Warning: this will not be a typical movie review. If you are Liberal, easily offended, or thin skinned, please skip this post.
Last week we watched the entire Hunger Games trilogy in preparation to watch the most recent installation, a prequel to the Hunger Games story. In the trilogy, the bad guy is President Coriolanus Snow, played by Donald Southerland. This stand-alone prequel (The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes) is the origin story of Southerland’s character. We rented it at the local video store. It is also available on Amazon.
From this point forward there will be some spoilers.
The movie opens with the Snow children (Coriolanus and Tigris) living with their grandmother. Some internet sites say that they are cousins and not siblings. The family is poor and barely surviving in the capitol district. Coriolanus is trying to do the typical middle-class drill of getting good grades to get into college. His family was once rich but not anymore. College is viewed as the gateway to success. Since he is poor and ambitious, he of course gets into conflict with the rich children in the district.
His college conflicts occur during the tenth Hunger Games. At this point, due to low viewer ratings, the Hunger Games are on the verge of being cancelled. Snow takes the opportunity to think outside the box and try to boost the ratings of the games. This brings him into even more conflict with his peers and the school’s faculty.
His major opponent on the faculty is Severus Snape, oops I mean Dean Casca Highbottom (Peter Dinklage). Dinklage is awesome in his role as are several other characters. If you liked Dinklage in the Game of Thrones, then you’ll love him in this movie.
Despite opposition from faculty and his peers, Snow’s plan to amp-up the Hunger Games is implemented.
From good ‘ole District 12, comes the Songbird, Lucy Gray Baird, played by Rachel Zegler. Snow is assigned to prep her for the Hunger Games. He falls in love or lust with her (you can decide which) and does what he can to help her win, including gaming the system and cheating. Clearly the skills you need nowadays to win the presidency are evident in his behavior from an early age.
Snow gets caught with his finger on the scales and is punished. The rest of the story arc is him making his way back to the Capitol.
To lift a phrase from Clint Eastwood, I now present the good, the bad, and the ugly of this film.
Why the film works.
The writer and the moviemakers of this film pull off what George Lucas failed to do with Darth Vader. They make a cogent and convincing case as to why Snow became evil. The movie dedicated to making Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader fails miserably on this point, despite a budget of millions of dollars, the move to the Dark Side was not satisfying or believable. Only Midi-chlorians were a worse plot point in StarWars.
Snow is led step by step into varying degrees of evil and is comfortable with each step as his conscience and morality disintegrate over the course of the film. Parts of it are creepy and uncomfortable to watch as you hope he will act morally but does not.
Rachel Zegler actually sings the songs that she belts out during the movie. They are not dubs of some faceless off-screen person in a recording studio. My biggest complaint is that the first few chords of almost all the songs start like Wayfaring Stranger and then branch out into other chords. For the sake of following the lyrics of each song—which are related to the story—you might want to turn on Closed Captions.
The other reason for Closed Captions leads us to the ugly part of this story. The people that made this movie did something that is not advertised on the DVD box or movie posters. They did something so shameful that it makes Disney look like a Republican run corporation. In fact, were it up to me, I would make the film rated R. I don’t know why smoking now makes a film R rated but this is worse. Tigris, the “cousin” of Snow, is a chick with a dick.
Yep, sorry Troll but it’s true.
We are watching the film, and my wife starts looking up the actors on the Internet. She then informs me that Tigris is a dude. Hunter Schafer used to be male. I will let you read the carefully curated details on Wikipedia if you wish.
Folks you can’t unsee that it’s a guy in drag once you know that. The volume of the audio track for Tigris is very low in every part of the dialogue. (Hence my recommendation for Closed Captions.) Guess, he can’t fake a girl’s voice. Also, there is a scene when I think they Photoshopped out his Adam’s Apple.
My demand for the R rating is based on this; how do you explain to your nine-year-old that the actor is a dude? Just hope they don’t notice? Sorry, it’s all over the Internet. If you don’t tell ‘em someone else will; oh, and as an added bonus they will undermine your values in the process.
The themes in this film are dark and adding this perversion is just another layer to deal with.
I think this film going woke in a different and more subtle direction and will be repeated. Look for more Hollywood flicks to try this tactic to check the pervert inclusion box in their movies.
I think Zegler will win some awards for her performance; especially considering the new woke criteria of the Academy Awards.
Tom Blyth was great as Coriolanus Snow. I’ve never heard of the guy before, but his performance will open doors to more movie opportunities.
The lost soul, Hunter Schafer, will get an award just for being in the film. The contributions of the actor were minimal but I’m sure letting the producers check the pervert box will be rewarded.
