Monday, July 13, 2020

Company Man describes the decline of GNC, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse and pandemic

Happy Monday the 13th, Garfield the Cat's least favorite day! For today's unlucky day, I'm following through on what I wrote to close Brooks Brothers files for bankruptcy while Men's Wearhouse and Jos. A Bank considering it, tales of the Retail Apocalypse and pandemic.
Company Man...uploaded a video yesterday about GNC, which announced it would close 900 stores last year. I plan on using that for another entry, making it the second update to Chuck E. Cheese, GNC, and Tuesday Morning all file for bankruptcy, tales of the Retail Apocalypse during the pandemic featuring a Company Man video.
As promised, here is Company Man's The Decline of GNC...What Happened?

GNC has filed for bankruptcy. This video explains the reasons behind it while taking at their unique history.
This is the first time Company Man has identified stock buybacks as a contributing factor in a company declaring bankruptcy. Usually it's private equity leveraging a company and making it vulnerable to bankruptcy during downturns, which happened to KB Toys, Sears and KMart, Toys R Us, Art Van, J. Crew, and Chuck E. Cheese's, although I failed to mention it until now. However, I might see stock buybacks as a cause of cash flow problems more often as the pandemic-caused recession continues.

That's it for the Retail Apocalypse for today. Stay tuned for my annual Bastille Day entry.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Marching music for the Puerto Rico Primary

As I promised in both Drink to the Puerto Rico statehood referendum for Piña Colada Day 2020 and Marching music and a drink for the Louisiana Primary on Mojito Day 2020, the marching music for a primary series returns for the Puerto Rico Democratic Primary, which is serving as the Sunday entertainment feature.* Before I entertain any of my readers who are waiting for the results, I'm sharing the description of today's election from Wikipedia.
The 2020 Puerto Rico Democratic presidential primary is currently taking place in July 12, 2020.[1] The primary was scheduled to take place on Sunday, March 29, 2020, but Puerto Rican governor Wanda Vazquez postponed the date to April 26, 2020,[2] amid concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in Puerto Rico.[3] The approved delay was signed by the Puerto Rican governor on March 21.[2] It had then been postponed indefinitely until a date was chosen.[4] The Puerto Rico primary is an open primary, with the territory awarding 59 delegates, of which 51 are pledged delegates allocated on the basis of the results of the primary.
It doesn't seem like there are any other offices on the ballot, as the Wikipedia articles for both the 2020 New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico primaries and the 2020 Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico primaries still describe those elections as "postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic." Also, what passed for Puerto Rico's Republican Primary has already been held with Wikipedia reporting "The Republican Party of Puerto Rico held an online poll of party leaders on June 5, 2020, in lieu of an actual primary, awarding all 23 of its pledged delegates to the 2020 Republican National Convention to Incumbent President Donald Trump." That was a virtual convention, not a primary. Still, I doubt it would have changed the outcome if it were a primary.

With the information out of the way, it's time for today's entertainment, consisting of two marching bands visiting southern California for the Rose Parade recorded by Music213. Sorry, no drum corps in Puerto Rico. Follow over the jump for the marching music.

Happy Souther 2020!

Today is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Summer Solstice, so it's Souther, a holiday created by John Michael Greer and entrusted to me. He also designated the wombat as the animal mascot for the holiday. Since the first celebration fell on National Ice Cream Day and the holiday usually happens during July, which is National Ice Cream Month, the activity to celebrate the day is eating ice cream. If I were composing this entry on my desktop, I would be embedding a video of The Wombats singing "Ice Cream" and another video from Tipsy Bartender of an ice cream drink, but my home broadband is out again, so I am writing this on my smartphone. Sigh, no videos, no links, and no preview images.*

Here's to hoping this gets fixed soon. In the meantime, Happy Souther!

*ETA: No tags, either. I just fixed that now that my home broadband is back up.  The rest of the absences remain.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

U.S. birth rates continue to fall while life expectancy rises for World Population Day 2020

Not only is today National Mojito Day, but it's also World Population Day. Since I've already written a post for National Mojito Day, it's time to observe World Population Day.

For this year's celebration, I'm going to take a different take from years past, when I examined the holiday directly. Instead, I'm using it as an opportunity to update my readers on two factors that affect a country's population, birth rates and death rates, which I examine indirectly through life expectancy. Birth rates have been declining since 2008 and life expectancy has been falling since 2014, which means more people are dying younger. It's time to see if either of those have changed.

For U.S. birth rates, the answer is no, as the Today Show reported US Birthrate Drops To Lowest Rate In 35 Years in May.

The latest numbers from the CDC show that U.S. births continued to fall last year, leading to the fewest number of newborns in 35 years: There were just 3.7 million births in 2019.
Atlanta's 11Alive explained the continued trend last year when it answered Why is the U.S. birthrate declining?

The birthrate hit a 32-year low in 2018

The COVID-19 pandemic could either amplify the trend or slow it, as Newsy reported COVID-19 Could Trigger Further Drop In Already Falling U.S. Birth Rate last week.

A new survey shows 43% of Millennials and Gen Zers are less likely to have kids because of the pandemic.
I can believe these survey results. As a video I included in Next Media Animation thinks low birth rates in the U.S. and China aren't all good said "economy is the best form of birth control." Given that the U.S. is officially in recession, the weak and uncertain economy will likely outweigh the ability to be at home.

On the other hand, CBS News reported U.S. life expectancy increases for 1st time since 2014 at the end of January 2020.

Life expectancy for Americans increased a bit in the latest CDC data, reversing a downward trend. The first gain in four years is due in part to a decline in cancer deaths.
That's good news, but I have my doubts that the improvement will survive the pandemic. My readers and I will have to wait until next year to find out.

