This is bigger than the Super Bowl

The biggest news story ’round these parts (and through much of the country, I suppose) is the Great Taxpayer Sweepstakes of 2018, winner to receive Amazon’s second headquarters, also known as Shangri-La.

Competition has been fierce among states and municipalities (now down to 20 regional “finalists”) to give the retail giant the biggest, baddest tax break and subsidy arrangement: plans that makes the Bridge to Nowhere look like, well, a bridge to nowhere.

The entire nation is doing a Binghamton, and mayors and governors all over the country are doing their best Tom Libous impression.

Hey, guys. Listen, you want to do business here. I’ll give you as much of my constituents’ money I can legally give, then I’ll change the laws so I can give you more.

The economic impact of Amazon’s new facility is something on the order of five billion dollars. According to somebody somewhere. The tax-dollar prize package offered by the State of Maryland is said to approach that figure. That’s pretty pathetic. Until you learn that New Jersey is offering seven billion.

I guess I can’t fault Amazon for this little shell game. Gimme, gimme, gimme is what I’d say. Having politicians tripping over one another to give me money? Must be nice. That’s the new businessman, remember. He or she doesn’t really have to build anything or make anything or provide a service. Just know how to cozy up to government officials. And the modern politician? He just has to know how to cozy up to “businessmen.” That’s 100 times worse.

I’m embarrassed that my backyard, “Northern Virginia” as we’ve branded it re: Amazon, is one of the finalists in this game. Not just one of the 20, but one of the favorites, considering that the guy who owns Amazon lives right down the street. Northern Virginia is, in fact, one of three area finalists, as the District itself and “Montgomery County” (Maryland) are also in the running. No doubt Amazon brass is having those three fight one another to get the biggest tax giveaway, a clever ploy from people who know how the game is played. If they put it in either Maryland or Virginia can they finally build that “Techway” bridge across the Potomac from Route 28?

Or better yet, keep it in Montgomery County, caveat being that they’ve got to expand the Purple Line to the Purple, Violet, Indigo, Lavender, and Laughing All the Way to the Bank Lines, and you can only ride them if you have an Amazon Prime membership.

God I wish I weren’t making all this up.

NFL “Final Four” weekend

CBS studio executives were shaking their heads watching last Sunday’s AFC matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars. At stake for the teams was a meeting with the New England Patriots the following Sunday. At stake for CBS was a great game versus a terrible game. Pittsburgh versus New England: that’s a great game. Jacksonville versus New England? That’s a walk in the park. Literally. I’ll be taking a walk in the park while the Patriots roll over the Jags, and the rest of America will probably be doing something similar.

In the NFC we’ve got Minnesota versus Philadelphia. That’s a good game, and one I’ll be sure to be home for. That one’s on Fox, the channel that didn’t even exist the last time Minnesota was in a Super Bowl. In fact, neither of those teams has ever won a Super Bowl, and together they’ve got exactly one appearance in my lifetime. I really hope whoever wins that game goes up against New England in two weeks.

But not as much as the people at NBC do.

In case of actual disaster…

Update from Monday’s post: those giant free sample-giving machines are called “Freeosks” (clever!) and the one at my local Walmart did in fact produce for me a delicious Clif Bar Monday afternoon.

Note to self if nuclear fallout is ever set to occur for real (unlike the fake version last Saturday in Hawaii)…

Stock up on Freeosk Clif Bars!

First it was credit cards in vending machines…

Every so often I’m given a glimpse into what the future will really be like, some mind-blowing reality I could not have imagined, even with the ample time and vivid imagination I possess.

So this is it.

I’m a big fan of free samples at stores (actually I think anything free is fantastic), and last week I was treated to such while shopping at Walmart.

I was given my free sample… by a robot.

