Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Lady Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks

In cities across America, millions (?) of people gathered to protest the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. I suppose the center of the movement was women's rights and the idea that a mysoginist is now our President.  The movement is honorable, but leaves me with feelings that are probably going to make you hate me. So be it.

The protest marches were organized in cities.  In those cities, support for Hillary Clinton was big.  Basically, they brought together a bunch of like-minded voters to say, "We don't like this" to something that has already happened.  It's easy to organize people in areas where they have a common goal.  I get the feeling that they didn't think it was possible for Trump to be elected, so their anger is retroactive, when it should have been proactive.  The pre-election rallies were coronations of a sort, and few believed that America would vote for Donald Trump.

Well - it happened, and now we are supposed to say, "I hate you," but we already knew that.  So, we go out and march, and he is supposed to think that this movement somehow makes him doubt what he already believed:  That he was elected by a landslide.  It was not a landslide, and we know that.  In fact, the popular vote went for Hillary, but that popular vote was in places like the ones in which the marchers were organized.  If we could see marches in rural, southern towns or places where the maps were colored red, then I would tell you that there is a real movement going on here.  What we have is the literal example of preaching to the choir.

Donald Trump will ignore this, as he does everything that opposes him.  We have elected a mysoginistic egotist, and it will take more than a million people in blue states to make him change his mind over what he said that got him elected.  After all, it's what he said that got him elected.  Isn't that the point?

So, go ahead and march.  It's your Constitutional right.  You can be angry and feel displaced, but you let it happen.  You thought Hillary was a shoo-in, and you took it for granted.  Now that you know that middle America agrees with Donald's racist, jingoistic, and capitalist viewpoint, you are forced to deal with it.  That's difficult, I know.  You will spend a lot of time and energy being angry and defiant, marching, and organizing rallies for your cause.  That's nice, but the cause was lost in November.

Perhaps that is a defeatist attitude, or perhaps it is realism.  The next 4 years will decide that.  My guess is that Trump's policies will go forward (as it were) as he proclaimed and your protests will go unheeded.  You will lose most of what the last eight years gave you.

My guess is that Trump didn't watch the news, just as many of you didn't watch his inauguration.  You have to realize with whom you are dealing.
He is not your average bear.  Godspeed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

I See Things

"You can observe a lot just by watching."  - Yogi Berra

I've always said that the Business section is the most interesting section of the newspaper.  Following the stock market gives one an insight into what Americans are thinking, doing, and spending their money on.  Lately, the trends have been interesting.

About a year ago, the casual dining industry began to struggle.  Stalwarts like McDonald's, Wendy's, Starbucks, Brinker, and YUM Brands struggled to draw customers to their restaurants.  Something was influencing people to stay at home and prepare food rather than spend money for the dining-out experience.  Generally, dining out is coupled with some other entertainment, be it a movie, show, or something to draw people out of their home and stop for food on the way out or the way home.  That ain't happening.

Tonight, Netflix reported a stellar quarter, beating estimates on subscriber growth and their own high-quality content.  Some of it is international expansion, but you can't deny that the "Netflix and Chill" economy is in high gear.  We have plush home theater systems, in-home WiFi, and options for food delivery that take business away from movie theaters and restaurants.  There are at least a half dozen small companies that will deliver fresh ingredients to your door so that you can prepare meals in your home that cost less than dining out.  Couple that with the Netflix experience, and you have the "Dinner and a Movie" date at home instead of on the town.

Amazon and Ebay have teamed-up to bring the death blow to brick-and-mortar retail as companies like Target, Macy's, JC Penny's, Kohls, K-Mart, Sears - you name one - have struggled and are closing stores in the face of the ease and luxury of point-and-click shopping online.  Target's earnings were bolstered by online shopping which, ironically, is killing their stores.  You can't impulse-buy online.  You get what you want, and go.  Shoppers just want to get what they want and move along.  Combined with the Amazon Prime experience, and a shopper need only wait a couple of days to receive their goods.  Apparently, that takes the place of going out and buying something and bringing it home yourself.  I didn't see that coming.

We have bought luxurious homes with low-interest mortgages, and even though gasoline is near record lows, we are not encouraged to socialize.  That's evident when you walk around and see people with their head buried in a cell phone.  We are evolving away from being social animals seeking out human company to a species that huddles in our cave with as little human interaction as possible.  I suspect that most of us would work from home if it was permissible or possible.  It's difficult to make eye contact with people.  Either they are buried in their device, or they are wearing ear buds that signal "don't bug me" to those of us who are too shy to interrupt whatever media they are enjoying.

Suffice it to say, it's a New World.  Coupled with the incoming President Trump (there, I said it) and we are at the threshold of a new paradigm - is that the right word - where our thousand-channel TV, cell phone, and WiFi Internet gives us all the life experience we seek.  In fact, one could have everything we shop for at our local grocery store delivered to their home, and never have to visit the store at all.

I have soap and razor blades delivered every month because I cannot get either of those products in my local store, either because of taste or price.  If it wasn't for the fact that I live less than a quarter mile from the grocery store, I'd be taking advantage of every home delivery option available to me.  After all, why would I want to cruise around a store, stand in line, and put up with hordes of shoppers when I can click a mouse and have boxes left on my doorstep by the friendly brown UPS guys?

Why?  Because shopping is fun. Or, it can be fun.  Or, it should be fun.  Convenience has removed the fun of shopping.  The retail experience has never been better.  There's self check-out, online coupons, and a store on every corner.  So, what keeps people at home?  That's the $64,000 question, and I suspect that the CEO's of Macy's, Kohl's, Target, et al are holding special board meetings trying to figure it out.  They can institute online shopping, but they still struggle to compete with Amazon, which has become the first stop for shoppers.

Meanwhile, stores are closing and more are being built.  I struggle to figure that out, and I can only sumize that those decisions were made a couple of years ago, before the symptoms of brick-and-mortar disease showed up.

The world is changing, and as the saying goes:  Kill or be killed.  The Internet is killing and the stores are being killed.