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☕️ LOBSTERING ☙ Wednesday, May 15, 2024 ☙ C&C NEWS 🦠

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Jeff Childers

Editor’s Note: Many thanks to reader M. for sending in this share!🌹

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Good morning, C&C family, it’s Wednesday! Today’s roundup includes everything you need to know today: despite its spicy cheddar biscuits and free shrimp, Red Lobster declares bankruptcy in more bad Biden news; in related news, McDonalds fights guzzlers at the drink stations; Biden goes full Moby Dick with new China tariffs, I mean sanctions; and a Trump Trial update for the ages.

🗞💬 WORLD NEWS AND COMMENTARY 💬🗞

🔥 NBC ran a fishy story yesterday headlined, “Red Lobster closing at least 99 locations as its future comes into question.” The story informed readers that the spicy-biscuit and seafood chain is heading into Chapter 11 with significant debt, unfavorable lease terms, management turnover, and poorly-considered strategies including an all-you-can-eat-shrimp promotion last fall resulting in a jumbo financial loss.

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Homer Simpson bankrupted the Frying Dutchman before swimming over to Red Lobster

It might be that the “Homer Simpsons” of America gobbled up too much free shrimp. But the CEO of Thai Union Group, the seafood chain’s largest shareholder, implicitly blamed Bidenomics: “The combination of Covid-19 pandemic, sustained industry headwinds, higher interest rates and rising material and labor costs have impacted Red Lobster, resulting in prolonged negative financial contributions to Thai Union and its shareholders,” Thiraphong Chansiri, Thai Union Group’s CEO, said in a statement.

Oh, how I love a good sesquipedalian euphemism. “Prolonged negative financial contributions” just slid into my writer’s journal as a top entry. Four long words when one short one — “losses” — would have done fine! That’s one thing neo-Marxism has accomplished, making everything mind-numbingly verbose, bombastic, and pedantic — in other words, it’s just dumb fake intellectualism. Marxists noticed that highfalutin’ edumacated people used big words, so in a classic correlation-causation fallacy, concluded that using big words made them smarter — and now they won’t shut up.

And don’t get me started on the neo-Marxian love affair with Byzantine acronyms. I dare you to find me one single acronym in the entire Constitution or even the Bible.

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Anyway, the truth tucked away in the CEO’s overly verbose statement told the real story: the problem is “higher interest rates and rising material and labor costs.” In other words, the cost of a meal at the seafood chain — shrimp or no shrimp — is skyrocketing and diners are eating at home more often. It’s that simple. While Biden defenders and corporate media want to blame Red Lobster’s shrimp bonanza, it took me just a moment’s research to figure out there’s nothing new about the chain’s shrimpy promotion:

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Granted, like the rest of corporate America, the chain is also probably suffering from an embarrassingly persistent DEI infection, and it may have been a little too promiscuous around the hedge fund markets, but the economy is what’s now making those pre-existing factors excruciatingly painful and bankrupting the chain.

In a close runner up to his first effort, CEO Thiraphong (if that’s his real name) explained that, because of all the losses, Thai Union was dumping the stock, but he used smarter-sounding words: “After detailed analysis, we have determined that Red Lobster’s ongoing financial requirements no longer align with our capital allocation priorities and therefore are pursuing an exit of our minority investment.”

So it’s bankruptcy. But who’s to blame? Esurient diners? Red Lobster’s terrible management, for tossing free shrimp to gluttonous seafood fans barking like trained seals? Or is the problem actually Biden’s economy? If you listen to Joe Biden, we are enjoying the strongest American economy in history. But sadly, it seems like nobody is noticing.

Things are so disconnected these days that the Trump-deranged morons down at The New Republic are fretting that President Trump might steal Biden’s economic credit:

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How on Earth is the New Republic still in business? But I digress.

🔥 Scarlet crustaceans may be dying in all-you-can-eat droves (or at least filing bankruptcy), but Team Biden is doubling down on gaslighting everybody about how well the country is doing. It won’t work. If the economy is so terrific, explain yesterday’s headline from the New York Post, which was nearly-apocalyptic news for frantic fast food fans:

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“What is the world coming to??” demanded one random social media pundit quoted for the story. Mind-bogglingly, McDonald’s corporate is recommending chains removetheir self-service drink stations, or at least shift them behind the counter. Apparently the great fast-food wheel has turned, and it’s now cheaper to pay a human being to serve people their drinks than to let thirsty guzzlers serve themselves.