In the meantime, I'm going to conclude this entry by recycling what I last quoted in Destination Maternity/Motherhood Maternity files for bankruptcy and announces store closings, blaming lower birth rates, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse.
On the one hand, the U.S. is doing its part to slow down population growth. On the other hand, [this means] a possible shrinking economy in the future, which is bad for business as usual. It's time to be a good environmentalist and recycle what I wrote last year.
I have been in favor of zero population growth for as long as I can remember. However, I'm not sure the U.S. economy is set up for a stable or slowly declining population, a point I made in the Hipcrime Vocab: Why Slowing Population Growth is a Problem. We are going to have to figure how to do so. Otherwise, I might live long enough to experience the wisdom of the saying "Be careful what you wish for; you might get it."
Here's to hoping the U.S. learns how to thread that needle.

Marching music and a drink for the Louisiana Primary on Mojito Day 2020

Today is the Louisiana Primary, so it's time for a news report followed by some marching music to enjoy while waiting for the results. WWLTV has the news report, Louisiana Voting Day is tomorrow (at least it was tomorrow when the station broadcast the clip).

Voting officials say masks are recommended and all voting machines will be regularly wiped down
May all those voting in person stay safe and healthy at the polling places!

Now the marching music, beginning with the Pelican State's remaining drum corps, 2018 Louisiana Stars.

Follow over the jump for Louisiana's top college bands, LSU and Southern University, plus a drink from National Mojito Day.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Drink to the Puerto Rico statehood referendum for Piña Colada Day 2020

Happy National Piña Colada Day! This is the holiday when I write about the prospects for Puerto Rico statehood. For some background on the subject, watch NBCLXs The History of Puerto Rico's Second-Class Status.

The status of Puerto Rico has been a subject of debate since the U.S. took control of the island in 1898. In 1901, the Supreme Court wrote that Puerto Rico and other new U.S. territories were “inhabited by alien races” and so may be impossible to govern “according to Anglo-Saxon principles.” The island has remained a U.S. territory ever since.

Following the recent disasters on the island – including a devastating hurricane and a series of earthquakes – Puerto Rico’s second-class status is once again in the spotlight. Should Puerto Rico become America’s 51st state?

NBCLX storyteller Bianca Graulau examines the history of the island’s unusual relationship with the U.S., and the statehood debate that has divided even Puerto Ricans.
NBCLX Bianca Graulau returned to the topic of Puerto Rico's exploitation in In Puerto Rico, U.S. Companies Profit While People Still Don't Have Reliable Power.*

Critics say Puerto Rico's power grid isn’t much more resilient than it was before Hurricane Maria, despite billions of dollars awarded in contracts. After Maria, some Puerto Ricans went nine months without power, and they fear it could happen again this hurricane season. NBCLX storyteller Bianca Graulau spoke to a family who lost a loved one when he had an asthma attack after the hurricane and no electricity to use his breathing machine.
It's been a long time since I've mentioned Chris Christie on this blog, but I was neither that surprised that he got involved in consulting about Puerto Rico's power problems nor surprised that Puerto Rico may not be getting all that it paid for.

As for the question of statehood, that's on the ballot this November. Ballotpedia has a page on the referendum, which will be held concurrently with the general election in November. While I'm rooting for statehood, I'm not Puerto Rican. I suspect that, should the opposition to state fully participate, which I hope for the sake of a legitimate result they do, the outcome will be just as likely for continuing the Commonwealth or negotiating for Free Association. On the other hand, if statehood wins, it will be the third time in a row that the voters chose the option I favor. That written, whatever the people of Puerto Rico choose, I'll support it.

Enough about the history and politics of Puerto Rico's relationship with the rest of the United States. Follow over the jump for the piña colada recipes to celebrate today.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Brooks Brothers files for bankruptcy while Men's Wearhouse and Jos. A Bank considering it, tales of the Retail Apocalypse and pandemic

I made a promise at the end of Company Man explains the rise and fall of Chuck E. Cheese's, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse and pandemic.
Going from the ridiculous to the sublime, Chuck E. Cheese's is not the most recent retail bankruptcy. Brooks Brothers filed for Chapter 11 today. I guess no one needs a business suit when they work from home and conduct business over Zoom. When I get a good video about it, I'll post an entry about it here. Stay tuned.
Not long after I posted that, CNBC uploaded Brooks Brothers files for bankruptcy as coronavirus claims another storied retail brand. Watch.

Apparel brand Brooks Brothers filed for bankruptcy Wednesday, as the coronavirus pandemic claimed another storied retail brand. The retailer began in 1818 and prided itself on dressing 40 U.S. presidents. Early to the office-casual look, it became known for its button-down oxford shirts and sports jackers. But rent had become a burden, and the pandemic torpedoed a sale process that began in 2019.
Brooks Brothers isn't the only clothing store selling suits in trouble because of the pandemic. Last month, Wochit Business uploaded Pandemic Lockdowns Drive Workers Into PJ's And Men's Wearhouse Out Of Business.

The parent company of Men's Wearhouse and Jos. Bank is eyeing filing for bankruptcy.
Tailored Brands was facing sales challenges even before office workers started working from home and events like weddings were postponed.
Business Insider reports a number of workwear and special events clothing is struggling amid the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
Brooks Brothers is considering closing three factories in July, and Banana Republic was a low point of Gap Inc.'s earnings report last week.
In this crisis...Banana Republic was disadvantaged in its product mix as customers opted for casual style. Sonia Syngal CEO, Gap Inc.
If (when) Taylored Brands, which also runs Moore's and K&G Fashion Superstore, files for bankruptcy and a reputable source uploads a video about, I'll blog about it. I should also write an entry about Zoom, which I have used for years for Coffee Party business and is allowing people to attend meetings and classes while working and studying from home. Company Man has a video about the company that I will use. He also has uploaded a video yesterday about GNC, which announced it would close 900 stores last year. I plan on using that for another entry, making it the second update to Chuck E. Cheese, GNC, and Tuesday Morning all file for bankruptcy, tales of the Retail Apocalypse during the pandemic featuring a Company Man video.