If you are an adult that likes YA books made into movies or movies about dystopian worlds then by all means watch the movie; just beware that it is a potential recruiting tool for coopting your children by undermining your faith and values.
Treat this as an adult only film for people that grew up with the original trilogy.
Barbara Lee, a current congressman from the New Orleans part of California (Oakland), is running for U.S. Senate. Barbara Lee is someone I do have a slight amount of respect for as she was the only member to vote against using force to invade Iraq after the 9/11 attacks. That is where my respect for her stops.
Lee is a total kook and is always good for a few completely wild ideas. Her latest is $50 an hour minimum wage. To her defense, she did cite most parts of California, specifically the Bay Area, is not considered affordable unless the combined household income is about $150k a year. She is not wrong, due to the tech companies that were hiring there, it did make that area drastically unaffordable. Increasing the minimum wage however will not change this, as resulting prices go up in proportion to the wage increase. Recently McDonalds went viral because a burger, fries and coke resulted in a $18 ticket for lunch! A radio show I listen to in the AM stated hash browns at McDonalds are running $3…. for a stupid potato cake patty! Trust me, at $50 an hour that meal will run about $32, and hash brown will run about $7. Things do not get cheaper when wages go up, the business just makes a choice; reduce quality, reduce employees, or raise prices. There is a limit to how much money can be saved, and a limit to how much labor can be eliminated, price is the hardest, at what point does fast food (a cheap, quick meal) become unaffordable and not worth it anymore? I guess minimum wage starter jobs are no longer starter jobs, they are a career in the eyes of the political elite. This doesn’t fix any problem.
Alright Troll, get her!!!!!
Her qualifications for Senator are as follows: She attended Mills College; an all-girls college and has a degree from University of California Berkeley. The latter degree makes her always the smartest person to enter any room. Berkeley is held in the highest regard by people who protest things, live in trees, shut down freeways, burn buildings, riot, and support crime. Lee was also involved in the New Black Panther Party making her a solid choice and dually qualified for any political office in California! Like most running for office, they always tout their experience. Lee has served as a State Assemblyman from 1990-1996, and then moved to State Senate from 1996-1998. She ran to replace Ron Dellums, the congressman who was retiring to become Mayor of Oakland. Anyone who wants to be Mayor of Oakland needs to agree to donate their brain to science upon their death if not before, but I digress. Lee has proudly served the most dangerous part of California ever since 1998 and somehow it has gotten worse. This is literally a situation where the bar keeps getting set lower and lower to the point that I think the bar is buried underground yet still Oakland exceeds expectations! Career politicians are the worst type of people, and Lee could have been congressman from Oakland forever!
I look forward to Lee playing the race card when two white males, Adam Schiff and Steve Garvey make the top 2 run off. Thanks for playing Barbara. One does wonder how many extra votes Lee could have gotten if Oakland didn’t do their nightly purge of voters on a daily basis (murders). Lee will be finding out a valuable lesson, the dead do vote Democrat but only for the establishment types like Schiff.
Also, as a side note, In N Out Burger, who has never closed a location, will be closing their Oakland store due to heavy crime in the parking lot. Citing the safety of their customers and associates as the reason… damn Barbara, those $50 an hour jobs do no good when the store closes down!
Liberalism is a brain disease, and folks like Lee are the worst cases of it. There were a bunch of bumper stickers on cars when I was in college depicting “Barbara Lee Speaks for Me!” in regard to her politics. Let me wonder aloud, if your minimum wage job gets eliminated, does Barbara still speak for you? If California is too expensive you can always do what several hundred thousand have done recently and move! Or get a budget and cook at home? Who am I kidding? Credit card debt is at an all-time high. Wanna bet Lee will ask Biden to forgive credit card debt just like they did for student loans?
Chief & Troll
Here are photos of confirmed hottie and Troll favorite Carli Lloyd
I have a confession to make. Folks in North Idaho communicate with each other through Facebook. Yep, a few have their own websites, but my wife has proved to me that to keep up on activities here, you need a Facebook account.
I didn’t want to, but my local State Senator forced me into reconsidering. You see Mark Meckler, from the days of the Tea Party in California, has surfaced here in Idaho advocating for the Con-Con.
The Con-Con is a call for a Constitutional Convention. Yep, just what we need right now is to amend the U.S. Constitution. Meckler is naive enough to think that he can limit such a convention to call for a balanced budget requirement.