It seems to be a trend. According to the Post, Panera Bread customers and grocery store shoppers at Wegmans are watching their beloved self-serve soda machines give Irish goodbyes. McDonald’s, explained the Post, leads the fast-food industry, since everyone assumes the chain that started the whole ball of grease flowing knows what it’s doing.

What McDonald’s is doing, specifically, is jettisoning people who can no longer afford to pay for its increasingly expensive ‘food’ options (using the word ‘food’ in a general sense). Meet Mike Haracz, a former McDonald’s corporate chef and now social media influencer, who said that, in a recent earnings call, McDonald’s official strategy will be to climb higher up the income ladder:

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CLIP: TikTok · Chef Mike Haracz on McDonald’s new pricing strategy (1:18).

The chain’s new no-free-drinks and upscale pricing strategy seems a little risky to me. As a middle-class American family, I wonder how McDonald’s could possible entice our little clan into their restaurant. Maybe for the ‘convenience?’ Maybe on a really long road trip with starving kids and no other options for hours. Maybe. Otherwise, no thanks.

It’s not complicated. McDonald’s is struggling through the same headwinds as Red Lobster: “higher interest rates and rising material and labor costs.” Like most businesses, restaurants have only two variable input categories: material and labor. One of their biggest structural fixed costs is debt, which gets more expensive to carry when interest rates increase.

If all variable costs and the biggest fixed cost are rising, then the price of the output product must also rise — everywhere, all across the industry, from crustacean chains to french-fry foodies. In the face of rising prices, simple economics says customers will always consider alternatives — right down to the alternative of not buying anything.

🔥 Given our struggling businesses and the shrinking pocketbooks of our consumers, is this a good time for a trade war? Despite Biden running against Trump’s China tariffs in 2016, they are good now, since a barely-cognitive care-home resident thinks so. Lost in the chatter yesterday about Biden’s economic flip-flopping was the fact these are more sanctions. Aljazeera ran the story yesterday under the headline, “Biden slaps new tariffs on Chinese imports, ratcheting trade war.

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The story’s sub-headline hilariously added, “The US president said China’s financial support for its businesses was ‘cheating’ and not competition.” Biden is talking about, don’t laugh, government subsidies:

The Democratic president said on Tuesday that Chinese government subsidies ensure the nation’s companies do not have to turn a profit, giving them an unfair advantage in global trade.

There’s just too much material here. Biden meant unfair govnerment subsidies like this one, mentioned in an AIP article from late March:

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Oh wait! Sorry! That’s one of our many subsidies. Whoops. When we do it, It’s not unfair and not anticompetitive and definitely doesn’t give us any advantage. Don’t try to reason that out, you could hurt yourself.

I could go on. Biden’s hypocrisy knows no bounds, and so forth. He’s doing exactly what he criticized Trump for during the last election cycle, and he’s doing exactly what the United States government has made into a national pastime for the well-connected. But that’s not the real story.

The real story is that the sanctions war against China just shifted into the highest gear. They skipped all the intermediate gears. No ramping up or anything. It’s economic nuclear war. The new ‘tariffs’ affect an estimated eighteen billion in annual imported Chinese goods like steel, aluminium, semiconductors, electric vehicles, critical minerals, solar cells and for some reason, cranes.

And it’s not just any little warning tariff, either. Biden has quadrupled import duties on Chinese electric vehicles — a jump of more than 100% — and doubled duties on semiconductor tariffs — up 50%.

Why do I call it economic war? Well, for one thing it was right there, in the Aljazeera article:

China immediately promised retaliation. Its Ministry of Commerce said Beijing was opposed to the tariff hikes by the United States and would take measures to defend its interests.

For another thing, they told us this would happen, not even three weeks ago. Headline from Politico, April 26th:

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But even though a child could connect these dots, useless corporate media is dutifully reporting the fake Biden narrative, that the tariffs are somehow intended to help the U.S.’s economy, instead of admitting the truth: this is part of the Ukraine war. Sanctions catastrophically failed against Russia — which is why they’re not calling the tariffs ‘sanctions’ this time — and Biden blames China.

