SocraticGadfly: 7/19/20 - 7/26/20

July 24, 2020

I was close to boycotting Winco over masking laxity;
I still have new second thoughts about the company

I've long been a fan of Winco Discount Foods, and was glad to find out that, when I moved closer to the Metromess than I've been since I left it, that Denton had one.

For the unaware? Winco, which not perfect, has some of the best of Aldi, some of the best of Kroger, and some of the best of Central Market.

Versus Aldi? It has a much more robust house lines brand, and much of it cheaper. PLUS? Other than Aldi's generic Triscuits, it sells nothing whole wheat and sells no brown rice. I can get house brand whole wheat pastas at Winco for 79 cents a pound. Brown rice for 50 cents a pound. And, in the bulk area, whole wheat berries and whole oat groats. Hold on to that.

Versus Kroger? Unlike Aldi, it has a full produce section. It also has more refrigerated and frozen items, including, for those who imbibe, a full range of beers.

Versus Central Market? While its bulk food area is not quite as complete, it's well ahead of any Kroger that sells bulk foods. A good assortment of spices. House brand whole bean coffee is pretty good. Spelt, teff and farro flours, which even most Central Markets don't have. And, for junk food fans? About as much bulk candy.

That said? Last Saturday, people were coming in without masks, and I'm not sure I recall it clearly posted.

I talked to the clerk who mans the self-serve checkouts. She talked to the Hispanic person who had just entered, and I used my rudimentary Spanish as well. She waited while her daughter, sister or whomever went to their car and got one.

OK. Problem solved.

Then, I noticed a very Anglo Karen-type well into the store. I loud-spoke, but short of yelled, at her. No response. Went to said clerk. She did an intercom announcement.

I saw Karen again at the back of the store. I yelled at her this time. Still nothing.

Well, Winco was out of house brand whole wheat pasta, which was my biggest want, and I'd already hit Kroger. So, after seeing nobody at the customer service desk, I left.

And, Twitter-messaged and Facebook-posted to Winco's accounts.

And, I got shit-weaselness on both.

First, Twitter, to which I did not respond.
Hi there! Thank you for contacting us to share your experience. We can confirm that face coverings are required of all our employees until further notice. In regards to the public, we are following all local mandates in the areas where we operate at this time and will refuse service where directly required to do so. We highly encourage everyone to review applicable mandates and CDC guidance before visiting our store, since each individual is personally responsible for compliance - please note that medical exemptions may apply. With that said, our leaders continue to review this topic and the possibility of requiring masks of our customers company-wide. We can't make specific guarantees but will gladly include your feedback! Have a great day!
OK, lemme see. First, I didn’t mention employees.

On local mandates? Let’s translate based on Facebook, where I did respond.
Hi Snyder, we appreciate you sharing and for notifying an employee there at the store. While we encourage face coverings for the public (employees are required), we do follow city mandates. We do not see our Denton location listed that they have to require masks; please note we also follow the list of mask exemptions outlined by the city mandate.
In other words, per Facebook, if the city of Denton and Denton County don’t order businesses to require masks, they’re going to take a very loose definition of Gov. Abbott’s order and a very liberal, or libertarian, belief in the ability of people to social distance inside a grocery store.

I posted selections from Abbott’s order in response.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, by virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the State of Texas, do hereby order the following on a statewide basis effective at 12:0 1 p.m. on July 3, 2020:

Every person in Texas shall wear a face covering over the nose and mouth when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public, or when in an outdoor public space, wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household.
I don’t believe it’s feasible in a grocery store.

As for Winco corporately “continuing to review” the issue?

My local Wally, in a place much smaller than Denton, was “strongly encouraging” masks with door attendants when Abbott announced his order, and before Wally made the nationwide order. My local Tom Thumb interpreted his order as requiring masks. Hell, the dollar store next door to me does. And since then, Tom Thumb and Randall's parent Albertsons has required masks, as has HEB.

As for the Twitter response? We “will refuse service where directly required to do so”? So, does that mean I have to chase a Karen all the way around the store, get a clerk to be with me and then say: “Refuse her service”?