FYI Under the Articles of Confederation, they called for a Constitutional Convention and ended up restructuring the entire government. You see, there are zero limits on what delegates to such a gathering can do. Meckler thinks he can control the agenda. This is dumb. When have Republicans and/or Conservatives ever come out ahead when entering into a bi-partisan negotiation. Our guys typically get nothing; instead, they unilaterally surrender and then declare victory after giving away the candy store to the other side.
Meckler has much support in Idaho. The idea was voted out of committee this past week and is scheduled for a floor vote on Monday. Please understand that certain folks are trying to pull a fast one on this issue. I mean this literally. The bill was introduced in the legislature about ten days ago. Our local State Senator was soliciting constituent opinions on this issue but only via Facebook. In order to reply to the Senator, I had to do so via Facebook. As a result, I created an account.
In the aftermath of the Insurrection of January 6, 2021, when tens of thousands of unarmed people showed up in Washington to support President Trump and frightened Democrats because they feared that we will act like Black Lives Matter, I cancelled my Facebook account.
Going back many years later is a very different experience. Yes, some stuff has been moved around in their phone app, but much has also been wholly removed. Gone are political party names in profiles. Also, missing are any questions about religion. Also, gone is the bombardment of articles from liberal news outlets. Yep, stupid videos are still there but, on the surface, it is a seemingly less hostile and toxic environment than a few years ago. Oh, gone also are most of the younger generations. They seem to have moved on to Discord or TikTok.
The Facebook experience has many shortcomings. I told them that I had a wife and it showed that I had just been married the day I entered the information. They even prompted me for the wedding date, but my timeline shows that I got married a few days ago. It’s stupid. Clearly, Mr. Zuckerburg is milking this cow for money and not making the app better. It makes me wonder if they hired former management employees of Microsoft. Facebook as abandoned ware, who knew? (If you’re dumb enough to own their stock, sell now.)
Anyway, I’m back on Facebook. I think I’m up to five friends. I’m looking for quality over quantity. Concerning our blog staff, Troll please don’t send me a friend request, but the rest of the staff is welcome to look me up.
Oh, my State Senator is opposed to the Mark Meckler proposal.
A family member who reads this blog reached out to me and queried the question “If you are a libertarian shouldn’t you accept trans folks?” This person is not wrong, but here are my thoughts.
I want to asterisk my thoughts with this disclaimer. I do not agree with this lifestyle, nor do I accept the LGBTQ lifestyle. I merely tolerate it. The LBGQ group is folks who in my opinion ditched God and decided to live a life of sin. However, their lifestyle can easily be reversed, corrected, or changed. It simply involves who you like taking to bed/private with you. I have 2 members of my extended family who live that lifestyle, one is married, and the other is not. I harbor no ill will toward either…. funny enough, both are from the same parents.
The trans thing is a horse of a different color. The gay/lesbian lifestyle has been around a long time, the trans one has not. Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner brought light to it, and Fox News gave it a platform. Now it seems to be a trend, it reminds me of the trend to come out as gay in my childhood. But again, this is different.
My actual take?
If you are over the age of 18, and want to change your gender, I’m not against it. I just want you to have an understanding of what you are doing to your body. Sadly, I think most do not know, and never will actually know. This fad is new. I think a course/class should be offered; you need to know what you are actually doing to your body. You are changing your body’s chemical makeup and that is a big deal. One that is casually left out of the discussion regarding trans folks. I also feel you should have a mental health exam.
If you take the course/class and pass a mental health exam then by all means, go for it. If you are over 18 you are legally an adult as far as I am concerned. By all means you can change your gender, I don’t like it, but I’m ok with it.
Just one thing to think about. How far are you willing to go as a transperson? Think it out. It’s easy to dress up/down as the other gender, but what about your body? Sure, you can change your plumbing, wear makeup etc. but what about your Adam’s apple? Your voice? Chest? Caitlyn Jenner is a bad example; she has a lot of money and found the right doctors/surgeons to get it done. Will you? Can you change back to your birth gender? Will insurance cover that?
PS it’s one thing to want to cosplay the other gender or have a drunken tryst with the same gender, but this trans thing scares me. I think most of those who choose to change their gender will live to regret it later.
Editor’s Comment: As The Chief pointed-out, Bruce Jenner spent way more money than your average 18-year-old will ever have to alter his body. In the photo above, the person behind the camera used a bucket load of tricks to make Jenner look that feminine. It took multiple people and several manhours in a studio to get a photo that makes him look like a girl; however, no amount of lipstick on the pig or bodily mutilation can actually make Jenner a female. Genetically, Jenner will always be male. Bruce is a broken dude and I refuse to normalize his mental illness by calling him “Caitlyn”.