Oh, it’s even better than that. This wasn’t Rosie the Robot Maid delivering me rolled up ham slices on a tray. This was a giant contraption with the Clif Bar logo, dispensing said product if you texted (follow me here) a particular message to a particular number, then received a confirmation code to enter into the machine’s keypad. This took a few minutes (I’m sure your average preteen could have done it quicker), but then… voila! Clif Bar!

Apparently one can do this once a week. You’d better believe I’m going back today to try it again.

This. Is. The. Future.

The written word hath fury

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock on some distant planet the past week or so there is a new tell-all book about the Donald Trump presidency and its inner workings. The author, Michael Wolff “highlights unflattering descriptions of Trump’s behavior [and] chaotic interactions among senior White House staff.” That’s from Wikipedia, because I refuse to read any actual reviews of the book. Or the actual book.

Wolff originally claimed Trump had granted him access to the campaign and to White House staff, though it seems as if the book is more “Frank Sinatra has a Cold” than the insider access of an authorized biography. Wolff says he conducted more than 200 interviews of people around Trump, and much of the celebration the book has received has centered around what those close to Trump have said about their boss. One way to write a best-selling book these days: get people to say bad things about Trump and quote them on it!

There are two things that strike me about the book. (It’s called Fire and Fury, by the way.) One, on negative comments from those around Trump. Most people say unflattering things about their boss when he or she is not around. I bet not five percent of employees on Earth would say they think their boss is anything but a blithering idiot if they knew he weren’t listening. Have these people never read a Dilbert cartoon? This is what the world really looks like.

Second, on the book’s other major revelation, that somehow Donald Trump didn’t really want to win the election, and that he and his family were disappointed by the result on Election Night.

Huh?

Same guy who was supposedly colluding with the Russians to get himself elected?

Come on, media. Get your stories straight.

Going old school

This past week I’ve had the opportunity–more than once, actually–to go to my local Dunkin Donuts. Dunkin (as it is called some places), it was announced this week, is cutting back not only on its name, but on its menu as well, reportedly eliminating a few of those silly items no one ever buys like steak and egg breakfast sandwiches and strawberry banana smoothies. Strawberry banana smoothies? At Dunkin Donuts? Yes, this had gone too far.

I tried explaining to my son that when I was a kid there were two items one could buy at Dunkin Donuts: doughnuts and coffee. And coffee was coffee. You either put cream and sugar in it or you didn’t, and it cost about 30 cents.

I knew something was wrong with the world when I couldn’t pronounce half the beverage options at Dunkin Donuts.

I’m happy to see this new trend.

A slow news day this is not

Today is one of those days with simply too many interesting news stories simply to focus on one.

This weekend’s NFL games, marred by questionable officiating?

College football and it’s aforementioned Goliath-Goliath matchup tonight to crown its national champion?

How about college basketball, where three of the top five-ranked schools lost this weekend in a flurry of upsets nationwide? (Including Maine beating Binghamton in a Bai Lee Court stunner!)

Maybe the Golden Globes, also known as Hollywood-types tripping over themselves to make softball political speeches? (I know, I know, sexual harassment and all its guises is a serious matter, but come on, this is like debating a four-year-old… is anyone out there pro-sexual harassment? I think the most interesting story from last night was the public fury over the handful of women who did not wear black, the official protest color of the evening. Anyone see the irony there? Public shaming for what those women chose to wear instead of being told how to present themselves by the Establishment?)

Sometimes I’ve got a few too many ideas and a little too much free time to read the news.

Like Heaven, except…

Two snow days in a row with barely a dusting on the ground. Rather than dispense with the usual stories about when I was a kid… I will simply say thank you. This is Heaven.

Or what Heaven would be like if it were really, really cold.

Slight change of heart regarding CFP

Much as I wanted to write the following for today… UCF is 13-0, give them the championship already! I thought I’d go with this one instead:

God damn that Alabama-Georgia championship game is going to be outstanding. Monday night is going to be epic and who cares about teams from small conferences.

Sometimes it’s fun to watch Goliath versus Goliath.