As for “medical exceptions may apply”? Lawyers who know their shit already say that a person claiming a medical exception does NOT have an automatic Americans with Disabilities Act right to enter a store. Curb service/takeout or delivery are the first two options a grocer or other retailer can offer.

So, with all of this, I will likely be in Denton next Satruday, as normal. Whether I actually need anything or not, if I remember, I will look for a “masks required” sign. I don’t recall seeing one. If I remember to check, and clearly don’t see one? Boycott is official.

That said, per its website, which I checked as I was writing this? Winco has now accepted reality and as of today is requiring masks. Perhaps the power of complaints, or even threats of boycotts, did something?

As another person said in the same thread on Winco's Facebook page, they thought Winco was better. Being employee-owned, I did, too. But, per DeSmog blog writing about their infilitration into Bakken oilfield companies, Three Percenters might own a company. Employee ownership itself really doesn't mean much.

In Winco's case, though, because, since we're owned by employees, that means our employees have the final say on everything and love us, or similar bullshit, it means being officially antiunion. Not just nonunion. Antiunion. Elsewhere, the company notes it has some select union contracts, like meatcutters. Flip side of that is that it's basically impossible to hire a meatcutter without a union, so this isn't something totally voluntary by Winco. One should note that a number of the longest-serving employees are millionaires. And, Winco has a corporate incentive to pay employees a fair amount wages rather than in ESOP ownership, while using the claim of "the employees own us" as proof there's no need for a union.

Erm, wrong!

It's a warehouse with membership fees, and being single, I'd never recoup them, but ...

Costco pays employees even better and is definitely union-friendly. And, on the flip side? Walmart, while not employee owned, does offer stock options. And pays like crap, all things considered.

This all said, unions aren't perfect. Hell, police unions are teaching us that by the day. But they do have their value still in many cases.

Finally on this issue for now? Knowing that Winco was started in Boise, and knowing the Mormon Church's "storied" antiunion history, I wonder if that's lurking in the background.

July 23, 2020

Texas progressives talk rogue cops, poll tax, more


We've got more on cops and policing issues, duopoly polling issues, constitutional questions about mail-in voting and even bits of third-party argumentation and possible skullduggery. Add in some fun Twitter mockery of Texas cities and there you go.

Let's dig into all of it in this week's roundup.


Texas

Off the Kuff had the goods on two more polls of Texas.

SocraticGadfly called out Texas Monthly for naively accepting at face value the "poor me" story of a major fracking company's head.

DosCentavos ruminates on what Trump's threat to cut public education funds is really about.

Grits for Breakfast sees the forthcoming sunset review of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement as an opportunity to limit the number of police forces in Texas.

Shari Biedinger reports on the 50th anniversary re-enactment of the Great Brackenridge Park Train Robbery.
For Twitter fans of Dril, the TPA brings you this Twitter thread about Texas cities that we guarantee you will not have thought of before.


National

Bill Barr's DHS thug cops have descended on Portland, Oregon, complete with unmarked vans and other Gestapo-like tactics.

Donald Trump's 35-year-old tiff with the NFL, as described by Politico, is perhaps the best illustration of how he lives in a world frozen in at least 35-year-old amber.

Related, and also from Politico — how Trump's 60-year-old or so reading of Norman Vincent Peale taught him how to ignore reality through the self-deceptive so-called power of positive thinking.

Judge Paul Grimm says, in light of the Supreme Court ruling, the Trump Administration must accept more DACA applications.

Greens who oppose the still-possible expulsion of the Georgia Green Party over its platform this year call out trans activists who shut down dialogue. (Many still worry about the overall stance of nominees Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker on this; I personally wouldn't be surprised if, after sweeping this under the rug this year, a move for expulsion comes up at the GP's 2021 national meeting.)

Are stamps for mail-in ballots a form of a poll tax? I sympathize with some determined voters worried they can't afford that, but as a legal argument? Calling it "dubious" would be polite.

ALLEGED Putin puppet Trump is increasing cyberwarfare against Russia.