William wrote a very good blog exposing Nikki, I agree with all his points. I wanted to take it a step further and show you who she really is. Haley was a congressperson from South Carolina, she ran for governor as a “Tea Party” nominee in 2011. She won. She then was appointed by Trump to be United Nations Ambassador, as payback for her embracing “MAGA.” She stepped down after about a year of service. She is now running for President with a strange anti-Trump, quasi establishment, globalist, war Mommy campaign.
She also continues to insist she has never lost an election, which is odd as that tells folks you have no backbone or spine; you simply change colors to match the room you walked into. This seems to be a theme with her.
There is a statement popular in certain circles called “read the room.” Haley appears to be quite good at that. Just look how she has morphed over the years…. Tea Party was basically cut taxes, eliminate government workers, and government spending (among other things), MAGA was to become a nationalist, law abiding and hardworking society (among other things) and now she has embraced the “Bush/McCain/Romney” doctrine of “if it polls good, do it”. In other words, she makes a fine politician.
Nikki Haley’s biggest problem is she reminds me of someone I know with a personality disorder. She is a socially awkward introvert. You can tell when she talks about her campaign (from the little I see on TV…I don’t have cable) she is delusional. She actually thinks she can win despite getting molly whopped in the primary so far…oh as William pointed out another, she is destined to get blown out in her home state of South Carolina. Oh, her appointed senator and one time candidate Tim Scott won’t endorse her, as he knows she is toast. Her entire campaign seems to revolve around making people happy and liking her. This is a main problem with introverts. They have few friends so being accepted is more important than having any actual beliefs.
Some big money donors are behind her, and it’s fueling her insanity. Folks, in politics, money is required to continue the campaign and unless you are personally wealthy like Trump, you have to rely on fundraising to make it work. Haley appears to have “old guard” donors like Koch industries behind her and as a result their $$$ is changing her beliefs. She has nothing good to say about Trump, yet she worked for him as UN Ambassador? Rough look toots. She now is in full establishment mode and is finding out the numbers will not add up. She is pressing on only because the $$$ is telling her to. Watching her circle the drain is rough.
What should she have done? Easy answer is not run for president. But I will offer my thoughts, rather than re-making yourself (Haley is finding out politics isn’t like make-up voting/track records are hard to cover up) I would have identified the correct lane to run in. What I mean by that is this: Trump is MAGA, and he announced prior to the midterms going down. MAGA is Trump, good luck trying to take that over. DeSantis, was, is, and always will be MAGA light. He had zero chance with Trump in the running, as such he is out. Vivek ran as “MAGA but outsider” and again is out of the race. MAGA had 3 folks running, none of which did much. Chris Christie, mostly due to his size, takes up the entire “Trump is a criminal” lane. So as such she could have picked a better position than “I’m a non-white woman, who has never lost an election.” Not only is that extremely pandering, but it also comes off as it being “her turn” which sounds very much like the Democrat Party to me. She could have staked out a conservative position, based on her voting record. She didn’t, she went full globalist. She could have backed up her positions by drawing on things she knows from her time in Congress (presidential powers, war powers, budget, etc.) Instead…. yikes.
This isn’t going to end well; I predict Trump by about 40% in South Carolina. I believe Florida is next…. they may need to have a disclaimer on the TV to hide the woman and children when those results trickle in. Super Tuesday is after that…you get my drift. She will be politically irrelevant in about 1 months’ time. Nikki will be the female equivalent of Jeb Bush where everyone will wonder how she failed so badly with all her experience?
Like William pointed out, Nikki got caught with her pants down…. maybe that should be her next campaign move try to get support amongst the young male vote? She is already going out of her way to court Democrats, so why the heck not?
PS. Just remember eight short years ago Trump, Kasich, and Cruz were splitting the vote fairly equally during primary states (Trump would get about 5-8% more than each) so my point about their being a lane to run in makes sense. She just never found it, and as such this race is over.
Editor’s Note: I also think Haley believes that if Trump gets in legal trouble (i.e. convicted of a bogus felony), since she is in the race, she will be the heir apparent for the Republican nomination. Dream on baby!
That sage prophet of our times, Scott Adams, is known for the axiom,” There is a right way, a wrong way, and the weasel way”. Last week, Nikki Haley showed her true colors on X (formerly Twitter) by taking the weasel way and getting caught with her proverbial pants down.Oh, Troll, sorry for that visual.
Anyway, Nikki showed she knows as much about computers as actually leading America—which is to say she is totally unqualified. On her X account she displayed this letter of praise from a follower.
