SocraticGadfly: 3/29/20 - 4/5/20

April 04, 2020

Can Half Price Books survive? Is it already dead?

Last week, with both the main library in the county where I live and the smaller one where I work(ed before mainly remotely) shuttered, I started thinking about a Texas institution — Half Price Books.

A fair amount of people in states to the west know about it, too, but its home and origins are here. Like HEB Grocery, it's one of Texas' better institutions.

If it lives much longer.

Googling to see if it has a Denton location, the top hit was from Publishers Weekly announcing three-quarters of its staff were laid off or furloughed, as of earlier last Thursday. Linked within that was a piece from two weeks earlier announcing all stores had closed to the public. That got it the dubious honor of largest bookstore chain to close in the face of the coronavirus.

Its offers of curbside pickup and more? Sounds like little more than PR, especially since it's talking about trying to hold on to its leases, which means ... it can't pay those leases right now.

That, in turn, makes me wonder how thin its ice was before this. The original store closures announcement said it would only be until March 31. I suspect the company knew it likely wouldn't stay open after that.

So? The idea of reopening? I doubt it. I sadly, and seriously, doubt it.

I mean, it's in a Catch-22. It's selling off all its old stock. But, if the stores are all closed, it isn't getting any new stuff from patrons. It may still be getting remaindered stuff from first-run bookstores, but that's not that much. If you went to the typical HBP, 80 percent of its stuff was trade-ins by customers, if not more. No more than 20 percent, if that much, was remaindered. The percentage was higher on CDs and DVDs, but even there, I'm guessing more than half was still trade-ins.

So, it's time to reminisce.

I was last at the flagship on Northwest Highway what, last fall? In my brief return to Marlin two years ago, I visited a newish semi-outlet location in Waco. I often went to the one in Cedar Hill when I lived in the Best Southwest a decade-plus ago. Took pix of their Banned Books Week display one year for my newspaper.

I have many memories from multiple locations, in other words.

One of them was HPB as a way of expanding my musical world. I bought many nature sounds CDs there, but also a number of both traditional, or classical, and modern world music albums. Stuff like Pakistani bagpipes and Japanese koto music. Especially after the CD Warehouse place on Greenville just north of Lovers closed years ago, it was the one place for me to still look for music.

So, what happened?

The remaindered and other CDs? YouTube probably hurt that. The flagship likely did a lot of vintage vinyl sales, but I think that fad has peaked again. And, even though often cheaper than the Yellow Bezos Bus on used books, that may have had a ding.

That said, we'll probably never really know. It's family owned, and not publicly traded. So, other mistakes or whatever that may be part of the story probably won't come to light.

And, no, I don't expect it to reopen. Not in a bricks-and-mortar sense.

(Update: I was told on Twitter that HBP wouldn't go into Denton because it wouldn't compete with Recycled Books. I asked in what sense that "won't compete" was being used. If it was simply not to battle it out with another bookstore, I understand that. If it was the idea that HBP woudn't be competitive? Not true. I've been in Recycled Books. No way I'd pay their prices.)

April 03, 2020

The conspiracy-minded cult of Berners, an update

And yes, there's enough people out there that act in cultlike ways that make it one.

I've written before about some claiming one of his two Twitter accounts was hijacked by David Brock, about Berners trying to spin away his past record on gunz, and about all other Dem candidates conspiring to pick and choose states of focus. (Obviously, if true, it didn't work.)

By last fall, I rated Bernie backers (note that I did NOT say "Bernie Bros," so don't try to spin my callout) fourth among candidates by backers' cult levels. Gabbard, Buttigieg and non-candidate Mike Gravel were the only ones I ranked as worse.

Well, Super Tuesday was a new toppper.

Biden voters as well as Berners claimed conspiracy over ballot order when voting. Read Texas law, then read Aristotle above before commenting, I told both on Twitter.

#RiggedPrimary then trended on Twitter, from Berners.

No, no, no, if one means the sense of Gab-ber Jared Beck and his DNC Fraud Lawsuit. Going way back to Will Rogers being "a Democrat ... not a member of any organized party," Democrats are too disorganized to pull off a stunt like this. Crowdstrike letting the DNC get hacked when the Russians tried the same on the Republicans and, overall, failed. (They did; shut up.) NGP VAN letting the Bernie staffer in 2015 peek at stuff unknowingly also comes to mind. The idea that Democrats are organized enough to rig elections SHOULD be laughable after the Iowa caucuses.

And, in other places, Democrats are behind the voting fuckup.

In Dallas, Jim Schutze squarely points the finger at Our Man Downtown, John Wiley Price.

Sadly, the actual likely conspiracy of endorsements has people not seeing straight beyond it. (By that, I mean it's possible that Harry Reid called some other candidates, or some national Democratic officials, or both, before calling Sanders' campaign to say he was endorsing Biden. And I mean nothing more than that.)

And, speaking of conspiracy theories, it's probably easier, or "easier" to retweet this:
Rather than accept that you might have hit either an overall follow limit or a rate of new followers limit.

