Splendid Isolation

Getting Rid Of The Burden

Salma Zito has done it again:

Café Raymond is a favorite destination and, as usual, both floors, the balcony and the sidewalk tables at the diner are packed with patrons.

None of the people waiting for his signature stack of ricotta pancakes stuffed with blueberries, his home-cured smoked salmon and caper platter or his savory sunny-side-up egg and brisket hash have any idea the man behind the kitchen counter — Ray Mikesell — has placed his beloved restaurant up for sale. He’s calling it quits two decades after he returned home from Baltimore to raise his children and carve out a life in Pittsburgh.

Through tears he says he simply has had enough — not of his customers, not of creating new dishes or specialized drinks, but of all the uncertainty that has dogged nearly every small businessman in the country since the beginning of the pandemic.

“It started with COVID and just over time, the uncertainty, the stress of trying to stay open, the inability to hire people, the underlying tension in society, the inflationary cost of everything you need to purchase to create quality food, that is, if you can get it…” he says, his voice trailing. He stops and pauses to hold it together.

The food costs are crushing him, he said, but so is the cost of doing business, period. His utility bills have skyrocketed, as has the cost of fuel to pick up fresh meats and vegetables from local farms or to deliver food for catering jobs. The costs are crippling, he says, and they are creating a barrier to investing in a business he has loved for so long.

“It just breaks you down no matter how strong you are,” said Mr. Mikesell.

Here’s my take on this.  Every time a politician says he cares about small businesses and their owners, he’s lying in his teeth.

This new crowd of socialists (including, alas, the Socialist Lite Republicans) absolutely loathe small, successful businesses, for the same reason they hate people owning cars: having your own car gives you freedom of movement, and your own business makes you part of a community, a community that binds you to itself because they now have the freedom to decide when, where and what they want to eat, and not have to go at specific times to a dreary commissariat like the hapless Winston Smith in Orwell’s 1984, and be fed the same slop and gruel as everyone else.

And the government absolutely hates that you have those freedoms.

If that’s not the case, please then explain to me why commuter and passenger rail systems are so popular with neo-socialist governments and why, when businesses like that of Ray Mikesell experience the same ghastly misfortunes (created, it must be said, by government), the government policy does absolutely nothing to help those businesses except by ladling out one-time, piddly subsistence-level “incentives” instead of addressing the main issues that cripple both the businesses and their customers:  soaring inflation (created by the government printing too much money), high fuel prices (even though we are the most self-sufficient energy-producing nation on Earth), the double whammy of ever-higher food prices and shortages (in America!!!), and logistical / transport operations that are crippled by (all together now) government regulations.

I know that anecdotes are not data — except that they are, when the owner of a business like Café Raymond is not a statistical outlier, but just one of tens of thousands in a similar or worse predicament.

Explain to me why Ray Mikesell, and all those other business owners, should not just quit and go somewhere else.  Explain also why the millions of ordinary people who are affected by the closing of small businesses and their own personal misfortunes should not be heating barrels of tar, oiling ropes, and loading up their semiautomatic sporting rifles.

But then we’re the bad guys.  Yeah, right.

Two Strikes

Oh, how pleasant.  First, from the Democratic Soviet of Minnesoduh:

About 15,000 nurses in Minnesota walked off the job Monday to protest understaffing and overwork — marking the largest strike of private-sector nurses in U.S. history.

Slated to last three days, the strike spotlights nationwide nursing shortages exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic that often result in patients not receiving adequate care. Tensions remain high between nurses and health-care administrators across the country, and there are signs that work stoppages could spread to other states.

Interesting, that.  It’s not like the hospital administrators can just round up random people in the streets and say, “Hey, wanna job?” (although I suspect that Parkland in Dallas has been doing just that for years already).

Round about now, I bet those same hospital administrators kinda regret firing all those people for refusing to be guinea-pigs for an untested vaccine.

Anyway, the next bit of end-of-summer cheer comes from the railroads:

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) said on Wednesday that its members rejected a tentative deal by its leaders intended to avoid a nationwide railroad strike.

BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific — four of the nation’s largest rail lines — announced embargoes on certain shipments earlier this week as negotiations continued, although 10 of the nation’s 12 largest railroad unions had tentatively endorsed an agreement outlined by the White House. However, IAM — which was originally among the 10 unions — announced its members rejected the deal.

Strikes could begin later this week if union leaders and rail companies fail to make a deal. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said on Monday that Congress, which has the authority to block strikes, would intervene “if needed.”

Supply chain bottlenecks driven by labor shortages and worldwide government lockdowns have impacted the American economy over the past two years, leading to inflationary pressures as consumer goods fail to reach shelves. The daily cost of a nationwide rail shutdown could amount to $2 billion, according to a report from the Association of American Railroads, which noted that trucking companies and other alternatives do not presently have the capacity to carry freight previously handled by rail lines.

Hands up all those who think that the current Administration has the ability to prevent either of these — oh, none of you, huh?

Me neither.

Big Girls Don’t Cry

…but bad ad campaigns do:

Abercrombie & Fitch faced so much backlash over an image it posted of a plus-sized woman modeling the brand’s shorts that it decided to delete the image from its Instagram page.