The post reads:
PLEASE DO NOT GIVE UP YOUR FIGHT!! In a world that’s become crazy with strife, we need a level headed conservative leader to navigate us through the insanity! NO ONE is more capable than you are to right the ship, and heal this great nation! WE NEED you Nikki! This country NEEDS you. Our allies, and the beautiful people of this world need you!
I don’t want to see you give up, and I guarantee you there are millions more out there who feel exactly as I do!
Unfortunately, this glittering endorsement has a few problems as folks were happy to point out to her.
Please note that this was posted on the official Nikki Haley X (Twitter) account.
As REdState pointed out:
But many people noticed a problem with the “email.” Someone appears to have forgotten to hit send and there’s no address header and no subject. Not to mention, it says “new message” in the left-hand corner. Whoever sent this out didn’t understand what it was showing.
For those from Rio Linda this means Nikki wrote this on her account about herself and forgot to do anything to make it look like it was sent to her. Like so many other women do when necessary, she faked it and then tells you how good she was.
But it gets even better. Here’s another comment.
Folks, they forgot to hit the “Send” button on the email and show it as a received message in their Inbox, instead of one they composed themselves.
Nikki just proved that she has an IQ approximating room temperature. However, let’s take a quick look at the content of her fake message.
Is Nikki running for President of the United States or President of the World? She seems confused on this point. “…The beautiful people of this world need you!”
Oh gag me. Nikki’s number one promise if elected is not to make America a great nation, it’s to write a blank check to Israel. Nikki also wants us in Ukraine as well. She wants to be Nikki Haley, world policebabe. She wants to create good paying jobs at home by building and selling munitions to the rest of the planet. Can we call her George W Bush in drag?
As recently as today, Nikki is claiming that she will win the Republican nomination for President. She’s only trailing Trump by 35 points in her home state of South Carolina. Folks this babe is a legend in her own mind and if she believes she has a chance to win, she is every bit as delusional as Joe Biden. At least we know Joe has dementia but what’s her excuse?
Much to the chagrin of Democrats and Never Trumper’s, Special Counsel Robert Hur who was investigating Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. and his stealing of confidential documents dropped a bombshell Thursday. In just one sentence he may have destroyed ole Joe. He called him a “well meaning, elderly man, with a poor memory.”
This is something William and I tried to warn you all about. The Democrats needed Joe 4 short years ago to beat Trump. Joe is the same then as he is now. He is a fragile, senile old man who should be enjoying a beverage (maybe warm milk?) after playing a round of golf with friends. Hur also added Biden “with his advancing age and diminished faculties, would be seen as a sympathetic figure to a jury.” In essence the man is in steep mental decline and punishing a man like that with potential jail time is mean. Biden had a long-distinguished career in government and was seen as a foreign policy expert, even though Robert Gates, an Obama era defense secretary called Joe wrong on all foreign policy decisions in his career.
But it gets worse….
In the report there is more damning news:
The special counsel’s report was surprisingly blunt. It described Biden’s memory as appearing to have “significant limitations,” characterized an interview he recorded in 2017 as “painfully slow” and said Biden did not remember some key dates of his vice presidency or “when his son Beau died.” Yup, no clue when his term as Vice President started or ended, and no idea as to when his son Beau died…. which by the way, even though his son died of brain cancer, Joe insists he was killed on a battlefield in Iraq.
How could it get even worse? It somehow did!
Rather than waiting for the news cycle to restart the following morning, the Democrats thought it would be a smart idea to try to go on the offense. In a letter to the Special Counsel, Biden’s lawyers called the numerous references to Biden’s memory “gratuitous,” as well as “prejudicial and inflammatory.” Ah yes, the old, that attorney is a know nothing, hack. It won’t work, that attorney actually absolved your client of any wrongdoing…no charges will be filed. In this case it worked to Joe’s favor, if Joe came off as a perfectly competent human then charging documents would have been filed, or at the very least it’s a damning report but no charges are filed. This is the typical offense I expect from the Democrats, how dare you use personal attacks against us. In this case they attacked a non-partisan Special Counsel, sure Mr. Hur is not a mental health expert nor a psychologist but again, charging decisions have a lot to do with mental state of mind.
Somehow Joseph Robinette Biden Jr’s day got even worse.
