Sunday, May 15, 2016

Last Call For Hitting The Pub

If you want to know what our friends from across the pond think of the US election, it's quite funny and worthy of a drink or two (or five).  Here's a short YouTube clip of the latest Financial Times Pub Quiz, the subject of course being our presidential election season. Your host is Demetri Sevastopulo, the FT's Washington bureau chief.

Considering how much I complain about the American press getting Trump wrong, being terribly critical of Hillary Clinton, pretending like Bernie Sanders still has some sort of magical chance to be the Democratic party's nominee, and how much of a true non-entity Sen. Ted Cruz would be in any other capacity, well it's nice to sit back and have a laugh at their expense, courtesy of the UK.

It's pretty interesting to see what non-American news sources think about our election process. I freely admit that Britain has had some doozies in the election department with newly-minted London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and the nasty pummeling that the Labour Party received this time last year, plus the upcoming referendum on whether or not the UK will even stay in the European Union, but as much of a mess as British politics are, they simply don't hold a candle to the near 18-month insanity of our modern presidential contests.

It's definitely worthy of a drink down at the pub to keep you sane.

If you're interested in the Financial Times coverage of the 2016 election, you can find a lot more here.

One Hell Of A Bad Gamble

I understand the need for the under-represented group of America's Casino Magnates need to stick together and all that, but Sheldon Adelson putting $100 million on Trump seems like a sucker bet to me.

GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson might spend as much as $100 million to support Donald Trump's bid for the White House, according to a New York Times report, while pulling back his funding for down-the-ballot races and other Republican efforts. The casino mogul told Trump he would financially back his campaign at a closed-door meeting last week, two Republicans close to Adelson told the Times, and the amount pledged would exceed Adelson's spending on previous campaigns.

Oh this is going to be good.

The move comes as other major Republican donors, including the Koch brothers, have balked at supporting Trump. Trump bragged about being self-financed throughout the primary race (though he was receiving some contributions). He has now said he intends to fundraise for his general election battle with likely Dem nominee Hillary Clinton.

According to the New York Times report, Adelson and his advisors are still weighing which pro-Trump super PAC is best suited for his financial backing. Adelson officially declared his support of Trump in a Washington Post op-ed Friday.

"If Republicans do not come together in support of Trump, Obama will essentially be granted something the Constitution does not allow — a third term in the name of Hillary Clinton," Adelson said.

Yeah, because a third Obama term would be so bad for America (or for Sheldon Adelson, frankly).  What I don't understand is pulling back on GOP downticket races, when arguably those are far more important, especially given Trump's impending wipeout.  This seems like a fantastic disaster. I can't wait.

Sunday Long Read: Everyday Low Standards

When we talk about retailers like Wal-Mart shifting billions in operating costs to government, they usually do so with low wages, forcing employees on to SNAP benefits, which they then use to buy food at Wal-Mart.  But there are plenty of other ways Wal-Mart shifts costs to taxpayers, and one of them is using local police as store security rather than pay for it themselves, as this week's Sunday Long Read from the Tampa Bay Times finds.

Law enforcement logged nearly 16,800 calls in one year to Walmarts in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties, according to a Tampa Bay Timesanalysis. That’s two calls an hour, every hour, every day.

Local Walmarts, on average, generated four times as many calls as nearby Targets, the Times found. Many individual supercenters attracted more calls than the much larger WestShore Plaza mall.

When it comes to calling the cops, Walmart is such an outlier compared with its competitors that experts criticized the corporate giant for shifting too much of its security burden onto taxpayers. Several local law enforcement officers also emphasized that all the hours spent at Walmart cut into how often they can patrol other neighborhoods and prevent other crimes.

“They’re a huge problem in terms of the amount of time that’s spent there,” said Tampa police Officer James Smith, who specializes in retail crime. “We are, as a department, at the mercy of what they want to do.”

Even cops admit that Wal-Mart is tying up their officers and preventing them from doing other things, and responding to other calls.  And they can get away with it because they're Wal-Mart.

The Times reviewed thousands of records and interviewed dozens of officers and experts to provide an unprecedented look at the impact 53 Walmarts had on local policing.

Among the findings:
  • Sheriff’s deputies in Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties were called to individual Walmart stores more than to any other location — by far. The same went for police in Largo, Pinellas Park, Tarpon Springs, Dade City, Plant City, Brooksville and Port Richey. For authorities in Pinellas and St. Petersburg, Walmarts were the second busiest locations.
  • Officers logged fewer than 500 calls for violence, drugs or weapons. They took roughly another 7,000 calls for potential thefts. An even bigger category was general disorder, everything from suspected trespassing to parking violations, lost property and people sleeping outside stores. Those roughly 9,000 calls consumed hundreds of hours of officers’ time, but resulted in just a few hundred arrests.
  • Many businesses paid a lot more in property taxes than the local Walmart but were much less of a burden on police. The Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg, for instance, paid nearly four times as much in taxes as three nearby supercenters combined. Still, the mall attracted fewer police calls.
  • Officers know Walmart is such a regular trouble spot that they routinely show up without being called.
  • They simply hover around stores and parking lots to avert further issues, providing even more taxpayer-funded crime prevention. The Times found 6,200 of these unsolicited visits on top of the 16,800 other calls.

Walmart stores, with heavy foot traffic and cavernous layouts, are natural targets for shoplifters, panhandlers and other opportunists. Many are located in disadvantaged areas prone to more trouble. The retailer knows all of that, experts said, but doesn’t do enough to address the problems, despite ample resources. Walmart, they said, lays out its stores in a way that invites trouble and often doesn’t have enough uniformed employees to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Companies should do as much as they can to keep their properties in order before leaning on police, said Charles Fishman, author of The Wal-Mart Effect, a book about the retailer’s growth and social impact. He equated Walmart’s high volume of calls to the parents of a misbehaving 11-year-old who call 911 every time their child acts out.

“That’s not what police are for,” he said.

Oh, but that's what Wal-Mart thinks they are for.  And they certainly have more pull in Florida than taxpayers.  When you refuse to secur your own stores to cut costs and make local governments handle the duties, well that's the price of a Wal-Mart in your hometown, folks.

Trump's America Gets A Lesson

Near the end of his Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Albuquerque in December, Gill Parker Payne decided he had to take action.

Seated a few rows in front of him was a woman he had never met before. She was wearing a religious headscarf, known as a hijab, which Payne recognized as a Muslim practice. He stood up, walked down the aisle and stopped next to her seat. Looking down at the woman, Payne instructed her to remove the covering.

“Take it off! This is America!” Payne, 37, later recalled saying. When she didn’t do it herself, Payne did: He grabbed the hijab from the back and pulled it all off. Violated, the woman, identified by the Justice Department only as K.A., quickly pulled the hijab back over her head.

On Friday, as part of a plea deal with the federal government, Payne pleaded guilty to obstructing the woman’s exercise of her religious beliefs. “Because I forcibly removed K.A.’s hijab, I admit that the United States can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I intentionally obstructed K.A.’s free exercise of her religious beliefs,” he said in a written statement in the plea agreement.

If you think that an assault like this would ever be prosecuted in a Trump "Justice Department" I have some beachfront property in Colorado for you. In the end, there is a difference between the Republicans and the Democrats, and treating Islam with the same protections that are afforded to Christianity, Judaism, and all religions is one of those differences.
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