Before I do any of that, stay tuned for the latest on Puerto Rico statehood for National Pina Colada Day, World Population Day, National Mojito Day, and the Louisiana and, Puerto Rico primaries. I love holidays, but they will keep me busy!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Company Man explains the rise and fall of Chuck E. Cheese's, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse and pandemic

I posted Chuck E. Cheese, GNC, and Tuesday Morning all file for bankruptcy, tales of the Retail Apocalypse during the pandemic last month. The next day, Company Man wasted no time and uploaded The Decline of Chuck E. Cheese's...What Happened? It's time to follow up on my previous post with Company Man's answer to his question, which supports my contention that the company was already having issues that made it vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chuck E. Cheese's has filed for bankruptcy, a headline I never wanted to see. This video investigates the deeper reasoning behind it while taking a look at their eventful history.
As usual, Company Man did a great job of researching and presenting the topic, which proved popular beyond his wildest imaginings. Here's what he posted on Twitter two days later with the caption of "What?!"

Two days later, he tweeted "My latest video has gotten such a strong and positive response that I wanted to thank everyone for supporting it. I believe many people that follow me here tend to be the earliest viewers so I do appreciate it." He continued expressing his appreciation on July 5th, tweeting, "I'm still stunned by the great response to my Chuck E. Cheese's video. After a little more than a week it has over 50,000 likes which is already more than any other video I've ever made. Everyone has been so terrific." It may have more likes, but it still has 1.7 million fewer views than his first and most watched video, which I featured in Company Man and WXYZ on KMart, a tale of the retail apocalypse. Let's see how long it takes to get there.

Going from the ridiculous to the sublime, Chuck E. Cheese's is not the most recent retail bankruptcy. Brooks Brothers filed for Chapter 11 today. I guess no one needs a business suit when they work from home and conduct business over Zoom. When I get a good video about it, I'll post an entry about it here. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Marching music for the New Jersey and Delaware primaries

As I promised at the end of Verge Science points out that one rocket launch can't unify America, it's time for marching music for the New Jersey and Delaware primaries! Before I begin the music, I have some news. First, CBS Philly covered both contests in Primaries Being Held Today In New Jersey, Delaware.

The polls are open until 8 p.m. in both states.

Next, New York's WPIX, PIX11 News, reported NJ voters head to the polls for primary day Tuesday.

New Jersey holds its primary Tuesday amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The presidential contest may be over, but there are interesting races from U.S. Senate down on the ballot.

The last bit of news comes from Delaware Governor John Carney, who signed vote by mail legislation for the 2020 elections last week.

Governor John Carney on Wednesday signed into law House Bill 346, legislation sponsored by House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst that allows Delawareans to vote by mail in the 2020 primary, general and special elections.
That wasn't specifically about this primary, but it is important election reform news just the same.

That's it for the news. Now for the marching music, beginning with Hawthorne Caballeros 2017.

4th place - 94.38

Monday, July 6, 2020

Verge Science points out that one rocket launch can't unify America

Even after blogging about Disney's America and "Hamilton," I'm still not done with the holiday. I'm taking a cue from the phrase "the rockets' red glare" in The Star-Spangled Banner and sharing Verge Science's One rocket launch can't unify America, which I'm treating as a follow-up to SpaceX launches first crewed mission from U.S. soil since 2011.

In May, SpaceX and NASA launched their historic DM-2 mission while protests over the death of George Floyd roiled the country. Can the space industry hope to unite Americans behind a common cause, when it largely ignores the division and injustice here on the ground?
When I wrote in a footnote to Samantha Bee on Trump and the police attacking the press that "I haven't examined the first part, the 'today is 1968' comparison much, but I have something planned...that should work," this was what I had in mind. It explictly makes the comparison between now and 1968-1969, when the Apollo 8 through Apollo 11 missions were happening but so were protests and demonstrations like the ones this month and last. The video also points out that the unifying effect of the Apollo missions, even the successful failure of Apollo 13, is remembered as larger now than it was at the time. For Verge Science, which is very much pro-space-exploration, that's quite an admission.

Speaking of admissions, The Vintage Space uploaded Space Exploration is All Politics last week, which I think goes well with Verge Science's video.

Amy Shira Teitel of The Vintage Space is also very pro-space, but recognizes the reality of why countries pursue space exploration. So should my readers, which is why I included her video.

That's it for space until National Moon Day. Stay tuned for marching music for the New Jersey and Delaware primaries.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

'Hamilton' — an American musical for the July 4th weekend

I am not done with the 4th of July. I am continuing with the patriotic entertainment theme in this week's Sunday entertainment feature with Grace Randolph of Beyond The Trailer's Hamilton Disney Plus REVIEW.

Hamilton Movie Review today! Beyond The Trailer host Grace Randolph's reaction & review of the 2020 movie adaptation of the hot Broadway musical! Lin Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Leslie Odom Jr and Jonathan Groff! How are the songs on the soundtrack? Should you see the full movie?! Enjoy Hamilton in 2020 on Disney Plus and be sure to make Beyond The Trailer your first stop for movie and entertainment news here on YouTube today!
One of Grace's gripes was that Hamilton was a long two-and-one-half hours. She should count her blessings, as FiveThirtyEight figured out that ‘Hamilton’ Would Last 4 To 6 Hours If It Were Sung At The Pace Of Other Broadway Shows. Yikes! Another was that it was hard to hear the lyrics, especially during the first act. She blamed that on the mixing, but I'm sure the fast pace didn't help. I've listened to the cast album twice over on a long drive from Park City, Utah, to Mesquite, Nevada, last year and had no trouble hearing them, but it did help to play the recording a second time for me to understand them.* Grace is also not impressed by Lin-Manuel Miranda as a performer, something she has mentioned in other reviews of movies in which he's acted. That written, she still considered "Hamilton" to be a must-see because of the strength of the other performers and particularly the writing of the second act. I guess tragedy, which is what I consider the second act to be, is more interesting than triumph, which the first act portrays.

My wife and I planned on watching "Hamilton" already. After watching Grace's review, I am even more committed to that. I might write about my reaction. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Drink to the never-built Disney's America on the 4th of July

Happy 4th of July! For today's celebration, I'm returning to the concept behind Drink to America Sings for July 4th, by examining a patriotic attraction that Disney planned for but never opened, Abandoned - Disney's America by Bright Sun Films.*

A story of Disney's attempt to build a more "local" theme park in Virginia. A park catering to the United State of America's long history. This is Disney's America.
Not only did this proposed park get in trouble because its neighbors had a severe case of Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY), but because Disney's sanitized view of history had fallen out of fashion and rubbed historians the wrong way, leading to activism on the part of both groups. Imagine how poorly that perspective would fare today with Confederate monuments being removed and Juneteenth becoming popular and people examining the Tulsa Massacre. Then again, maybe not, as Disney is retheming Splash Mountain and Disney's U.S. parks are closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Disney might have escaped the worst criticism.