Yes, you read that right, the Democrats thought it was a smart idea to wheel out old Joe and have him give a press conference in response to the report. It backfired, big time. Instead, a visibly angry Biden made the exact type of verbal flub that has kept Democrats so nervous for months, mistakenly referring to the president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, as the “president of Mexico” as he tried to address the latest developments in the war in the Gaza Strip. Yep, somehow Mexico is a border country to that part of the world. And Biden himself, with visible frustration, expressed disbelief at the idea he did not know when his son had died: “How in the hell dare he raise that?” He raised it because you said it and it’s very material Joe. Sadly, you came off as an angry white male, who is drunk on power. Like someone else I know, your only playbook is to lash out and declare you are completely and totally fine. Sadly, for you and your campaign, the attack ads from Trump and other parties write themselves.
He had a couple other good one’s too this week….
First, during a campaign swing in Nevada, Biden confused François Mitterrand, a former French president who died in 1996, with the country’s current president, Emmanuel Macron. Then, on Wednesday, he referred twice to having met in 2021 with Helmut Kohl, a former German Chancellor who died in 2017, instead of with Angela Merkel, who led the country three years ago.
Don’t believe me? Check out James Carville’s comments…
“The public does not view his age as — that’s not a Fox News issue,” he said in an interview after the news conference. “It’s not a Taylor Swift rigging the Super Bowl kind of thing. So — I don’t know how you get out of this.”
“The whole day,” he added, “was confirming an existing suspicion.”
Yikes. How about David Axelrod, the guy who ran both of President Obama and VP Joe Biden’s campaigns.
“Fair or not, you can’t un ring the bell,” said David Axelrod, the former strategist for Barack Obama who has emerged as one of the Democratic Party’s leading figures warning about how voters view Biden’s age. Axelrod said the Special Counsel’s report was so troubling for Democrats because it “goes to the core of what is plaguing Biden politically now, which is a widespread fear that he’s not up to it.”
He added: “The most damaging things in politics are the things that confirm people’s preexisting suspicions, and those are the things that travel very fast. It’s a problem.”
These are not quotes from a far-right wing website. The toothpaste is out of the tube, you have a scenario where Democrats are panicking behind the scenes. Ballots have been printed in 80% of the states for the primary, so no one will be able to “out delegate” Joe. The only way is to whack him at convention…. seems like maybe the wheels could be in motion? Carville may be the “old guard” of the party, but Axelrod is very much well connected and informed. Bill Mar said the same thing, Joe will be replaced at the Democrat Convention; something we have been saying for over a year now.
I think Joe is finished, it’s just a matter of how the Democrats do it and with whom?
Oh, by the way, for the second year in a row, Joe will not be doing the traditional pre-Super Bowl interview. Yup, the one day most folks around the world sit in front of the TV all day, and he won’t be on it. This could have been a chance to show a contrast between him, and whacko Donald Trump who will nuke everyone and join us with Russia…but alas, the staffers decided Joe can’t do the interview. They are scared he will say something equally dumb.
And Thursday night’s news conference was an example of the political dangers for Biden, whose missteps are magnified in part by the White House team’s tight control over his media exposure. His aides are so risk averse that they passed even on a pre-Super Bowl interview this weekend before one of the nation’s largest annual television audiences.
Joe didn’t deserve this…. but he is the fall guy for the Democrat party right now.
The jobs “report” was great Friday….it really was. We added 345,000 or so “jobs.” Why am I using air quotes you may ask? Well in the recent few weeks we have had layoffs from Meta (formerly Facebook), UPS, Microsoft, and Macy’s to name a few. My understanding is Alphabet aka Google is laying off folks too. The jobs at all of these are from management positions, not from closing stores or low-level employees. My point here is the jobs I see opening are in the fast food, gas station, retail, and government work. These are jobs at the very low end of the wage scale, even after factoring in California’s $20 an hour wage. If the economy was so healthy, why have we so many homeless in these parts? Why do they come here?
The truth is the economy is not well. But the danger is not lurking where you think it is. The danger is in commercial real estate and some sectors of the banking industry. Follow along I’ll tell you.
Commercial buildings and the loans they have are the problem. They differ from your mortgage in a few ways. On your mortgage, you pay principle and interest every month. (I’m leaving out insurance and taxes to prove my point since they are not relevant here). So, your outstanding balance goes down, the principle each month, maybe not by much but you are paying it off. On commercial loans you pay interest only…yup kind of like the financial crisis circa 2008 on home loans. You may ask what do they do when the loan comes due in 20, 30 years? Well, they simply “recast it.” That’s a finance term for re-financing and maybe pulling out the additional equity (remember folks, real estate only goes up LOL) and buying your next shopping center.