As far as I can tell, Biden and his neocons think their Russia sanctions would have worked if it weren’t for those meddling Chinese. So it’s on, like Donkey Kong, or Godzilla, or whatever fake-looking monster the Chinese have these days.

Prepare for even more inflation as cheaper Chinese goods flee U.S. markets, and as Captain Ahab, I mean Biden, keeps chasing his white Ukrainian whale. Call me Ishmael.

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🔥 Fox News ran its Trump Trial update last evening headlined, “Michael Cohen testimony continues after ex-lawyer reveals secret recordings of Trump in NY trial.

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Nobody can accuse Judge Merchan of hard work. Court is recessed today and Friday, providing President Trump another three-day work week as the grotesque show-trial drags on and on. Former Trump lawyer, secret-recording aficionado, and TikTok entrepreneur Michael Cohen will be Alvin Bragg’s last witness before the prosecution rests. When asked yesterday whether he’d called Trump a “boorish cartoon” and a “cheeto dusted cartoon villain,”  Cohen admitted it sounded like something he would say.

I’ve previously described how the first and last witnesses in a jury trial should be the strongest ones, and of those two, the final witness is the most important. You want to leave the jury with a strong impression. Thus, Michael Cohen is the state’s star witness, the punchline to this running joke of a presidential prosecution.

Cohen’s as terrible a witness as you’d expect. He’s utterly biased and conflicted. He secretly and paranoiacally records everyone he talks to. He’s minted a lucrative career out of presidential hatred, and he turned against Trump on a dime the day after he was denied a spot in the Trump Administration. A 2016 video of Cohen mentioned in the Fox article shows the disgraced lawyer praising the former President to the high Heavens, back then:

In a resurfaced video, ex-lawyer for former President Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, is shown speaking at what appears to be a church building in 2016 praising then-candidate Trump as “generous, compassionate and genuine.”
“I want to tell you about the real Donald Trump, the man who I have been fortunate enough to work for,” Cohen said from the stage. “The words the media should be using to describe Mr. Trump are: Generous, compassionate, principled, empathetic, kind, humble, honest, and genuine.”
Cohen said in the video that “every day Mr. Trump quietly and without seeking recognition does something to help others.”

Last night, to prepare for today’s Trump Trial update, I watched a couple hours of news anchors discussing the last two days of trial. What immediately became obvious was that none of them agreed on what the case is about. In fact, two Fox talking heads even got into an argument on live TV over exactly what Trump is being charged with.

It’s fair to ask whether the jury even understands what Trump is being charged with.

In post-trial interviews yesterday, Trump seemed happy with the trial’s progress, or lack thereof. In a later story last evening, Fox reported “Trump unleashes on ‘fascists’ in Dem party after ‘very good day’ of trial.” The sub-headline quoted the President: “’We had a very good day. I think we’re exposing this scam for what it is’.

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Trump’s ability to turn the tables on his critics was on full display, as he (correctly) labeled them with the word they love to wield against him. Trump told reporters after yesterday’s session, “I don’t think they’re terrified of anything. They’re fascists.” 

Once Cohen finishes testifying, it will be Trump’s lawyers turn to put on the President’s case, to prove he didn’t intentionally write “legal fees” on his check stubs to commit some kind of crime. So we can expect “phase two” to start on Monday morning.

What can I, or can anyone, meaningfully say about this train-wreck of a case? The bigger, largely-neglected narrative is that Trump and Alvin Bragg have put the judicial system itself on trial. I expect Judge Merchan to soon take a lucrative job as an Ivy-league professor or an MSNBC news analyst or something, since the clock is ticking down on his days on the bench.

Whether our judicial system will fare as well is an open question.

But at the end of the day, as the prosecution’s case draws to a close, after all its salacious, irrelevant evidence, its lipsticked yellow journalism dressed up in business suits, and its tar-and-feather litigation, the singular fact remains: no credible observers have identified any prosecutorial “smoking gun.”

Under the constitutional standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” Trump should be exonerated.

And that’s a wrap for today! Have a wonderful Wednesday, and get back here tomorrow morning for a full news meal, not more overpriced fast-food analysis, as we cross the threshold of another post-pandemic election-year month in paradise.

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