face Of The Evil Empire of….Amazon.  Spare me.  (And, NO, the USPS isn’t going broke because of the shipping contract the company has with Amazon. It has much more to do with the Republican supported and enacted restrictions on its pension plan, which require inordinate prepayments into the plan. [IG Report]) So, returning to the topic at hand, let’s start with the proposition that nostalgia isn’t conducive to successful retail marketing.

A Little History 

Extrapolated into the realm of the ridiculous, there was a time before Macy’s and Bloomingdales (1858, 1861) when shoppers roamed among small retailers along commercial corridors.  Add the installations of elevators and escalators and the retailers could further “departmentalize” their offerings.  Surely there were objections from smaller retailers at the time, and there were probably others who decried the Memphis Piggly-Wiggly grocery store’s 1916 decision to let customers get their own items from the shelves rather than have a clerk do the accumulation.  However, it’s unimaginable to give any credence to the notion that innovations in retailing are necessarily nefarious.

The department stores faced competition beginning in 1872 from Aaron Montgomery Ward whose catalog advertised shipping via Express rail services, and from Richard Sears. Their catalog sales were boosted by the decision in 1913 to have the Post Office deliver domestic packages. [AtlasObs]  Again,  to assert that companies like Amazon, which depend on Internet ordering systems are somehow essentially different from the innovations adopted by Ward and Sears is risible.  What we might be hearing from the White House is the lament for brick and mortar retailers who rent property?

Another Change in Retail Habits

We’ve moved from shopping along Main Street, to shopping from catalogs, to shopping from online catalogs.  And, yes, Amazon is now a big presence in the retail system:

“The simplest explanation for the demise of brick-and-mortar shops is that Amazon is eating retail. Between 2010 and last year, Amazon’s sales in North America quintupled from $16 billion to $80 billion. Sears’ revenue last year was about $22 billion, so you could say Amazon has grown by three Sears in six years. Even more remarkable, according to several reports, half of all U.S. households are now Amazon Prime subscribers.” [Atlantic]

However, this is an over-simplification which goes nowhere toward explaining how a chain store founded in 1962 in Arkansas has grown into a 2,000,000+ employer, or why Target seems to be holding its own in the Big Box Store category.  Notably, both Walmart and Target have an Internet operation.

We can lament the demise of the brick and mortar retailers, but as the Atlantic article points out, part of the hard, sad, truth is that we simply built too many of them.

“The number of malls in the U.S. grew more than twice as fast as the population between 1970 and 2015, according to Cowen and Company’s research analysts. By one measure of consumerist plentitude—shopping center “gross leasable area”—the U.S. has 40 percent more shopping space per capita than Canada, five times more the the U.K., and 10 times more than Germany. So it’s no surprise that the Great Recession provided such a devastating blow: Mall visits declined 50 percent between 2010 and 2013, according to the real-estate research firm Cushman and Wakefield, and they’ve kept falling every year since.” [Atlantic]

Toss in a measure of stagnating wages and decreased levels of discretionary spending and it’s little wonder the mall traffic is declining.

“After adjusting for inflation, wages are only 10 percent higher in 2017 than they were in 1973, with annual real wage growth just below 0.2 percent.[1] The U.S. economy has experienced long-term real wage stagnation and a persistent lack of economic progress for many workers.” [Brookings]

Those “many workers” are deciding the Big Box, and online bargain offers, are preferable to mall browsing.   We overbuilt malls, organized them around “anchors” which are looking at declining sales from Big Box, discounters, and online shopping, and thus shouldn’t be surprised when the free market works.

That the current president is upset with the reportage of the Washington Post, owned by the same man who founded Amazon, is no surprise either.  However, that doesn’t fully explain his antagonism which may also be a function of being a real estate developer, and a real estate developer who seems to be freighted with altogether too much nostalgia for those “Good Old Days” when we’d take the transit or pile into the family wagon to shop on site.   There have been major innovations in retailing since the first butcher opened his first shop and accepted payment in cowrie shells.

