Miscellaneous Musing

It’s officially “Spring,” according to the calendar, although the “look out the window” around here says “still Winter.”  There are signs that spring will eventually get here, but exactly when is anyone’s guess.  One of the evidences for climate change from my perspective is that “general predictability” has gone out the window in the past decade.  There was a time when I could plan around when seasons would begin, within a week or two.  Now, I have to guess within a month or so, and I’m usually wrong.

I’m getting to the stage in life where I can contemplate retirement as something “near term.”  No, I’m not going to be retiring soon , but within less than a decade, I’ll be able to collect (hopefully) Social Security and sign up for Medicare.     Over the years, I’ve occasionally thought of places that would be nice to live after retirement.   Having listened to the “gun rights advocates” over the past few years, I’m having to scratch a number of them off my list.  Listening to why they need to have open carry, concealed carry, and massive numbers of guns, I’ve come to the conclusion that … I really feel sorry for them.  They’re living in an apocalyptic hellhole, with dangerous hordes running around raping, pillaging, and murdering the citizenry with no law and order in sight.  If it were me, I’d try to move somewhere else, but I understand their attachment to their homes.  However, I don’t think I want to live there, so maybe I’ll take my retirement somewhere a little safer, like Somalia.

One of the biggest lies you will hear out of business leaders is “Our people are our biggest asset.”  It’s a lie because employees are an expense, and the first thing any executive does to boost the bottom line or stock price is to cut employees.  That’s why I have more than a little schadenfreude when that turns around and bites a company.

Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) has been cutting staff since the recession—and pallets of merchandise are piling up in its stockrooms as shelves go unfilled. In the past five years the world’s largest retailer added 455 U.S. Walmart stores, a 13 percent increase, according to company filings in late January. In the same period its total U.S. workforce, which includes employees at its Sam’s Club warehouse stores, dropped by about 20,000, or 1.4 percent.

A thinly spread workforce has other consequences: longer checkout lines, less help throughout the store, and disorganization. Last month, Walmart placed last among department and discount stores in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, the sixth year in a row the company has either tied or taken the last spot.

It’s good for their competitors who haven’t cut their staffs and also happen to pay better, though.   It’s really hard to sell things when … they’re not on the shelf.  It’s also hard to get people to return to your business when there’s no one to help them or to check them out.  Sometimes the “bottom line” means that you have to hire people, and pay them something resembling an adequate salary.

One of my revelations from the Snowden affair is that there’s a large group on the left that seems to be incredibly naive or clueless.  That’s given the vapors they have over the reports that we spy on foreign leaders, including our allies, while being in denial that those same people are spying on us.  Seriously, have these people never read a spy novel, movie, or television show?   I’d have been surprised – and seriously disturbed – if we weren’t.

The problem with nostalgia for the “good old days” is that you forget the bad side of those days.  I have some fond memories from my days in the military, but I’d rather not reflect on the numerous times I’d wonder “what the hell did I get myself into?”  Things like slogging through tick-infested woods in full kit in 90 degree heat, or shivering in a tent in 20 degree weather among them.   The Crimeans who voted to rejoin Russia are getting a reminder of what the “good old days” they forgot.

The promises to pensioners also turned out to be a myth. Their pensions were never doubled, but simply converted into rubles, reports TSN.
Pricing chaos. Empty banks and ATMs. Lines for several days at a time. These are the first results of “improvement,” Crimean-style. All the joys of civilization, which were obvious before, do not work. The lights can be turned off at any time. In one’s passport, an address that doesn’t exist. Salary cards are a bare piece of plastic. Lines for pay, are just like in old Soviet films. For Crimeans, these old films have become a reality.

Sometimes, you have to remember that “the good old days” really weren’t.

4 Comments

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4 responses to “Miscellaneous Musing

  1. I think a lot of people are under the illusion that Russian oligarchs are somehow much worse than the corrupt oligarchs lining up behind the austerity program being offered to the Ukraine by the EU and the IMF.

    I also think the Snowden exposure of the insidious nature of U.S. spying on anyone and everyone, here or abroad, diminishes the Ronald Reagan imagery of America as a “shining city on the hill”.

    • I think they’re all bad, but the point is not the “oligarchs” as much as it is what the government provides. The Crimeans who were “pro Russia” are finding out that Putin’s promises aren’t worth much. In much longer terms, Crimea was a net drain on the Ukrainian economy, so now Russia has to put up that amount. Given the amount of replacement infrastructure they’re going to have to construct as well as the notorious corruption in that sector, Russia is going to wish they’d just left things as they were. More seriously, most of the “austerity” was along the lines of “reduce the amount of graft.”

      Snowden didn’t diminish anything, except to help Glenn Greenwald line his own pockets. It’s not “news” that the US spies on everyone abroad, they also spy on us. Anyone who doesn’t think that is hopelessly naive. Matter of fact, Greenwald’s great bastion of freedom got caught spying on Canada, and has been busily spying on its own citizens in the run-up to the World Cup. The other “revelations,” particularly from the domestic side, turn out to have been published long ago, were well-known, and being scaled back and controlled drastically under the current Administration. I also find it remarkable that none of these same “advocates” seem to be particularly worried about the huge amount of information without legal controls that various companies are accumulating.

      • ”I think they’re all bad, but the point is not the “oligarchs” as much as it is what the government provides.”

        Both Russia and Ukraine appear to rely on the oligarchs so its less about what the government gives and more about what the oligarchs want. Russia does gain the important port cities in the Crimea giving them important shipping passages to the Black Sea.

        Where are you reading that the Crimean people “are finding out that Putin’s promises aren’t worth much” concerning their infrastructure?

        ”It’s not “news” that the US spies on everyone abroad, they also spy on us.”

        I think you exaggerate how much most people knew/know about U.S. spying and to what depth. Most don’t have a clue how their private information gleaned by government agencies will be shared with the private sector, where employers can find out nuances about people they may deem unworthy for hiring. I understand your concern about Snowden revealing U.S. secret’s but it still isn’t clear that what he has released has hurt Americans or their supporters. Yet I feel it is equally important that he has exposed the apparent fact about how little value some in government give to privacy rights expressed in the 14th amendment. I’m not one either who thinks just because I feel I haven’t done anything wrongs means I shouldn’t mind someone eavesdropping on my private conversations or reading my emails.

        The so-called safeguards we have in place, like the FISA courts, have become something of a joke too and by raising the entire issue of government spying I feel Snowden has helped us more than hurt us by forcing lawmakers to pay more attention to this than they have.

        No I am not naive enough to believe that there may be only surface changes and the spying that goes beyond the government’s needs will continue. But by keeping a fire under them we also prevent this from being swept aside completely and allowing such abuse of privacy rights to become a generally accepted form of behavior, leaving wiggle room to punish violators when someone with balls steps into those positions who can do something about.

      • Dennis Bossinger

        Yea that Putin the hero of the republican party; the traitorous repugs love them some of Americas worst enemies including the lead oligarchists the Kochs.