Truth be told, if the shopping center is about 80% capacity, the loan payments can be made each month without much issue. Sure, you may have a pizza place, burger place, clothing store, etc. go under but they are usually easy to re-constitute the property to suit the new tenant. The problem that arises is when the anchor tenant closes up shop. I will use the example of a shopping center located near my office; one this blog is familiar with. The anchor tenant is a Target store. There used to be a OSH (Orchard Supply Hardware) but it closed and was rebuilt into a Ross, Ulta!, and something else. When that happened, the food stores located near the OSH had about 3 turn overs into something else. No real loss because Target is the store that drives business in that center. There used to be a Save Mart grocer, it turned into a wine store, a baby store, and a surplus type store. A couple of those have since changed over but again, the center is pretty much full. The issue is what happens if the Target leaves? No chance you say. But what if it did? The car traffic would decrease by at least 50%. Other food stores would close. The boutique shops would re-locate. It will be hard to sell burgers at Smash Burger when the parking lot is empty. The mall would be a ghost town.
If you think this scenario is a fantasy land, tin foil hat idea, check this out.
Park Hotels own(ed) two very upscale hotels in San Francisco. In May, they decided to stop paying the loans and give the keys back to the lender. Yup they walked away. The hotels were not Motel 6 where Troll has told me you can pay by the minute or some “extended stay bull shoot” they were the Pac 55 and the Hilton Union Square. Think tourist areas. Combined, both hotels had about a 3,000 room capacity. These are very nice hotels, rooms are about $250 a night at a minimum. The parent company walked away. These were two crown jewel hotels. Now the lender is stuck because a hotel is not easily convertible into something else. San Francisco will likely house their illegals or criminals there since it makes sense to make them comfortable on the taxpayer’s dime. But I digress.
For Park Hotels, there is not much repercussion for them. They get out of a couple of underwater loans but have to give up the revenue (loss) each month of these properties. The ones holding the bag are the banks. You may ask why you should feel bad for a bank? They got a property, banked the interest all these years, and now they can sell it. The reason is banks do not use a mark to market accounting rule, they value the asset based on the appraisal from when the loan was issued/refinanced. That could be from a decade or so ago. A good example would be the Aon Center Tower in LA. In 2014 it was bought for 269 million, for a 1.1 million square foot building on Wilshire Blvd, an icon in LA. In 2023, it sold for 148 million. Over 100 million evaporated in 10 years. Sad! In these cases, the bank has to write off the loss on its balance sheet.
Just this past week, New York Community Bank, a highly respected conservative bank as far as lending goes, took a major loss and had a massive write off of bad commercial loans, such as the above. While you may not recognize the name, the regional banks will be the ones to suffer from this crisis. The reason being, regional banks have to take more risk, their larger peers, think Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, etc., have large credit card portfolios, deposit accounts, and home lending to fall back on. The regional banks must take on risk, this comes with commercial loans which were typically very lucrative. New York Community bank is not the first and will not be the last. A tip to watch is this; when a bank fails, watch the price movement of Bitcoin, we do not endorse that here, but the price will shoot up as a hedge against the dollar/bank failures.
A word of advice “when you have a short-term loan (car loan) you are at the mercy of the bank, loan could be refused to be refinanced/underwater etc. If you have a large long-term loan (mortgage, commercial) the bank is at your mercy.”
In an effort to reduce the amount of physical stuff we have in our house; my winter project is to scan the photos that we have accumulated. As I see it, my job at this point is not to cut or cull stuff just reproduce it digitally.
Folks, this is a daunting task. I started in January with two boxes of my stuff which were mostly photo albums. The rest of it belongs to my wife. She has boxes from both her grandmothers plus her mom plus her stuff. I started with 8 boxes. There are more boxes that may have stuff in them but you gotta start somewhere.
During January, I finished going through about two and a half boxes. Thus far I have the following to report: 13,447 individual files and 159 gigabytes of storage space. There’s actually more but you get the idea. The age of the photos is about a 100-year span from the 1890’s to 1990’s. In addition, there are newspaper clippings, recipes, diaries, and other stuff.
One of the unique things in and amongst all this stuff are scrapbooks that seem to have their origin with people of limited means. One type of scrapbook from some distant relative was created from an existing book and that was covered on every page with clippings from various newspapers. Not only do you get deaths and births but entries into social pages, news articles, and a host of other things that seemed important to the person that created the book. Some are scrapbooks with five or six columns of articles on each page: front and back. The box I’m working in now has a few of these in the bottom. They look to be very labor intensive to scan. In fact, I may have to buy a book scanner to do them. I won’t really know until I start on them, probably next week.