Such limits do exist, of course. And it took me 10 seconds of Teh Google to find that. As well as to find information that Twitter limits your daily Tweeting and breaks that daily limit into half-hour time blocks.

As of right now, Ms. Bouvier wasn't at the 5K limit, but at nearly 4,500, she may have been yesterday, or else she hit the new follower rate limit. The reality if, of course, that she wouldn't have 30K followers if Twitter were censoring her.

Per the embedded Tweet, it's most likely that, at or near the 5K limit (her numbers have changed since I first posted this) she was hitting her Tweeting limits.

There's the added irony, or hypocrisy, that Twitter has these limits to restrict paid human accounts and pure bots, and that many Berners in the previous week or two complained about Bloomberg buying followers.

The conspiracy theorizing continued on "Little Tuesday" or "Second Tuesday" a week later. Berners claimed that in Michigan, a Democratic conspiracy was reducing the vote total. It is true that Michigan's Secretary of State, an elected official, is a Democrat. It's also true that in all primary states, the state Secretary of State or whatever department oversees elections runs the duopoly's primaries, not the parties. For example, also on Little Tuesday, Missouri's SoS is a Republican (and a son of John Ashcroft).

And now, a certain Judith Hilton Coburn, with a very low activity rate on Twitter for someone allegedly so active, is asking people to sign a petition about election rigging.

I smell several rats.

First, it ignores what I've said time after time: In states with primaries, the state Secretary of State or equivalent, not the state parties, are responsible for overseeing duopoly primaries. Within that, at the county level, the county clerk or a county elections official in a large county, does that. The Secy of State and the county clerk? Elected. Republican elected in South Carolina, Texas and Missouri, among conspiracy-theorizers focus. (Dem in Michigan.)

Second, the repeated use of "Democrat" without the "-ic" to be "Democratic"? Rethuglicans do that. And I told her so.

Third, of course, is that if anybody has elections rigged against them, it's third parties, and both duopoly parties willingly participate.

And fourth, it's off-putting to me with bad grammar and other language use problems.

April 02, 2020

Coronavirus: Chinese nationalist lies face off against
Trumpian Deep State hypocrisy lies, coming red state woes

I blogged more than two weeks ago (seems like an eternity in the new normal), about how China had lied about coronavirus statistics in the country, and many other problems with China's early handling. I added that some of these problems, evidenced by its attempt to create a new alternative to the World Health Organization that was in its back pocket, showed that it may still be lying.

But, none of that gives any room to President Trump to politicize the US intelligence world.

Remember all his Deep State bullshit? Well, he's now decided that if he can use the alleged Deep State as a tool of his propaganda, he will.

As for the details of the Bloomberg story? The US is also excluding asymptomatic people right now because it doesn't have the means of testing them.

That said, per other things recently, this has devolved into a trans-Pacific shouting match between Xi Jinping Thought and Donald Trump Thought. Unlike the alleged outside-the-box stenos of a fair chunk of lefty journalism (Maté, Blumenthal, Ames, Taibbi, Consortium News, etc.) I assume that BOTH Trump AND Xi are lying, or spinning hard enough to be almost lying.

It is harder for Trump to outrightly lie about death stats. And, it's clear he's accepted that, even as he keeps spinning for his stanners. That said, it continues to work ONLY for his stanners. The latest AP poll says any "mini-surge" of a week ago has faded away again.

Dead antlers in Alaska may be joined by dead people soon.
And, Trump will face a bigger problem in weeks ahead, in all likelihood. Rural areas that think they're safe will likely find out in a week or two that that's not true. Kansas and Oklahoma, for example, will likely be in trouble in two weeks. (Some rural touristy areas in the West are already hot spots.)

Alaska, even, could face problems. And, people who are familiar with the playout of the Spanish flu know that it decimated, or worse than decimated, to use the word correctly, even tiny villages on Alaska's Yukon River.

Anyway, back to the main point. The hypocrisy level of Trump never ceases to amaze me. The stenos and others, though they know better, probably in general won't call him out for politicizing the intelligence world.

April 01, 2020

TX Progressives look at oil bidness, other non-COVIDIOT idiots

There's plenty of plain old idiots out there. There's also people struggling just to get by and to do other things.

Kick the idiots.

Help the strugglers when we can.

Salute those already helping.

And dig into the Roundup.


The case of Joe Exotic (loonnngg read from Texas Monthly) is one of a truly warped mind, exploiting exotic animals for money. #CapitalismKills and not just people. (The movie, OTOH, is pretty crappy.)

Texas farmers and their stresses. (A long-ish read by Meredith Lawrence. She apparently doesn't recognize, contra her screed last year against wind farms, that this is why farmers and ranchers look for alternative sources of income. Including wind turbine siting leases.)

The oil and gas bidness was in deep shit even before COVID. DeSmog Blog has an in-depth look. In a second piece, it notes that many refineries are likely to be shuttering in weeks ahead. The typical refinery can't cut production below about 65 percent without shutting down whole units. The problem is a complex one, and more complex than in previous hydrocarbon gluts. This only increases the likelihood that the Texas economy is really imploding as you read this, and that Greg Abbott is fiddling while the state burns by refusing to call a special session of the Legislature. And, I've editorialized about this in my day job, too.


