Saturday, November 26, 2011

Last Call

Looks like the whole "boycott Black Friday" movement has hit something of a brick wall.

Black Friday sales increased 6.6 percent to the largest amount ever as many U.S. consumers unleashed pent-up demand and bought for themselves.

Shoppers spent $11.4 billion yesterday, ShopperTrak said in a statement today. Foot traffic rose 5.1 percent, according to the Chicago-based research firm.

“This is the largest year-over-year gain in ShopperTrak’s National Retail Sales Estimate for Black Friday since the 8.3 percent increase we saw between 2007 and 2006,” ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said in the statement. “Still, it’s just one day. It remains to be seen whether consumers will sustain this behavior through the holiday shopping season.”

The brisk turnout came as retailers from Gap Inc. (GPS) to Wal- Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) to Toys “R” Us Inc. opened their doors earlier than ever.

Many shoppers were rookies who had never before participated in the busiest shopping day of the year, dubbed Black Friday because many retailers are said to become profitable then. As many as 152 million people were expected to shop at stores and websites on Black Friday, up 10 percent from last year, according to the National Retail Federation. 

It's fine to say "Hey, you guys are fighting over scraps from the big kid's table!" but it looks like half of America went in and played these little reindeer games anyway.  Not me, ever since I worked Black Friday in retail in the 90's, I never wanted anything to do with it again.  It's crazy.  But I'm not blaming anyone who does go for it.

And yes, $2 waffle irons may be rampant consumption, but hey, that drives the economy, folks.

Worst Case Scenario Time In Europe

Not sure how much of this is the Telegraph being all crazy and how much of it is "stiff upper lip, carry on", but if any of it's true, it's a problem.

As the Italian government struggled to borrow and Spain considered seeking an international bail-out, British ministers privately warned that the break-up of the euro, once almost unthinkable, is now increasingly plausible.
Diplomats are preparing to help Britons abroad through a banking collapse and even riots arising from the debt crisis.
The Treasury confirmed earlier this month that contingency planning for a collapse is now under way. 
A senior minister has now revealed the extent of the Government’s concern, saying that Britain is now planning on the basis that a euro collapse is now just a matter of time
“It’s in our interests that they keep playing for time because that gives us more time to prepare,” the minister told the Daily Telegraph. 

On the other hand, I have been writing about the worst case scenario repeatedly coming true in the Greek Fire series of posts.  It's another thing entirely to consider Britain actually taking that possible level of disaster seriously enough to make preparations for the inevitable.

On the other hand, it's looking like Britain may not be the only ones preparing.

The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president—and every future president — the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. Even Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) raised his concerns about the NDAA detention provisions during last night’s Republican debate. The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself.

The worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial provision is in S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which will be on the Senate floor on Monday. The bill was drafted in secret by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) and passed in a closed-door committee meeting, without even a single hearing.

Once again, this is the kind of tinfoil hat stuff you expect to hear during a downturn.  More research is needed into both these stories before I'm willing to pass judgment on them.  But these stories are now out there, and they need to be looked at.

Where Have You Guys Been, Anyway?

Stacy Patton over at the Washington Post finally notices that African-Americans are neither impressed with or resonating with the Occupy Together movement, and nobody should actually be surprised that this is the case.

Beyond a lack of leaders to inspire them to join the Occupy fold, blacks are not seeing anything new for themselves in the movement. Why should they ally with whites who are just now experiencing the hardships that blacks have known for generations? Perhaps white Americans are now paying the psychic price for not answering the basic questions that blacks have long raised about income inequality.

New Jersey comedian John “Alter Negro” Minus says he won’t participate in the Occupy protests because black people are being besieged by so many social injustices, he can’t get behind targeting just the 1 percent.

Banks’ bad behavior “just gets lost in the sauce, so to speak,” Minus said. “High joblessness and social disenfranchisement is new to most of the Wall Street protesters. It’s been a fact of life for African Americans since the beginning. I actually think black people are better served by staying out of the protests. Civil disobedience will only further the public perception that black people like to cause trouble.”

Is there a chance that the movement can become more diverse? Leslie Wilson, a professor of African American history at Montclair State University, is not optimistic.

“Occupy Wall Street cannot produce enough change to encourage certain types of black participation,” Wilson said in an interview. “The church cannot get enough blacks out on the streets. Some students will go, but not the masses. Black folks, particularly older ones, do not think that this is going to lead to change. . . . This generation has already been beaten down and is hurting. They are not willing to risk what little they have for change. Those who are wealthier are not willing to risk and lose.”

I think a lot of it, at least from my perspective, goes back to my discussion on white liberals and privilege.  Folks getting pepper sprayed and tasered, treated as criminals, portrayed in the media as nothing more than thugs and gangsters, all for no good reason?

Welcome to our world, folks.  It's not pretty.  We've been saying this nonsense has been going on for years, but the rise of Occupy Wall Street has, to many darker-skinned folks like myself, only exposed the ugly rift in America that has always been there.  Remember, in just four years or so, the financial crisis and the proceeding bailout devastated what little wealth the African-American community had.  The racial wealth gap right now is staggering in the US.

It took for the wealth gap to get this bad for some people to notice that for some of us, it's been this awful for generations.  It's great that people can camp out in parks when you don't have to, and then proceed to say "Hey this wealth disparity is awful!"

Where have you guys been for the last 30 years, huh?  Nice to have you finally join us on the same page.  Now, what exactly do you plan to do about it other than cleverly photoshopping Pepper Spray Cop into artwork?