July 22, 2020

The reality behind the Lincoln Project

Three of the four NeverTrumper Republican founders of the Lincoln Project? Trump-level grifters, more specificially, deadbeat tax delinquents. Vox further calls out Lincoln Project founders and top brass as having been enablers of Trump through helping get Poppy and Shrub Bush elected in part with racist dogwhistles by and for them and for downballot candidates. This is all true. Vox also reminds us that Steve Schmidt foisted Sarah Palin on us. In addition, they all produced the same type of dark ads that Trump only ramped up. He, his messages, and his message framing didn't come out of nowhere. And now, they're trying to trump Trump, which doesn't happen unless one plays for really scorched-earth tactics.

The Vox story also links to Open Secrets on the grifting angle. It finally notes that playing to Twitter isn't much of a strategy for defeating Trump, just for lining their pockets. (Well, Vox doesn't add the latter party, but c'mon.)

The biggest problem is that it's an attempt to normalize the modern Republican party to national Democrats. Given that those Democrats have invited hardcore conservative John Kasich to speak to the DNC, it's worked!

Sayonara to John Wiley Price hack Toni Pippins-Poole

Incompetent / grifter Dallas County elections administrator Toni Pippins-Poole is FINALLY retiring, nine years after being foisted on the county's voters for political reasons by Our Man Downtown, John Wiley Price.  It's also sad that the county's elections board never met to oversee her or do a performance review in her nine years. The link is from a wingnut website, part of the Mucus empire, but it's the only one I saw mentioning her retirement that also mentioned the lack of review. Here's more on her incompetence, magnified in this spring's primary.

Having lived in Dallas in the 2000s-oughts, I remember her predecessor, Bruce Sherbet, the acme of professionalism. I had moved away by the time JWP got him fired. But I still blogged about it. Per a Dallas Observer piece linked in that, current, and then newbie and JWP-puppet, County Judge Clay Jenkins was the one who actually swung the axe. I don't know if Jenkins' increasing independence from JWP led him to threaten a similar axe behind the scenes this time or not. Whether he did or not, he could still go further and offer a semi-apology while still walking the necessary political tightrope. Jenkins also convened the election commission that has not met since TPP's appointment to officially convene to whack Sherbet.

Kuff touts the idea of having an appointed elections administrator rather than an elected overseer, as is the case in Harris County. I told him, per my background, that this doesn't necessarily depoliticize the office.

I know Stan Starart was a joke down there before being defeated by Diane Trautman. And, he's running again. But, Toni Pippins-Poole was a joke, too. OTOH, I don't think the Harris County Comn Court has a blatant grifter on it, unlike JWP.

As for who will replace TPP? Jenkins, counting himself, has three Democrat votes on the Dallas County Commissioners Court who are not named JWP, so, it won't be a nutbar. It will still be someone who takes election issues seriously; Pct. 1 Commissioner Theresa Daniel has ties to the NAACP, LULAC and League of Women Voters. She also is a former staffer for former House Majority Leader Martin Frost.

As for JWP? The man's 70 and will have been in office 28 years as of the start of next year. If he doesn't plan on making this term his last, he seriously needs to be primaried. (Just for shits and grins, let's post Laura Miller's long-ago takedown of Our Man Downtown. As part of that, we have a former assistant of his using antisemitic stereotyping language, something JWP never, AFAIK know, reprimanded her for.)

July 21, 2020

Coronavirus and check marks vs V's on recovery

Unemployment dropped again in June, it was announced last Friday. Good news, right? Well, it's good news that will probably go away again in next month's numbers.

A number of employers last week, including biggies like United Airlines, announced major job cuts ahead. Per the Washington Post, it reinforces that the post-COVID economic recovery will have a "check mark" recovery path, if that, not a V. The Trib agrees, expecting numbers to go up again in next month's report. The Dallas Observer reminds us that no State Fair will mean job losses at the end of summer. SEVEN THOUSAND.

It also is an incomplete picture, masking other realities.