The photo was posted late last week and quickly went viral, with critics accusing the fashion retailer of promoting unhealthy lifestyles and glorifying obesity. This is a complete turnaround from a company that was once shunned for discriminating against women of average weight.

“New Abercrombie & Fitch ad just dropped…. This season they are featuring diabetes and heart attacks,” one person responded on Twitter to the original photo.

Don’t follow the Twitter link in the article unless you have a seriously strong stomach.

The larger [sic] point, though, is this.  Every business has the right to offer its product to a self-defined sector of the market:  Big & Tall stores don’t have an “XS” or “petite” selection of clothing, and should face no opposition from the Skinnies for doing so.  How, then, is that any different from A&C’s prior positioning statement:

Meanwhile, in 2013, the CEO of Abercrombie went viral for making comments about overweight customers wearing the brand after the retailer was accused of refusing to sell XL- or XXL-sized clothing.

Robin Lewis, author of “The New Rules of Retail,” explained the CEO’s thoughts on the brand, Elite Daily reported.

“He doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people,” Lewis said of then-CEO Mike Jeffries. “He doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they’re one of the ‘cool kids.’”

Nothing wrong with that.  But as the Terminally Obese Set finds this “insulting” just because they have bodies that show evidence of multiple trips to the buffet bar and therefore can’t find “fashions” to suit their bloated frames, stores now have to change their policy?

It’s ironic that I come to Abercrombie’s defense here, because one of the real (and rare) shopping pleasures I experienced when moving here in the mid-80s was finding a store that catered to mature (in outlook) men, and sold quality clothing for grownups.  (I know, they used to sell guns, even, but that was in a different time.)

So I was furious when they changed from a man’s store to a yuppie-kids’ outlet, and their real safari gear changed to fashionable (i.e. not real) clothing.  I’ve not set foot in one since, oh, about 1990, but while I hated their new policy, I just accepted it and moved on.

As should the Fatties — although the very fact that Abercrombie now markets clothing for the Elephantine Set means they’ve moved far from Mike Jeffries, and closer to Lane Bryant.

Idiots.  Maybe they should go back to selling clothes and accessories for men.

Guns, too.

Not Really

In this Amazon advertisement cunningly disguised as a newspaper “article” ., the Nespresso Vertuo Next is described as the “best capsule coffee on the market”, a statement with which I take issue.

I’m not interested in starting a Keurig vs. Nespresso war (I use a Keurig), but the plain fact of the matter is that I find all the Nespresso offers so strong as to be undrinkable.  Indeed, when I was confined to quarters in Free Market Towers lo those many years ago, I was forced to use one of those Nespresso things, and discovered that the only way I could stomach the stuff was to make it “Americano-style”:  half coffee, half hot water.

As a company, Nespresso irritates me because like Starbucks, they’ve built a marketing ethos around the alleged high quality of their product which appeals very much to the wannabe social climbers of this world.  I was even more irritated when I wanted to buy Mrs. FM a Christmas present of a large selection of Nespresso pods, only to discover that I couldn’t because I wasn’t a “registered user” (i.e. an owner of the machine).  So I got her something else.

I also prefer Keurig because rather than using expensive pods, I can use one of the little “buckets” as a substitute, and fill said bucket with my own choice of coffee (Dunkin’ Donuts, or a 50-50 mix of Peet’s Light Roast and Tim Horton’s when I need to wake up quickly).

So no;  Nespresso isn’t the “best capsule coffee on the market”, either by quality or by offering.

Your mileage may differ.

Two Reasons

Insty linked to this post yesterday:

Retailers and logistics operators are struggling to find space to store the flood of goods that have swamped warehouses and weighed on their balance sheets.

Warehouse owners say more retailers are looking to add storage capacity, both for goods now reaching their networks of stores and distribution centers and as they prepare to keep more inventory on hand long-term to guard against stock-outs.

Well, yes.

What the article does not mention is that “forward buying” (the industry term for this activity) is also a retailer’s hedge against inflation:  buy at today’s price, to sell at tomorrow’s (higher) inflated price, and use the profits to forward buy still more, until inflation comes back down.

We Americans have been sheltered from the latter by our traditionally-low inflation rate. but now we’re going to feel just like consumers in Third World countries, for whom continuously-high inflation is an everyday fact of life.

Yet another reason to hate this fucking Democrat government.

Roll on November 2022, and roll on November 2024 even more quickly.

How To Sell

Got the usual email from the folks at Lucky Gunner for 7.62x39mm ammo (among others), and I want to highlight the product blurb from the manufacturer.  Note the highlighted parts:

The big “knocks” against inexpensive “39” ammo are that:

  • the steel casing can damage a gun’s action (it doesn’t)
  • steel casings can’t be reloaded like brass casings can (true)
  • Berdan primers are corrosive (not anymore), and
  • a lot of ranges (e.g. the one where I used to shoot) won’t allow steel / alloy-steel bullets because of potential damage to the backstop.

Every single issue is addressed in the copy — nay, not just addressed but trumpeted.  As marketing/advertising copy, it’s absolutely brilliant.

I know that 40c/round is expensive compared to the old 15c price bracket, but these are different times we live in.  And for AK owners, like I used to be, this looks like a decent bargain.

And who the hell reloads 7.62x39mm anyway?