SocraticGadfly returns to his second blog this week to say RIP Krzysztof Penderecki.

Texas politics

Mustafa Tameez warns about the need for election protection.


A Texas GOP hack who's unofficially been running USDA's meat inspections programs since 2018 is now official.

A great long read here about how, from the inside, Shell basically admits that its greenwashing is all kabuku theater.

Biden is running on the most progressive platform ever. By a Washington Monthly stanner, Nancy LeTourneau. Assumes he will be nominated; he's not more progressive than candidate Sanders; ignores third parties.


Bibi Netanyahu has nine lives, it seems.

March 31, 2020

Texas progressives — coronavirus week 3

Did you text death panels to Dan Patrick? If not, per Alice Embree, give him a telephonic cough-in while we dig into the coronavirus and other news in this week's Texas Progressives roundup. Again, as in the previous two weeks, this corner is splitting coronavirus stuff and the usual idiocy. Week 1 is here and week 2 is here. And for April 7 week, here. Week 5 is here. Ditto for Week 6. Here's Week 7, and Week 8.


Goalpost shifting, pure and simple. Trump says deaths could hit 100K, while saying staying below that would be "success."

THIS is why many Texas shoppers swear by HEB. Its preparations for the virus going viral are no shock to anybody who saw it in action during Hurricane Harvey and other things. (Longer read.)

Dan Patrick and other Texas Rethuglicans want grannies to off themselves as a burden to society, but want poor single mothers to be forced to have babies — even though that will, of course, make them a burden to society. (Abortion providers are suing.)

Too bad HEB ain't running testing here in Tex-ass, as results are taking up to 10 days. People who think they might be sick but aren't sure and need to work ain't sitting at home for 10 days. Looks like "Sue Obama and go home" Gov. Strangeabbott is pretty Trumpian indeed.

Texas Monthly also reports on online auctions and Facebook sites benefiting kids who couldn't show at Houston. (I had a brief in my local newspapers about this.)

TM also gets a bartender, a chef and a restaurant exec to talk about the current state of their industry. (Longer read.)

It's been two weeks since his last executive orders. Texas neighbors Louisiana, New Mexico and even wingnut Oklahoma have issued statewide shelter in place orders. TM asks why isn't Abbott doing more? (Abbott and staff refused to comment.)

Soon, Texas may have so many #COVIDIOTS for us to have bingo. Right now, just an online poll:
Don't be a COVIDIOT.

If you are a COVIDIOT and a pastor? As long as it's applied equally, the government can shut churches.

Trump at first glance appears to have half a brain by considering a federally imposed quarantine of greater NYC. But a closer look at his talk says it's selfish too. He's worried about infected New Yorkers coming to Florida.

Tony Fauci is at Trump's podium precisely because he's a semi-toady. Where's the CDC?

HHS Secretary Alex Azar, the latest Trumper with capitalism-related COVID blood on his hands.

COVIDIOTS exist outside Texas, too, including a Washington State hospital that fired a doctor for being too transparent.

Speaking of, as metro Detroit and the Crescent City become hotspots, Gadfly wonders who might be next and looks at Miami, among other places.

One place hard hit inside Texas? The state supported living center in Denton.

Some Austin company, and maybe a second company (that we know of) are trying to claw back employees' pay in an amount equal to federal stimulus checks. #CapitalismKills

Something else that may be "hard hit," pun sadly intended? Child abuse, with cases surely on the rise with shelterings in place, even if confirmed cases are down.

A friendly reminder that classical music, not just pop, rock and country at bars, is suffering from COVID.

Off the Kuff notes the different attitude towards stay-at-home orders in some parts of the state and points out that coronavirus doesn't care about anyone's attitude or ideals. Late update post from Kuff about Abbott's stay-in-jail order showing us Old Abbott running roughshod over county and local decision-making.

Better Texas Blog says, once again, that everyone needs paid sick leave.

Nonsequiteuse minces no words with Dan Patrick.

Brea LaVelle, and her teacher colleagues, really miss their students.

March 30, 2020

US courts in Texas don't care about third parties

The federal voting rights lawsuit over the Texas Legislature's House Bill 2504 and related items of Texas voting law, filed by the state's Green and Libertarian parties, along with smaller parties and independent voters, last summer, as discussed by me in detail here, is not supposed to go to trial UNTIL NEXT YEAR.

You read that right.

Note: This does not include the suit filed early this year in state district court out of Harris County when SoS (Same old Shit, Secretary of Shit or whatever you prefer) Ruth Hughs ignored the clear intent of Drew Springer's language and tried to charge all third party candidates, not just those who are actually nominated at their party conventions, the new filing fees. Libertarians there (Greens not a party) sued and got a temporary injunction, but that was overturned on appeal at the state's 14th Appeals Court, with trial set for February. The history of the appeals level is here. The trial court docket is here.

From what I can tell, the temporary injunction was eventually reinstated, as the likes of David Bruce Collins are running as candidates.