The Nevada Situation

Obviously, the largest factor in the Nevada is “Accommodations and Food Service,” read: Casinos and restaurants; but the second largest employment category is good old fashioned retailing.  As of the SBA’s 2017 report, there are 140,879 people employed by retailers; of this figure 39,947  are employed by small businesses, or about 28%. [SBA pdf]

There’s reason for cautious optimism in southern Nevada with regard to wages and spending, but …

“The Las Vegas MSA’s 12MMA of average weekly earnings (not inflation-adjusted) went up by another $3 in November. This was the 4th month in a row nominal average weekly earnings rose by $3, continuing a steady streak of growth started just over 3 years ago in September 2014. On a YOY basis, the 12MMA was up $37 (5.0%) from November 2016.

When considered on an inflation-adjusted, YOY basis, earnings rose by 2.8% in November 2017 compared to November 2016, reaching $669 (in 2007 dollars). This was an increase of $1 from October. Las Vegas’ average weekly real wage is now $82 (10.9%) below the most recent inflation-adjusted peak of $751 that occurred over 10 years ago in August 2007. The trough occurred in February 2012 at just over $616, so Las Vegas remains much closer to the trough than the peak.” [StatPak]

If we’re looking for significantly increased demand to boost the southern Nevada retail sector further, something is going to have to happen to those average weekly wages.  The picture for northern Nevada is slightly more optimistic:

“While Washoe County’s economy continues to benefit from rising taxable retail sales, the YOY growth rate has fallen considerably from a year ago. In November 2017, the rate of growth was 6.2% YOY, or 3.2 points lower than the year period ending in November 2016. However, when compared to the month prior, it is down 0.2 points. Taxable retail sales reached $686.8 million in November, having already surpassed, in March 2016, the previous peak on a nominal basis (not inflation-adjusted). As the chart shows, Washoe’s taxable sales growth is very near the state average at just 0.4 points below.

Success in business attraction and retention is driving the region’s economy and is the primary cause of growth in taxable retail sales, though increasing visitation has also contributed.”  [Statpak]

One other factor to be considered before pronouncing Amazon as the harbinger of demise for retail malls is good old fashioned demographics. Neighborhoods change, people move, and the “centrality” of a mall constructed in the late 1960’s or 1970’s may not reflect the residential and traffic patterns 40-50 years later.

And yes, I remember shopping for vinyl records in Park Lane Mall ages ago… when I was still playing vinyl records… before I shifted to CDs … before I downloaded … anyone who expects (or wants) retail endeavors to remain constant in the tides of time will have about as much success as King Canute attempting to command the liquid form of tides.

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Filed under Economy, Nevada economy, Nevada politics, Politics

So Long Facebook

I’d mused about shutting down the Facebook feed (page) before now, but this item from Financial Times sealed the deal:

“Facebook has had time to prepare, after all. It first learnt of the allegation that Cambridge Analytica had broken its rules on using data from the network in 2015. However, Cambridge Analytica has denied using Facebook data in its model. Facebook has more recently been assailed by waves of criticism — amply described in a recent investigation by Wired magazine — about its role in the crisis of fake news and election influencing.”

Why would I be upset about this?  Here’s more from the New York Times on Cambridge Analytica:

“The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.

So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.”

There’s more from the Times here.  And more from the New York Daily News.  And from Wired.  And, what took Facebook so long to deal with this issue? The answers from the Atlantic.

Techdirt explains why this time is “different:”

Of course, there is one major difference between the Obama one and the Cambridge Analytica one — which involves the level of transparency. With the Obama campaign, people knew they were giving their data (and friend data) to the cause of re-electing Obama. Cambridge Analytica got its data by having a Cambridge academic (who the new Guardian story revealed for the first time is also appointed to a position at St. Petersburg University) set up an app that was used to collect much of this data, and misled Facebook by telling them it was purely for academic purposes, when the reality is that it was setup and directly paid for by Cambridge Analytica with the intent of sucking up that data for Cambridge Analytica’s database. Is that enough to damn the whole thing? Perhaps.

So, this will be the past post that automatically goes to the DB Facebook page.  I do apologize if this presents an inconvenience for some, but I really don’t feel I can use, support, or continue to participate in a platform from which data can be mined without proper notice and with the common courtesy to inform users of the collection activities.

Thanks for reading.

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