Speaking of large-number sevens, there's another issue. An estimated seven MILLION Americans have suffered coronavirus wage cuts. Others who are still employed are underemployed, the story notes. (It doesn't note that some of them may have taken on second jobs, if they could find them, because of this.)

Two other takeaways?

This is hitting not starter jobs but more solidly middle class ones, which make it more worrisome for the larger economic picture.
Unlike job losses, which have disproportionately affected low-income workers, the pay cuts are mostly hitting workers in white-collar industries, according to the study of ADP data. Three-fourths of the cuts in pay fall within the top 40 percent of wage earners, researchers said.
Per stories in the piece, if you have a big financial anchor, like a mortgage, even if you can get it tweaked, that leaves you little room for discretionary spending.

Second? Many of the affected workers feel that they have no choice but to accept this.

The trend also suggests that employees feel they have no better options than to accept less money for the same work.
Americans believe they have a less than 50 percent chance of finding a new job within three months if they became unemployed today, according to a New York Federal Reserve survey — a drop of more than 16 percentage points from a year ago.
So, some tough news that will likely remain an issue for not just weeks but months ahead.

That's now confirmed by CEOs, reports the Wall Street Journal. With new surges, they're turning furloughs into firings and more. Details:
“We cannot defy gravity and continue with the business model we had before the pandemic,” Pret A Manger Chief Executive Pano Christou said on Friday as the sandwich chain reported an 87% drop in U.S. sales and announced plans to close nearly 20 stores.

Executives who were bracing for a monthslong disruption are now thinking in terms of years. Their job has changed from riding it out to reinventing. Roles once thought core are now an extravagance. Strategies set in the spring are obsolete. 
So, "congrats" to Donald Trump, Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis. Your rush to "reopen" America, Texas and Florida has officially shot itself in the foot.

But, per Capital and Main, "congrats" to neoliberal Dems like Gavin Newsom on this issue, too.

And, "congrats" to Trump medical enabler Deborah Birx.

Texas Progressives talk coronavirus, week 17

The problem continues to get worse, not better.

As I noted yesterday, a big contributor to the problem is Dr. Deborah Birx. Don't think her halo is tarnished. Rather, think that she doesn't have one, and other than some mythmaking plus reverse spin off the way Trump appeared to treat her, never had one in the first place.

With that, per the header, again, because of "Debbie" and "Donnie," and people like "Ronnie" in Florida and "Danny (Goeb) and "Greggie" here in Texas, we have plenty of coronavirus news split into a separate portion of the Texas Progressives weekly roundup.

People in Texas think about Houston, the Metromess, Austin and San Antonio when discussing coronavirus' hardest-hit areas. They ignore the Valley, and they shouldn't.

Think coronavirus cases are bad now? What if they're still spiking when a hurricane hits?

Kenny Boy Paxton, in another lying misinterpretation of the First Amendment, says that local health officials cannot force religious schools to close.

Addison has cancelled its Oktoberfest. Will Muenster wonder and hope if being more rural will allow it to keep its festival?

KeAndré Jordan explains how you can support Houston's Black restaurants.

The Current showcased a San Antonio man who became everyone's hero for matching his face masks to his ties.

Chris Hooks says that Abbott's diddling on the coronavirus is nothing new. Rather, it's part of his pattern of governing since taking office. Worth a pull quote:
In time, all kinds of Lege operators came to share the view that Abbott was at once a cipher and a bully, a view reinforced by his repeated attempts to force from office Republicans who offered even the most mild criticism of him, from the moderate Representative Lyle Larson of San Antonio to the right-wing Representative Mike Lang of Granbury.
Hooks notes that same diddling extended to whether the state GOP should keep fighting for an in-person convention or accept reality.

Everybody has been talking up telehealth and its possible benefits related to the coronavirus. The Texas Observer notes that would be nice, IF people could actually get it. (The hospital in my small town continues to manage to stay open, but has almost no telehealth services, I can attest.) That said, the Observer's story is about broadband deserts.

Kelly Victory is the latest doctor-quack to politicize COVID and Orac takes her to the woodshed.

