Bernie Sanders For Gadfly

bernie-sandersWonkette said it best today, “Bernie Sanders has approximately zero percent chance of being elected president.” And yet I’m excited about him entering the race for the Democratic nomination for president, probably tomorrow.

Bernie will fractionally do to Hillary what the right wing of the Republican Party did to Mitt Romney… in the opposite direction.

Even though Sanders isn’t particularly well known outside Vermont (where he won his last Senatorial election with 71% of the vote, even against candidates from the Republicans, Marijuana Party and a guy named named Pete Moss!) his ideas are. He speaks to labor and the forgotten middle class. He rails against the moneyed and powerful (actually the powerfully moneyed).

Without Sanders in the race, Hillary Clinton could stake out her territory by being a centrist or even right-of-centrist candidate.

Mitt Romney was a reasonably middle-of-the-road governor in Massachusetts. He was for a lot of things there that he was forced to run against as the Republican candidate for president.

“What we have seen is that while the average person is working longer hours for lower wages, we have seen a huge increase in income and wealth inequality, which is now reaching obscene levels,” Sanders told the AP.

“This is a rigged economy, which works for the rich and the powerful, and is not working for ordinary Americans. … You know, this country just does not belong to a handful of billionaires.” – AP

Now things get interesting.

The World Is Smaller

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I needed a piece of camera gear for an upcoming trip. After checking around, I decided to order a ‘grey market’ version. Grey market means it isn’t intended for sale in the US. It’s not covered by a US warranty.

That’s the only difference–except price. I saved around 35%.

My purchase on EBay from a ‘store’ in Hong Kong was made early Friday afternoon in SoCal. Eight hours later it was out-the-door and on its way. FedEx has a daily non-stop 747 from Hong Kong to Memphis, which is how it probably travelled.

My package cleared customs in Memphis then took another flight to LAX. By early this morning it was on a truck in Irvine, delivered to my door before 10:30 AM.

The world is smaller than I thought. I’m impressed.

A Put Up/Shut Up Moment For McDonalds

The competition’s tough. Baby, that’s a pity.

Plain-McDonalds-LogoMickey D’s just announced a horrible quarter. Profits are down 30%. According to Reuters it’s because of “a food scandal in China and tough competition in the United States.”

The competition’s tough. Baby, that’s a pity.

Where were we?

How will McDonalds go about building its profit? Will it raise its prices? This is what the fast food industry has screamed any time the subject of raising wages comes up.

My guess is price raising is the last thing they’ll do. And, in spite of their kvetching, it would also be among the last things they’d do if forced to pay a more reasonable wage to the McDonalds crew.

I get it. Underpaying employees is fabulously profitable. It’s also reprehensible.

Let’s see how McDonalds goes about dealing with this crisis. It will tell us a lot about their honesty on the wage front.

McDonalds made over a billion dollars in this past quarter on revenue of seven billion.

Amazon And Us

amazon logoMy dad and I were on the phone yesterday. He told me he just ordered corn flakes via Amazon.

A click in the evening brought the flakes 36 hours later.

“How do they do it,” he asked?

My mom and dad, now living comfortably near my sister and her family in frigid Wisconsin, aren’t very mobile. Grocery shopping is tough.

We’re big Amazon users here too. I’m looking around my office at loads of items delivered to me. I’ve ordered on-line when I could have just gone to Home Depot, under five minutes away.

Is this a good thing? Over the short term it’s great. I get what I want with less hassle and for what’s usually the best price.

Amazon figured out how to get things to me fast using a variety of delivery services. It’s a data driven company. There’s a method to their madness, but no two packages come via the same route.

Over the long run I’m much less convinced all of this is a good thing! Staples announced they’re closing 300 stores in the US. Radio Shack is lopping off over a thousand. Retail’s in trouble. Malls are in trouble. Even Walmart is worried. Amazon is trying to hide in the corner, softly whistling.

At the same time, Amazon’s become adept at extracting favorable tax rates and incentives. A Google search for “tax incentive amazon” shows a half dozen states considering or already offering large sums of money to Amazon.

Everything I buy online I don’t buy in a store. Amazon fills the gap with fewer employees earning less money. I’m not paying today. I’m paying tomorrow. The jobless require assistance. It’s not the workers fault.

George Jetson at WorkIf the Jetsons had properly predicted the future, where George comes to work and immediately puts his feet up on his desk, we’d be fine. I grew up with that fantasy. But labor saving hasn’t meant making life easier for labor. The effect has been quite the opposite.

The convenience offered by buying online is huge. It’s only when you see the whole picture, it becomes suspect.

These are complex choices. I’m not rushing to a decision. It’s confusing.

Dinner At Pink’s

Helaine and I drove to Hollywood last night. Helaine had some goodies for Stef. It’s a 55 mile drive. An hour and a half last night. LA traffic is as advertised.

Stef met us after work.

She’s been to the Golden Globes, SAG and Grammys. She’ll be on the Red Carpet at the Oscars too. Stef’s part of the team that produces the ‘pre-game’ and ‘post-game’ shows on E!. They’ll be live seven hours at the Oscars.

OK, I’m her father. I’m biased. It sounds like a pretty cool job.

I’m especially glad she’s involved in live TV. It’s a rush when you’re on and there’s no turning back. I tried to explain the feeling before she started. Alas, you can’t properly describe an experience.

We brought Doppler along, which limits where we can go. Who cares? She’s an excellent traveler.

We ended up at Pink’s on La Brea. It’s a hot dog stand, built in 1946, still rocking it’s 1946 style. Pink’s is a reflection of LA’s early adoption of cars versus public transport. You could drive up, get out of your car and get a dog!

I had the “HUELL HOWSER DOG – 2 hot dogs in ONE bun – mustard, chili, cheese & onions.” Huell was a well known TV personality whose segments on LA’s quirky native culture are still played, long after his death.

I also had a Dr. Brown’s Cherry. That brings me back to Flushing, as a kid. The taste hasn’t changed. It was magical.

Pink’s no Glenwood! Will someone please tell Rob I said that.

Our drive home was much faster–a little less than an hour.

We’re very lucky to live so close to Stef. It’s a trip we enjoy taking.

A Hike In Red Rock

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Most people think of Las Vegas and stop at casinos. That’s easy to do. They’re built as one-stop shops to separate you and your money. Luckily, there’s a lot more going on here in the desert.

Just west of Las Vegas is Red Rock Canyon.

Red Rock Canyon was designated as Nevada’s first National Conservation Area. Red Rock Canyon is located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip on Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159. The area is 195,819 acres and is visited by more than one million people each year. In marked contrast to a town geared to entertainment and gaming, Red Rock offers enticements of a different nature including a 13-mile scenic drive, more than 30 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, road biking, picnic areas, nature observing and visitor center with exhibit rooms and a book store.

Red rock 2   geoff.fox gmail.com   GmailMostly, it’s undisturbed desert with great views.

With temperatures in the upper 50s today was perfect for a walk. We chose a trail with little vertical climbing and started out.

We’re actually not sure how long we were on the trail before we lost it. There were still plenty of footprints in the dry river wash we followed and we didn’t go too far astray. We just lost the actual trail!

My Cousin Michael was quick to note, no birds. We did see one tiny gray bird Mother Nature has made nearly indistinguishable from the rocks it lands on. That was it. One bird… and we were looking.

It’s also interesting to see the colors of the plants. Many of the living desert species have colors normally only seen once a plant has died!

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