Of course, it wouldn't be a 4th of July post of mine without a Tipsy Bartender recipe, so here's the one I selected for this year's celebration, the Red, White & Blue Bomb.

A bomb shot for Independence Day!

As I wrote last year, "Everyone have a fun and safe holiday and remember to drink responsibly!" This goes double because of the pandemic!

*Defunctland has a video on this topic that was my original choice for this post, but I watched this and decided to save Kevin Perjurer's documentary for next year. I'm an environmentalist, so I don't just recycle, I conserve my resources.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Samantha Bee on Trump and the police attacking the press

I've had a lot of serious and silly takes on the middle part of 1968 has arrived again with nation-wide protests and police attacks on press, the protests, but I haven't had a comedic take focusing on the last part, attacks on the press, although John Oliver on the police came close. It's time to remedy that oversight with a two-parter from Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Watch Trump Attacks Our Nation's Free Press Part 1.*

If only the president were as passionate about (and we’re just spitballing here) coronavirus, police brutality, or Black lives, as he is about attacking the free press. I guess we’ll have to keep dreaming...until November 3rd.
Basic cable John Oliver — *snork* — that's a good self-deprecating quip and another reason why I should watch Bee more often. Speaking of which, Bee continued with Trump’s Ongoing Attacks On Our Nation’s Free Press Part 2.

When it comes to the president’s ongoing battle against the media, we’re all huge losers.
This is not new or news. It dates back to Trump's campaign as I wrote in The torches and pitchforks came out for Trump last night.
What is new is that Trump has actively antagonized the press...That's called picking a fight with people who buy ink (or pixels) by the action that Mark Twain advised should be avoided at all costs...Now, the targets of violence have expanded from protesters to the press. That's guaranteed to make coverage more hostile.
That was four years ago. It's only gotten worse since.

*I haven't examined the first part, the "today is 1968" comparison much, but I have something planned for tomorrow that should work. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

NBC News explains the effects of voting by mail

Like I do on other issues, I alternate between serious and silly posts on voting by mail. Since the last post of mine to focus on the topic was 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver' explains voting by mail, it's time for a serious take. NBC News gets the honor by asking Mail-In Voting: How Secure Is It?

Adoption of mail-in ballots has been growing across the country as the COVID-19 threat hangs on. However, some officials, including President Trump, think this is a slippery slope that can lead to voter fraud. NBC News’ Pete Williams reports with an inside look at the process.
Pete Williams covered the same points I summarized in CNN and WUSA9 ask why Trump is against voting by mail, the last serious entry I wrote on the issue.
As Cilizza says, voter fraud by impersonation is so rare that it's almost non-existent, which means it is not at all effective. The safety of the electorate during the COVID-19 pandemic far outweighs that miniscule risk.
In addition, voting by mail does not generally favor one party over another, although I wouldn't be surprised if it might help Democrats a bit in this particular election. I agree with another point Williams made, as I fully expect that results may not be known for a week after November 3, 2020 because of all the absentee and other mail votes being counted. That's already happened with primary elections. For example, I didn't find out all of the winners in last week's New York and Kentucky primaries until earlier this week, when MSNBC reported Amy McGrath Wins Kentucky Senate Democratic Primary, NBC News Projects.

Amy McGrath wins Kentucky’s U.S. Senate Democratic primary against state Rep. Charles Booker in a narrow race to face Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November, NBC’s Steve Kornacki reports.
As Steve Kornacki told Andrea Mitchell and her viewers, this is what elections will look like this year. Welcome to politics in a time of plague.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

John Oliver warns of evictions during the pandemic

In John Oliver examines coronavirus spreading in prisons and jails while cases spike in Arizona, Florida, and Texas, which featured the previous clip from "Last Week Tonight" about COVID-19, I wrote "Americans may be getting tired of the pandemic, but the pandemic isn't getting tired of us."* Fortunately, neither are Oliver and his writers, who uploaded Coronavirus IX: Evictions to the show's YouTube channel.

With evictions on the rise due to coronavirus, John Oliver discusses the long struggle with housing in the US, why it’s gotten worse in recent months, and how to prevent an impending crisis.
Yikes! This makes me doubly glad to be a home owner and my income hasn't been interrupted because I've been able to work remotely. I may not be religious, but I'm counting my blessings just the same.

On another note, it's time to put pressure on the U.S. Senate to pass the HEROES Act, which I mentioned in John Oliver describes the plight of the United States Postal Service. That bill will help more people than just the Post Office!

By the way, since today is Canada Day, I'm going to quote the unpleasant Canadian landlord from the clip and wish for all of us to "get on with our miserable lives." Heh, anyone who thinks Canadians are nice, polite people have never seen them at a hockey game!

*I tweeted that in response to a graph of infections in the U.S. showing new reported cases and it became my most popular tweet of June with 24,858 impressions and 191 engagements, including 82 likes, 69 detail expands, 31 profile clicks, 6 retweets, and 3 replies. It beat the tweet I quoted in I haven't seen this many statues fall since the end of the Cold War. However, I think the tweet I quoted in Vox explains the 'nuclear button' and KFC trolls McDonalds in response to Trump is still my most popular.

A happy drum corps Canada Day 2020!

A happy drum corps Canada Day to my readers! To celebrate this first of three patriotic holidays I observe during July, I'm continuing my tradition of featuring Canadian drum corps by decade from before the advent of Drum Corps International (DCI) up to the current century.

Since I've shared videos of the Toronto Optimists, Preston Scout House, and De La Salle Oaklands, I'm giving the Cadets of LaSalle their turn in the spotlight as the featured pre-DCI corps. Watch 1970 LaSalle Cadets.