When some of us say "Hey, you guys have a leaderless movement and it's being marginalized, maybe you should take some pointers from the civil rights movement" we're not saying it because we want to co-opt anything, we're saying it because we've friggin' been there.

Does this mean we're all finally ready to at least have this discussion now?

In other words, what BlackCanseco said.  Every word of it.

Winter Freeze Means Animals Need Homes

I can't help it, I champion animal causes and this is a great one.  Even if you don't live in Chicago, many cities are following suit, including my dear Springfield, MO.

With the holiday season officially kicked off by the long Thanksgiving weekend, there is no surer sign that winter is right around the corner and who would want to spend the darkest, bleakest time of year in Chicago without a home?

That's exactly the predicament all too many Chicago area pets are in. Continuing our partnership with several shelters in the Chicago metropolitan area, HuffPost Chicago is featuring another group of cats and dogs ready for adoption this week. Like last week, we're happy to report several success stories spotlighting animals previously featured in the series who have found their "furever" homes. But despite this fantastic news, the majority of the pets we've included in the series still need homes. Be sure to check out previous galleries linked below this week's gallery.

Twilight Causing Seizures, Not Just Teenage Girls Affected

The number one movie in America is allegedly giving some viewers seizures.

"Breaking Dawn, Part 1," the first part of the "Twilight Saga" finale, contains a graphic birthing scene involving star Kristen Stewart and the violent delivery of her child. ABC reports that the flashing of colors and bright lights have caused multiple viewers to suffer from photosensitive epilepsy, including a Salt Lake City man who was, "mumbling and he was blinking on and off with his eyes," his wife told the news network.

During the build-up to "Breaking Dawn," Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and director Bill Condon promised that the birthing scene would be as graphic and dramatic as possible.
A birth scene so graphic it causes seizures.  The miracle of technology has not reached its full bloom yet, it would seem.  Though to be fair, I saw the flashing from the beginning of Tazmania cause a seizure, it was one of the scariest moments of my life (the gal having the seizure didn't recall it, every moment is burned into my memory).

If anyone you know could suffer a seizure because of the flashes, you may want to give them a heads up.  This public service message was sponsored by Team Edward and Team Jacob.

Yet Another Flying While Brown Incident

More than one person from the Middle East on the same plane on Thanksgiving?  Time for the security apparatus!

Several students from the United Arab Emirates were removed from a flight from Charlotte to Washington on Thursday after the pilot alerted airport police to a security concern.

About 5 p.m., the pilot of U.S. Airways Flight 1768 asked officers to assist in removing a group of people from the plane because of a "perceived security concern," according to a statement Friday from the federal Transportation Security Administration. The pilot pointed out the concern "out of an abundance of caution," a U.S. Airways spokeswoman said Friday.

Several people taken off the plane told WJLA-TV in Washington that they were students and that they want an apology from U.S. Airways. WJLA reported that the students were asked where they were from and if they had military training.

A new flight crew was brought in and checked baggage was re-screened.

Local law enforcement and the TSA determined that the people taken off the plane were not a threat, the TSA statement said.

Really, Charlotte?  And you don't think the TSA maybe gave them extra scrutiny anyway before letting them on the plane in the first place?  Jesus wept.  Nope, gotta turn the plane around and recheck them because they might be Muslim death commandos.  Five hour delay...and of course nothing there.

Republicans sure have trained us well, pissing on command like that.  All our potential GOP overlords running for President Obama's job would call this a necessary component of our country's freedom and liberty.

StupidiNews Focus: Keep Your Friends Close, Keep Pakistan Closer

Pakistan is pretty pissed off right now as a NATO gunship assault on a border checkpoint near Afghanistan has resulted in at least 26 dead Pakistani soldiers so far.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has called an emergency meeting of military services chiefs to formulate his country's response, his spokesman said. The Defense Committee of the Cabinet will meet later Saturday.
In a statement, Gilani said he "strongly condemned the NATO/ISAF attack on the Pakistani" checkpoint.
The matter is being taken up by the Foreign Ministry "in the strongest possible terms" with NATO and the United States, the statement from his office said.
NATO's commander in Afghanistan said he is committed to a thorough investigation.

Yeah, this isn't good in any way.  Pakistan has already closed supply routes for NATO convoys through the country and that's just for starters, all this happening less than 48 hours or so after another NATO airstrike supposedly killed seven civilians in Afghanistan.  It looks like NATO troops were performing a cross-border raid from Afghanistan, chasing insurgents into Pakistan when the incident took place.  Pakistan's military is calling this an "unprovoked attack" on Pakistan's "sovereignty" and at this point it's still unclear just exactly what happened.  It's hard to imagine things getting too much worse:

"I think we should go to the United Nations Security Council against this," said retired Brigadier Mahmood Shah, former chief of security in the tribal areas. "So far, Pakistan is being blamed for all that is happening in Afghanistan, and Pakistan's point of view has not been shown in the international media."
Other analysts, including Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former ambassador to Afghanistan, said Pakistan would protest and close the supply lines for some time, but that ultimately "things will get back to normal."
Paul Beaver, a British security analyst, said relations were so bad that this incident might have no noticeable impact.
"I'm not sure U.S.-Pakistan relations could sink much lower than they are now," he said.

President Obama's foreign policy has been excellent so far, but this is going to require some kid gloves.  We'll see what the State Department has to say in response.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

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