July 20, 2020

Sayonara, Jim Schutze, the Observer says, and me too;
fiscally, and otherwise, I agree with the call

I had wondered if this was why I hadn't seen him in two months, and I didn't investigate.

"Curmudgeonly sage" Jim Schutze is a COVID casualty at the Dallas Observer. Not meaning to go all Dan Patrick, but Jim is 74. Schutze seems to have accepted that as a reasonable decision factor, with equinamity, per D Mag. That said, as another blogsite notes, his stances and takes seemed less and less in touch with Observer readership at times recently, starting with and most notably with the Amber Guyger trial. Amen to that. This site also notes that, while Schutze seems to have accepted the decision with equinamity, he also doesn't agree with it.

That said, Schutze had other cop love, too. Eric Celeste at D Mag, also author of its above piece, called him out on a Fort Worth killer cop and his love for him. Per Celeste, it's almost like Schutze either is ignorant of or else doesn't give a damn about the Fourth Amendment. Probably offers more insight into why one older online "cover" photo for his column space had him blasting away with a gun.

Besides, for better or for worse, or, for better AND for worse, Eric now gets to work with him.

And he's already had a personal interaction with a cop to write about. And, as noted in an update, Schutze is again Amber Guyger stanning and also engaging in new Teh Stupidz.

So, let me kick him a bit, with highlights of some of his lowlights.

Schutze, per his love of cops banging in doors and wielding guns, is perhaps, curmudgeonliness aside, a centrist squish on many issues. Three months ago, he was on "no political blame on any side" on COVID.

Confirming that was him being a sucker for Andrew Cuomo weeks earlier.

Before THAT, he thought it was "going too far" to shut down SXSW.

Hmm, seeing a theme here. Schutze is at least a mild version of a COVIDIOT.

Re Celeste's take on his idiocy on both Amber Guyger and the Fort Worth cop, at the end of last year, Schutze both defended what he wrote for the Observer and rejoiced in getting to write greater nuttery at Facebook. I've heard his Facebook page is a pile of steaming crap.

Earlier that year, he had a hard-on for JFK conspiracy theorist Robert Grodin. He has defended Grodin's free speech and assembly rights before, which is fine.

Before that, he was an uncritical Beto-stanner. More than once.

Before that, I called him out on his Guyger bullshit. (I did so in weekly Roundups for months before.)

That said, after accumulating all this, I DID look at his Facebook. And it IS loonier than him at the Observer, or now at D.

Here’s a few examples.

First, he’s even more naïve, or Marianne Williamson New Agey squish or whatever, on Trumpists there:

At some point we need to have a big national truth and reconciliation process about all the people who called it Kung Flu and wouldn’t wear masks.
Yeah, right. Trumpists and related libertarian wingnuts, along with some Greens, whether libertarians Greens or not, on horseshoe theory, are laughing at this. They think they have THE truth (that’s how conspiracy theories work, Jim, in case all your time hanging with Grodin didn’t teach you that) and thus have no need to be reconciled to anybody. Why don’t you just ask Marianne Williamson to beam in some love out of the hot water tap?

And, two weeks earlier, he said this:
The anti-maskers literally hate any call to empathy that would draw them outside the confines of tribe. The Youtube below shows women spitting and coughing on people when asked to wear a mask. COVID is drawing a line in the sand between people who would work to save life and people who would murder life rather than sacrifice tribal indentity.
Jim, doesn’t that confirm that these people don’t want truth and reconciliation?

It's not just loony. As this shows sometimes he has, contra Emerson, inconsistencies that are not only foolish but directly contradictory.

One more to wrap up, because it ties with Jimbo’s being a suck-up to cops:
Matthew Yglesias at VOX has a really interesting piece up on VOX saying the main body of research in recent years shows that increased policing has a positive social effect in poor communities.

Regular readers here have some idea what I think of neoliberal Gnu Media grifter Matty Y (also a signer of the Harper’s letter, blasted by me). Matt’s piece, to which I shall not link, is a neocentrist attack on well-known left-liberal, or leftist, police reform sociologist Alex Vitale. For Schutze to bromance this is pretty sad. It also undercuts his "investigate everything" schtick.