The video I first found of this performance said this was from "North American Toronto." I'll trust that's correct.

Follow over the jump for the Canadian corps from the DCI era.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Seeker explains NASA's plans for asteroids on Asteroid Day 2020

Happy International Asteroid Day! To celebrate the today, which I see as the younger but paradoxically more established version of Apophis Day, I'm sharing four videos Seeker posted during the past year about asteroids. The most recent, which was uploaded just yesterday, had Seeker ask If An Asteroid Was Heading For Earth, How Could We Stop it?

NASA and ESA have a unique plan to slam a spacecraft into an asteroid—here’s why.
Agencies around the world are working to bring samples of asteroids back to Earth, like NASA’s Osiris-Rex and JAXA’s Hayabusa-2, because bringing a piece back is like looking into a time capsule from the universe. BUT asteroids pose a serious threat to Earth. And ESA and NASA have a unique plan to combat that particular problem: they’re going to slam a spacecraft into an asteroid.

But asteroids also post a serious threat to Earth and so ESA and NASA formed a scientific collaboration known as the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment, or AIDA, to combat this potential problem. The collab consists of two missions: NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, and ESA’s Hera Probe.

DART will smash into an asteroid in 2022 helping the AIDA mission study how effective a kinetic impactor would be in asteroid deflection and then four years later the Hera probe will arrive to do some assessments.
As I wrote in a comment at the video, "Perfect video for International Asteroid Day!"

Seeker examined the mission eight months ago in NASA Plans to Slam a Spacecraft Into an Asteroid, which I'm including for completeness.

What if a deadly asteroid was on a collision course to Earth? NASA and the ESA have come up with a solution.
Asteroids impacting Earth can be devastating—killing all the dinosaurs in existence level devastating. But even the asteroids that aren’t mass-extinction huge can be a serious threat.

Every few thousand years Earth (a.k.a. you and I) get hit with a massive asteroid the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza, so what is the plan when we get hit with the next asteroid?

We get hit with an asteroid about the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza every few thousand years, and when the next one hits it could cause massive damage to an entire region. So when we spot the next one coming, what’s the plan?

Enter: NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination office.
As I have written many times about Apophis Day, it's when I observe the perils of space, particularly asteroids. Follow over the jump for the promise of asteroids.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Vox explains what 'defund the police' really means and the history of police militarization

I've posted comedic takes on defunding the police and police militarization, so it's time I share more serious explanations of both topics. Fortunately for my readers and me, Vox uploaded videos on both subjects last week. I begin with the more recent, What "defund the police" really means.

It's not as radical as it sounds.
Among those protesting police brutality in the US, there is a slogan that’s taken hold: “defund the police.” The key idea is a push to move the billions of dollars we spend on police in the US, to social services and other public spending. The disparities between policing budgets and those of other city agencies are massive. And while defunding the police might sound radical, it’s a policy activists have been talking about for decades. For some, it can mean reforms that simply lessen the police role in society, while for others — the slogan is a call to abolish the system and create something new entirely.
These ideas have all converged into the popular “defund the police” slogan, and the renewed energy around the movement is working.
Presented that way, it makes sense. As Ben Franklin wrote nearly 300 years ago about another public safety issue, fire fighting, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." If the desired outcome is less crime and more public order, then the reallocation of resources into social services that reduce crime and make people into better citizens is likely a more efficient and effective way of achieving those goals.

If the goal is intimidation and repression, then militarizing the police will work to achieve that instead. On that subject, Vox also produced a video, Why America's police look like soldiers.

Why are the police bringing military assault rifles to protests? And where did they get them?
Across the country, Americans protesting racial injustice and police brutality – the overwhelming majority of them peacefully – have been met by police forces that look more like an army. Officers have shown up to protests with riot gear, armored trucks, and military rifles. This is what America’s police now look like, and it’s the result of a decades-long buildup of military equipment among the country’s police departments. It began as a Reagan-era program to give police departments more resources to fight the War on Drugs, and has escalated ever since. Today, the idea of a militarized police force is baked into how American police see themselves.
I've been concerned about this issue for more than five years, when I wrote A conversation with Kunstler and his readers on militarized police, although I wrote more about explaining why the residents of Boston and its northern suburbs supported the militarized police response and grousing about Kunstler's negative opinions about African-Americans than I did decrying police militarization. This video gives a historical perspective about the topic than John Oliver's did. Of course, that was meant to entertain and so pointed out the ridiculousness of it, while Vox wants to inform and possibly shock its viewers into action. Both have their purposes.

This is it for the police this month. Stay tuned for this year's celebration of International Asteroid Day to end June followed by a celebration of Canada Day to begin July.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Disney rethemes Splash Mountain and delays reopening Disneyland, responses to protests and pandemics

It's the last Sunday of June 2020 and I realized that I haven't had a proper Sunday entertainment feature since Coffee Party USA invites you to stream the political TV series on the Golden Coffee Cups shortlist while staying safe at home on May 31, 2020, although I passed off John Oliver on police militarization, a blast from the past as one and 'Good Morning America' and Vox on 'COPS' and 'Live PD' being cancelled actually was about entertainment, but was on Monday, a day late. Blame my broadband being out and holidays for my not keeping up the tradition. To make up for it, I present an entertainment story that ties into both protests against police brutality in particular and racism in general as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney's responding to both.

I begin with a story that mentions both, Splash Mountain Gets New 'Princess And The Frog' Theme from CBS Los Angeles.

The ride had been criticized recently because the film it originally was themed after has long been considered racist. Amy Johnson reports.
I have a generally positive reaction from a fan account I follow on YouTube and Twitter, Offhand Disney's SPLASH MOUNTAIN RE-THEMING CONFIRMED.

Like that all-caps title? Disney announced today that Splash Mountain at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World will receive a Princess and the Frog-themed update. What are your thoughts on this?
Honestly, this is not a new idea for Disney; it's been in the works for a year or so. That it was announced this week strikes me as fortuitous timing for The Mouse.