To do this project, I’m using an Epson photo scanner (Model FF-680W). It works great but needs constant cleaning. This scanner does both front and back of photos. In addition, it also tries to auto-correct color. I am also using a multifunction HP printer/scanner (Officejet Pro 7740). Most photos have been done at 1,200 dpi and other things have mostly been 600 dpi. I am using both the Photo app in Windows 11 and ACDsee photo software. The software is mostly for cropping and touching up the things that I scan.
An example of what I’m scanning is Grandma’s scrapbook for the 1946 road trip to Glacier National Park, Canada, Utah, and other parts of the West. She has 109 pages for this road trip with receipts, postcards, personal photos, handwritten narrative of each day and so forth.
Not only is it an insight into my wife’s family but also a glimpse at post-war America. An additional ten pages in the scrapbook were for a much shorter trip in 1947. This scrapbook yielded 660 files.
I know I won’t complete this project before spring, but I hope to make a dent in the pile.
Next, I will need to tag people in the photos and try to sort them by year. Part of this will allow the first cutting of unknown people out of the pile. This is afterall a genealogy project, at least in part. Of course, if the children don’t get going with grandchildren, then this project will lose much of its importance.
I must say that I have a greater appreciation for the resilience and determination of past generations as a result of this project. I have so little information about my own family that to see another that did try to give to the next generation evokes many emotions in me.
The sounds of saber rattling you hear in the China-Taiwan part of the world is in my opinion frustration with Russia. You see, Taiwanese people are happy with the current arrangement. They are essentially an autonomous zone off the coast of China. China on the other hand views Taiwan as a breakaway province that is part of China, not separate. Xi Xinping, the leader of China, has been ratcheting up the rhetoric lately and has been using his military to scare the Taiwanese people.
What I do not understand is this. What does China really want here? Taiwan is only really known for semi-conductors, think the chip in your computer, car, etc. While this is a large booming sector of the world economy, couldn’t China just copy the IP and mass produce on the cheap? They do this with literally everything else. The US will never support that you say? Every CEO in America is looking to cut costs by even $.01 to meet or beat quarterly numbers. Trust me, China would be inundated with orders for their semi-conductors. Sure, our military will still order from Taiwan but let’s be honest, we have a hell of a lot more computers and cars than we do military items.
A military conflict seems increasingly likely, but is it necessary? The US has stated we will defend Taiwan. I would assume South Korea, Japan and the Philippines may get involved too. But is it necessary? Taiwanese people are likely ready to fight to the death, it sounds like they have the island fortified the best they can. (Far better than Ukraine ever was). They seem to have advanced military capabilities, (again better than Ukraine) as they have always figured a day will come when China will swallow them up.
If I am Taiwan, I have a plan set up, so the second Chinese war planes approach I evacuate all the engineers, scientists etc. to a safe haven. I make sure all IP, files, etc. are evacuated or destroyed as well. These are what I feel China really wants. I do not think they really want the land. I would also make sure any buildings or other structures were rigged to blow upon China encroaching. My opinion? Take the land, but it will be proven useless over time.
In my opinion, China is very angry at Russia behind the scenes. The war in Ukraine has dragged on, now it appears likely to have a long stalemate. This is not the way the plans were drawn up. The plan was to occupy the US and its allies, and while Russia marches on toward NATO borders China would take Taiwan. It didn’t happen. China is now having to assist Russia much like we are assisting Ukraine. We are now re-positioning ships and other war machines in the Pacific as a counter to China, exactly what they do not want. China is now watching Russia go to North Korea and Iran to re-stock their military and it’s been uncovered that Russia’s military is ripe with corruption.
In summation, I believe China does take Taiwan. I think the US and others essentially secure a “peace agreement by bending the knee to Xi.” It’ll be a classic US split the baby in half and hope both sides are ok with it. With the goings on in the middle East, Russia-Ukraine, and the usual unrest in Africa, I do not think the American people have the stomach for another conflict. I do not think many bullets will be fired, but as a warning to China, do not underestimate a populace who does not want to be occupied/governed by an adversary. The US never learned its lesson in the Middle East, and we lost many a service member/contractor to needless occupations. I also believe China has a very corrupt military as well. They may not be as powerful with weapons as we think. They do, however, have a large supply of bodies. The supply of bodies, also like Russia, contains hundreds of thousands if not millions of “expendable” bodies. Think slave labor types, political prisoners, ethnic minorities, opposition forces, rural areas, and you know North Korea will supply ample bodies as well. My point being China’s folks in the mainland may not even know a war is going on.