Jim would probably point to things like U. Renee Hall and his take on her. I would point back that that was about a police chief, as chief. And that he was using anonymous as well as on-the-record information from individual cops in his columns about why she was a problem.

Jim would probably then point to his stories about Jim's Car Wash. I would point back that those were stories about policing decisions, and even more, stories about City Hall powers that be driving policing decisions. They weren't about individual cops being bad cops, or how often that happens.

And, what's "funny," or more hypocritical, on Jim's part? One of his first pieces at D Mag is about how old Dallas power is listening to BLM. And, on the matter of bad cops? Jim ISN'T. Another is about black leaders talk about how "white folks don't listen," and the rest of the story is in part about blacks dying at the hands of bad cops. And Jim ISN'T LISTENING.

So, D Mag can have him. Eric Celeste, I hope you spank him again as needed, and better than Robert Wilonsky (which wasn't much) before Wilonsky joined the Snooze. That said, Jim ain't gonna listen. He didn't listen to your cops piece, did he?

The Observer has lost something. But, it's lost less than it would have even two years back, let alone five years back. And, contra two or five years ago, it's also lost somewhat of a burden. Jim's right that he didn't fit with the Observer any more. That's because alt-weeklies are supposed to be alt, to some degree, and he was becoming less and less so.

And, that brings us back up top. For a journo, one self-allegedly outside the box, to really not get the Fourth Amendment, is disheartening.

==

Update, July 31. Schutze is now officially in Donald Trump Gohmert Pyle or similar territory, as in "just when you think he can't do anything stupider ..."

Schutze (nutbar alert!) weighed in on the editorial staff at the Dallas Morning News attempting to unionize. He says he "ratted out" a similar attempt at the Dallas Observer shortly before he was let go.

Really.

Schutze is sympathetic to the Snooze effort precisely and only to the degree it gives him a new tool for kicking the Snooze managment in the nads, and that's it. He also ignores the reasons besides pay and severance that unionization is happening at many media sites, including but not limited to racial and gender equality and justice issues. Once again, Schutze the old white guy who says OTHER old white guys don't listen to minorities ...

ISN'T LISTENING.

Side note to the above. Cops love snitches, but hate rats inside their ranks. And, after they've used snitches, they throw them away like rats. 

Update, Sept. 26: I guess  Schutze didn't have enough Amber Guyger stanning at the  Observer. He's now taken it to D Mag.

Deborah Birx has plenty of coronavirus blood on her hands

Deborah Birx, primarily for political grifting in general, but maybe she's a COVID minimalizer, too, is behind the Trump Administration move to cut the CDC out of the loop of hospital COVID stats. Making Trump's decision, and Birx's support of it, yet worse, is
A. The new system is no more advanced than the old one;
B. The new system is run by a private contractor, and we know what that means with the Trump Grifting Train in general and the Trump Grafting Train on coronavirus in particular.

Toady Birx actually IS a COVID minimizer, as she rubbed her belly in shades of Murray Wiedenbaum and spit out rosy scenarios for Trump early on, becoming one of his biggest enablers.

This is nothing new, though. Remember that Birx has run interference for Trump after press conferences, especially running interference for him after he falsely claimed he was being sarcastic about internal heat and light. Part of that running interference was attacks on the media, in a way that sounded very Trumpian.

Don't forget that she's also attended one of Trump's political events. Watch out for the possibility of her attending more events. Note also that she never publicly objected, nor has, per DC rumors, made comment objecting to being called "Deborah" rather than "Dr. Birx" by Trump. Watch for Trump to boost her even more, and possibly at the expense not only of Toady Fauci (who has nothing to lose, IMO by challenging Trump more directly), but also Fauci's boss, NIH head Francis Collins, who says "We're certainly not winning the battle."

She is more and more to be seen as less and less trustworthy.  The fact that her Twitter account is "protected" also raises my antennae.

Speaking of Fauci? I suggested last week that he might be better off, for his scientific integrity and other reasons, just resigning if need be. I'm not alone on that, it now appears.