Follow over the jump for Disney's responses to the pandemic.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Most Americans stay home, allowing people to speed on open roads, a driving update for Pearl during June 2020

I predicted when I would post this entry in Oil falls below $0.00 for the first time ever and my prediction came true.
I'm an example of people driving a lot less and reducing consumption. In January, I expected to write the next driving update in early April. It's now late April and I've driven so little since Michigan colleges and universities suspended in-person classes in March that I may not write that update until June.
It's not just June, but late June, and Pearl didn't pass 51,000 miles until yesterday, Friday, June 26, 151 days — almost five full months — since Pearl the Prius's odometer rolled over 50,000 miles on January 27, 2020. That translates to 6.62 miles per day, 201.99 miles per standard month, and 2423.84 miles per leap year or 2417.22 miles per standard year. I have never driven my primary vehicle so little. The next lowest I can find was for February 2012, 7.25 miles per day, 236.4 miles per standard month, and 2828.75 per standard year, and that was because I was not driving my old car Yuki for more than three weeks, had a long holiday break during which I didn't drive much and a mild winter that allowed me to walk more in a walkable neighborhood. Of course, that's all due to the pandemic and resulting recession keeping people at home.

Calculated Risk quoted the U.S. Department of Transportation about the effect these conditions had on driving in April.
Travel on all roads and streets changed by -39.8% (-112.0 billion vehicle miles) for April 2020 as compared with April 2019. Travel for the month is estimated to be 169.6 billion vehicle miles.

The seasonally adjusted vehicle miles traveled for April 2020 is 160.9 billion miles, a -41.2% (-112.9 billion vehicle miles) decline from April 2019. It also represents -27.2% decline (-60 billion vehicle miles) compared with March 2020.
Cumulative Travel for 2020 changed by -14.8% (
-152.3 billion vehicle miles). The cumulative estimate for the year is 875.9 billion vehicle miles of travel.
Bill McBride made two graphs with the data. Here's the second graph, which shows the year-over-year change in vehicle miles driven.

That's quite the drop in driving! In contrast, the usual graph I use, which depicts the rolling 12 month total vehicle miles driven, does not make the drop look as dramatic.

Bill McBride of Calculated Risk wrote "This will be an interesting measure to watch when the economy eventually starts to recover." For a foretaste of what that might look like, here's the year-over-year change in gasoline consumption from the most recent Six High Frequency Indicators for a Recovery.

The year-over-year miles driven should look a lot like this, but the rolling 12 month total vehicle miles driven will continue to go down for at least the next year.

While most Americans are driving much less, a few of us are driving a lot faster. Inside Edition covered that last month in Many Drivers Caught Speeding During Pandemic.

With millions of people following stay-at-home orders, those with a need for speed can’t seem to resist the allure of empty highways. Rush hour is non-existent, and lots of “crazy COVID drivers” are putting the pedal to the metal and ignoring the speed limit during the pandemic. Inside Edition sent a team of investigative reporters to New York City and Long Island where they clocked people going as much as 50 miles an hour over the speed limit, along with plenty of reckless driving.
All of that was around NYC. NBC's Today Show captured the same behavior in California in Drivers Hitting Triple-Digit Speeds On Open Roads During Coronavirus Pandemic.

With many people staying home during the coronavirus pandemic, once-crowded highways are now relatively empty, prompting more drivers to speed. According to the California Highway Patrol, officers have seen an 87% increase in citations for speeding in excess of 100 miles per hour. NBC’s Erin McLaughlin reports for Weekend TODAY.
While the roads have been open, if not empty, here in Metro Detroit, I haven't been tempted to drive that fast, nor have I seen people driving 90+ MPH. Then again, I stayed pretty much at home during the latter half of March and all of April, so I avoided the freeways when they at their emptiest. Even so, there is little in the way of traffic congestion now. Rush hour? What's that?

Follow over the jump for more driving math.

Friday, June 26, 2020

U.S. House votes to approve D.C. statehood

Last year, I wrote about D.C. statehood for a 51st or 52nd star on Flag Day. Earlier this year, I updated the story in Roll Call and Teen Kids News update statehood for Puerto Rico and D.C., popular topics for the past three years of Crazy Eddie's Motie News. Last week, I followed up on both with Susan Rice calls for D.C. statehood on MSNBC and N.Y. Times, a late Flag Day post. Today, the U.S. House passed a bill to make the Douglass Commonwealth the 51st state. CGTN America has the story in U.S. House approves D.C. statehood bill.

The House of Representatives has approved a bill which makes the U.S. capital District of Columbia the fifty-first state on Friday
On the one hand, as I wrote in I finally celebrate World Population Day on time for its 30th anniversary by looking at China's two-child policy, "Sigh, Chinese state TV." May CGTN not end up suffering the same fate RT America and Ruptly earned, which is for me to stop sharing their videos because they engage in more propaganda than news. On the other hand, it was well done and had the best preview image available, so I used it.

CGTN America presented a good narrated summary. The Associated Press went with a different approaching, letting the participants in the debate speak for themselves in House approves DC statehood, Senate opposed.

The Democratic-controlled House approved a bill Friday to make the District of Columbia the 51st state, but the bill faces insurmountable opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.
This is encouraging, as this is the first time the House of Representatives voted in favor of D.C. statehood. However, Mitch McConnell calls statehood for both Puerto Rico and D.C. "socialism" and vows not to even bring it up for a vote. Even if he did, it would almost certainly lose in the Senate. Sigh. Still, progress. Until then, I'm repeating what I wrote last week.
Since I've made National Pina Colada Day the holiday to call for Puerto Rican statehood, I'm going to use Flag Day for D.C. statehood from now on until it is granted. May that be sooner rather than later.
Stay tuned for a driving update tomorrow.

Chuck E. Cheese, GNC, and Tuesday Morning all file for bankruptcy, tales of the Retail Apocalypse during the pandemic

Two weeks ago, I had two tales of the Retail Apocalypse to share about J. Crew and JCPenney. Today, I have three, beginning with CNBC reporting yesterday Chuck E. Cheese parent company files for bankruptcy.

CNBC's Kate Rogers reports on Chuck E. Cheese amid the pandemic.
This did not come as a complete surprise. Erik of Retail Archaeology read the handwriting on the wall more than a year ago, when he asked What's Going On With Chuck E. Cheese's?

In this episode we take a look at Chuck E. Cheese's and discuss the current status of the company.
I was not thinking of Chuck E. Cheese when I wrote Goodbye Ruby Tuesday, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse, but it's a restaurant chain that was already in trouble and declared bankruptcy because of the pandemic and resulting recession, so I'm covering it, especially since it's the first major restaurant chain to declare bankruptcy during the pandemic. At least it's planning on reopening most of its locations and staying in business as it reorganizes its debt, so it's not likely to go away soon, even as the chain announced it will be closing 45 stores permanently, including 34 that were open at the start of the pandemic.

The second story is about GNC, which announced it would close 900 stores last year. It also declared bankruptcy yesterday as CBS Detroit reported.

GNC has filed for bankruptcy citing the coronavirus pandemic had a dramatic impact on its business.
Even though this is a very brief clip, it is from a local source, so I used it. Also, the video didn't cut off before the reporter started talking about Chuck E. Cheese, so that connects the two stories.

The final story is the oldest. Erik of Retail Archaeology brought it to my attention last week when he asked Is The Sun Setting On Tuesday Morning? BANKRUPT!

In this episode we take a look at Tuesday Morning. They just recently announced they have filed for bankruptcy and will be closing hundreds of stores.
The company filed for bankruptcy a month ago, so I'm a bit slow in reporting it. Still, Erik's video shows that the company had likely had issues even before the crisis hit, just like Chuck E. Cheese and GNC. As I wrote in April, the pandemic is just accelerating existing retail trends. Companies that were already in trouble are the ones to succumb first.*

That's it for today's Retail Apocalypse news. Stay tuned for entries about the latest on D.C. statehood and a driving update.

*I could also have written about Hertz declaring bankruptcy, but that fits under travel, not retail. Maybe in a future post.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Climate change has made Michigan warmer and wetter

I've been so busy with the pandemic and protests against the police with breaks for holidays and elections that I've posted very little about the climate this month. Then I saw WDIV/Click On Detroit's Detroit climate warming: Average summer temperature up 3 degrees since 1970. Time to examine how climate change is affecting Michigan.

Meteorologist Paul Gross shares scientific climate data showing a warming trend in Detroit.
The video does a good job of explaining how the local climate has gotten warmer even though I haven't written about record warmth in the Great Lakes State since Warmest February on record in seven Michigan cities as well as major cities across U.S. more than three years ago. The daily lows getting warmer faster than the daily highs is a good way to hide a warming climate from casual scrutiny, as record daily highs get much more attention. After all, it's been four years since I posted Detroit just had its warmest summer on record. Even then, the trend was apparent.
Detroit had a week fewer of days over 90 degrees Fahrenheit this summer than in 2012 and more than two weeks fewer than the record-setting summer of 1988, which I just missed when I moved here. In addition, the Detroit News reported that there was never a day over 100 degrees all summer. Instead, the nights were consistently warm, which fits my recollection of them being muggy and not fun to sleep in without air conditioning.
I mentioned another trend the last time I wrote about the local climate in last month's Michigan flooded while Trump tweeted then refused to wear a mask on camera.
I observed a trend in Detroit flooding one year later five years ago.
It fit a pattern that's emerged since I began keeping this blog.
[C]limate change...[is] expressing itself as increased precipitation, including 2013 being the wettest year in Michigan history, 2013-2014 being the snowiest year in Detroit's history, or 2011 being the rainiest year in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Toledo.
In addition, this month's flood resulted from the second highest single-day rainfall in Detroit history. Welcome to four precipitation records in four years.
Since then, another precipitation record has been set, as I mentioned in Snowfall of the century for Detroit on Groundhog Day.
The third-biggest snowstorm in metro Detroit's recorded history has plows humming among tall snow piles on roadways across southeastern Michigan this morning.
With 16.7 inches of snow since the storm arrived early Sunday, it's the most to fall since Dec. 1 and 2 in 1974, when 19.3 inches fell, as recorded at Detroit Metro Airport. The snowiest was April 6, 1886, when 24.5 inches were reported...
Add the snowiest month in Detroit history and that's now six precipitation records in four years. As I wrote in the first entry I wrote about the storm, welcome to weather weirding in the 400 ppm world.
I haven't been keeping as close track of Michigan precipitation records since then, as this blog has become more national and international in its focus, but it wouldn't surprise me if the state has racked up more in the past five years.
It isn't just me. ABC 13 in Grand Rapids reported the same trend in How climate change is impacting Michigan last year.

WNEM 5 in Flint showed even more effects of the increased precipitation in Senator Stabenow details how climate change is affecting Michigan.

Climate change has already affected the Great Lakes state. Research shows that the average temperatures in all of Michigan's counties are higher today compared to 30 years ago.
I'm glad that the report also included Senator Debbie Stabenow to deliver some good news about the climate. We could use it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

John Oliver examines coronavirus spreading in prisons and jails while cases spike in Arizona, Florida, and Texas

"Americans may be getting tired of the pandemic, but the pandemic isn't getting tired of us." That's how I concluded '60 Minutes' and Vox on the Tulsa Massacre 99 years later and that, in his own way, is how John Oliver began Coronavirus VIII: Prisons & Jails: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO).

As US prisons and jails see an alarming spike in COVID-19 infections, John Oliver discusses why the virus has spread so rapidly behind bars and what we can do to stop it.
While I've been busy sharing Oliver's videos about police accountability and militarization and Confederate monuments, it's been more than a month since I posted John Oliver and Vox on coronavirus testing. It's about time I did, as the disease is increasing dramatically in the general population in warmer states, which CNN reported this morning in Fauci warns of disturbing trend as Trump ignores viral surge.
Fully half of US states are now seeing rising cases of the disease with the situation especially acute in Texas, Florida and Arizona, which embraced aggressive reopening programs.
States like Arizona, Texas and Florida are moving in the wrong direction, and there are increasing warnings that if they remain on their current course that hospitals could be overwhelmed in weeks and months to come, leaving leaders with agonizing choices of whether to reverse openings or to somehow surge medical capacity to deal with an increasing death toll.
States like Michigan and California, which has already experienced painful months, have seen their curves begin to rise again. And while states like New York and the Washington metropolitan areas begin to emerge from lockdowns, the worsening data elsewhere offers daunting omens.
As I wrote to open this entry, "Americans may be getting tired of the pandemic, but the pandemic isn't getting tired of us." Because of that, I'm wishing my readers stay safe and healthy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Marching music for the New York and Kentucky primaries

It's that time again. As I concluded Marching music for the Georgia and West Virginia primaries, "I plan on posting the next one of these on June 23, 2020 for the Kentucky and New York primaries." I'll get to the marching music shortly, but first I'm sharing the latest news about the elections tonight. Watch Major Primary Battles Playing Out In Kentucky, New York from MSNBC.

NBC's Steve Kornacki is at the Big Board to discuss the major primaries in Kentucky and New York and the rise of mail-in voting. Aired on 6/23/2020.
Those are just the two top contests in the states holding presidential primaries today. FiveThirtyEight reported on more of them in Today’s Elections In Kentucky And New York Are High-Stakes For The Progressive Movement.
Between a suddenly competitive Senate race in Kentucky and the possible ouster of four entrenched incumbents in New York, Tuesday’s primary elections feature the largest-scale confrontation yet between the Democratic establishment and the party’s progressive wing. In New York especially, the primaries will test the political muscle of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has thrown her weight behind several progressives running for Congress and state legislature.

In addition, four other states (Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia) will hold their primaries or primary runoffs, but there are no special races of note that we’ll be watching closely. Regardless, don’t wait up late tonight for results; because the coronavirus has forced most states to conduct elections predominantly by absentee ballot, it could take more than a week to learn who won the day’s biggest races. New York won’t start counting its absentee ballots until June 30, and at least a third of Kentucky counties, including the two biggest, will not release any results until that date either.
Looks like we're going to have to wait a while for results. Fortunately, I have lots of marching music to watch and listen to pass the time until all the votes are counted.

As I wrote four years ago, "today is 'a senior corps spectacular.'" This year's edition begins with the 2017 White Sabers.

5th place - 93.38

Next, the corps that I kicked off the previous edition of this entry, the Sunrisers.

10th place - 85.68

Now, the last of the three Empire State all-age corps, Skyliners.

11th place - 82.23

Follow over the jump for the marching bands from New York and Kentucky I am featuring tonight.

Monday, June 22, 2020

'Good Morning America' and Vox on 'COPS' and 'Live PD' being cancelled

Here's some news for a late Sunday entertainment feature that I probably should have used a week ago, when my home broadband service was out and I was posting A test with tweets and I haven't seen this many statues fall since the end of the Cold War from my smartphone, ‘Cops,’ ‘Live PD’ canceled amid protests against police from "Good Morning America."*

ABC News analyst Dan Abrams, host and producer of 'Live PD' responds to the show’s cancellation and criticisms that police shows glamourize law enforcement.
The observation that shows like "Cops" and "Live PD" glorify the police is not a new one. Vox explored that angle last year in The truth behind the TV show Cops.

The longest-running reality show in The US.
“When it premiered, “Cops” was one of the first reality television shows and it has been broadcasting continuously since 1989. In this video, we worked with the podcast “Running From Cops” to understand why the show has stayed on TV for so long. At the time it was selected for development by Fox executive Stephen Chao, the writer’s strike of 1988 had created a desire for unscripted television that didn’t require hiring union talent.

But once “Cops” was on the air, it was the vision of “Cops” creator John Langley that would make the show last. He understood that the show presented a new opportunity for law enforcement agencies and it was his approach to making “Cops” that has kept police interested in appearing on the show. While “Cops” no longer has the high TV ratings it garnered during the nineties, it has been a persistent presence on television and it has spawned several imitators, including the very popular show “Live PD”.

Like “Cops”, these shows use variations of a reality format developed by “Cops” that features police performing their daily duties. The stripped-down format has remained nearly the same since the show began in 1989 and during the thirty years since “Cops” has had the same agreement with police that agree to appear on the reality show.

To learn what that agreement is, make sure to watch the video above.

To learn even more about “Cops”, make sure to listen to “Running From Cops”: a podcast that investigates various aspects of “Cops” and examines its cultural impact on policing on America.
I have a long and short response to this slightly old news. My long reaction is that pop culture matters, which is why I write a lot about entertainment, including television about politics and government. That's because television entertainment can shape our political opinions, so what people watch matters. In the case of "Cops" and "Live PD," it improves public perception of police, which I generally have no problem with; I am in favor of people seeing government working and police are part of the government. On the other hand, the shows may disproportionately present African-Americans and other minorities as criminals. Representation matters and bad representation can be actively harmful. I think that the production companies and networks got that message, because I doubt these decisions would ever have been made for purely commercial reasons. "Cops" had been the longest-running prime-time series and "Live PD" was the highest-rated show on A&E; those aren't normally the kind of shows that get cancelled. That they have been shows that money isn't everything, even for television.

The short reaction was to laugh at the cancellation by tweeting The Simpsons - COPS: In Springfield (Bad Cops).

A scene from The Simpsons, Homer's Triple Bypass episode. This is from a DVDRip, so the quality should be fine. Have fun with the Bad Cops!
LOL, Schadenfreude!

*My carrier finally fixed the broadband connection on Saturday, eight days after the problem began, by replacing a loose wire a block away. A tree branch probably knocked it loose as it fell. I recall hearing a couple of thumps just as the connection first went bad, which could have been the branch hitting the wire and then the ground. The last time I heard something like that was at midnight of March 3, 2018, when a tree fell in my backyard and knocked out power and internet for three days. I posted 'Jane' the best documentary not nominated at the 2018 Oscars for World Wildlife Day, The UCLA Marching Band at the 1969 Oscars for Marching Music Day, and 'The Emoji Movie' the biggest winner (loser) at the 2018 Razzie Awards from a nearby Starbucks as a result.