By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  Last week Mark Rougeau at Rolling Stone wrote about the “hardcore” Pokemon Go players in the Los Angeles area. A casual player, Rougeau found himself in the world of hardcore Pokemon Go players after a post he made on Reddit begrudging gym turnover in his neighborhood brought him more attention than he intended.

Many are under the impression that Pokemon Go died after the initial flurry of play when the game launched but one look at ticket sales at the embarrassingly epic fail of Pokemon GoFest in Chicago this weekend would belie that.  Thousands of players descended on Grant Park in Chicago hoping to catch rare Pokemon and capitalize on special bonuses released just for the event.  Sadly, Niantic, did not plan well. Servers crashed, players were shut out, and the CEO of Niantic was booed from the stage when he came out to apologize for the problems.  Epic fail.

Scoff if you will, but some of these players came from all over the country and even from other countries. They bought airline tickets, hotel rooms, planned vacations, only to be stuck in long lines waiting to get into Grant Park and then shut out of the game once they got in.

By mid-afternoon Niantic was refunding ticket prices due to the “degraded experience” and giving players $100 in Pokecoins which can be used in the store to purchase a variety of items such as Pokeballs, extra storage, and incubators for hatching those eggs you get from Pokestops.  When problems persisted and the live stream wouldn’t even work, Niantic finally released two of the “legendary birds” in Chicago and then the rest of the country to appease wildly disgruntled players who were burning up social media in disgust and frustration with the mismanagement and poor planning.

Pokemon Go players are indeed hardcore.  The casual players have moved on but the ones that are left are serious:

When Pokemon Go launched in July 2016, it became an instant cultural phenomenon. It seemed like everyone was playing it, and if you weren’t playing, you were marveling about how it had caused the world to go crazy. Mainstream news outlets covered the “Pokemon Go craze” while players gathered in the hundreds and thousands to hunt for rare Pokemon in large cities like Los Angeles, Seattle and New York.

By the fall, the world appeared to have moved on, their precious Pokemon trapped forever in Poke Balls that would never again be tossed.

There are people that have become mini-celebrities over this game, famous on YouTube or famous in their own community for hitting top levels and holding down gyms for extended periods of time.

Intense rivalries can sometimes arise between teams (Mystic, Valor, Instinct) in areas and most players are hardcore angry about “spoofers” or cheaters.

I’m sort of a casual player of the game and have been since its launch (level 34, Mystic); most players I’ve met watched the show when they were kids and collected cards. I’m too old for that but I did buy cards for my son who collected them. He’s twenty-five now and he plays the game, too.  We play it together and it’s been a sort of fun thing we do together. Even Rougeau notes that aspect of it:

In a game with players as dedicated as those who love Pokemon Go, it’s inevitable that some ugliness will emerge. But many of the players I spoke with also said Pokemon Go is their social life. It’s how they met their friends. It takes them to places they’d never normally go, and they’ve gone on adventures that they cherish.

After Niantic’s release of the “legendary birds,” my son and I spent the day with 50 or 60 local players in a Telegram call-out group running from gym to gym to battle and collect these pixelated creatures.  It’s crazy, I know. But somehow it’s fun, too.  From a cultural aspect it is simply amazing to me to see literally 50 or 60 people (just in OUR group, there are others) descend from locations all over the city on one gym to battle a Lugia or Articuno.  It’s intense. Are there better things we could be doing?  Maybe. Are there worse things we could be doing?  Definitely.  Is it any different than the guy going out to play golf or the lady going out to shop garage sales? Nope.

The people I’ve met on these runs are great people and are of all ages and professions. There’s a chef, a marine, a commercial fisherman, a landscape man, a couple of stay-at-home moms, a teacher…it’s not just pimply kids that live in mom’s basement.

And it’s fun.

Niantic has invested a lot in this game and has worked hard to keep it engaging for players with special events, a slow rollout of Pokemon creatures, various challenges and now the epic fail event. Hopefully they will figure out what went wrong with the Chicago event and do better next time. Meanwhile, people are still spending money to play the game. You can play for free but I doubt you’ll find a hardcore player who hasn’t bought an incubator or some Pokeballs in the shop.

As the initial infatuation with the game has faded, the hardcore players remain and Niantic is cashing in. The subculture of players is huge and they are serious.

This isn’t about a bunch of pixels to them.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

President Trump swore into office six months ago, and his foreign policy has been interesting to watch, since he:

  • Started with solid Secretarys of State and Defense
  • Didn’t have an immediate 9/11 event to respond to
  • Has had a chance to travel and negotiate high level deals

The past six months have shown he has a fairly regular negotiating style:

  • He walks into every deal saying “I’m going to change this deal”
  • He makes an initial offer
  • He changes the deal in some way, although it might be more symbolic than actual

So how has he done so far?
Continue reading “Challenging the status quo: Trump’s Foreign Policy”

One of the more annoying things in the current preponderance of opinion pieces instead of actual reporting is the dismissal of news on our hemisphere. Rarely do you find information on, say, Brazil, the world’s ninth-largest economy, unless you actually go looking for it.

Each country is treated as a piece of puff pastry on a tray shaped like South America: Exotic, tasty but a rare treat that you don’t want to overdo, interchangeable. Today, arepas. Tomorrow, guava pastries.

The reports you find are few and far apart, and focus mostly on Cuba as a tourist spot, and on Venezuela as an ongoing train wreck.

Of course, Cuba fits the socialist agenda. By now the “excellent free healthcare” nonsense has been replaced with the “travel to Havana before it modernizes” gimmick. Just last night PBS aired Weekend in Havana, enticing us to “Travel to Cuba’s vibrant, alluring and rapidly changing capital,” while ignoring the very grim reality:

that under the tyrannical regime of the Castros, Cuba is a fourth-world country with collapsing buildings and a crumbling infrastructure that cannot provide humane conditions for its own enslaved people, let alone foreign tourists.

Venezuela gets attention for its horrible near-civil-war, brought about by the implementation of 21st Century Socialism™ which is rarely mentioned. Yesterday’s news carried a few more stories on Venezuela because Pres. Trump is considering sanctions against the communist regime, including a possible oil embargo.

Most of those articles were opinion pieces, low on substance.

It is extremely unusual to read factual reporting connecting the many threads of Latin American politics. Mary O’Grady does an exceptional job this week in her article, How Cuba Runs Venezuela. Havana’s security apparatus is deeply embedded in the armed forces (emphasis added)

Havana doesn’t care about Venezuelan poverty or famine or whether the regime is unpopular. It has spent a half-century sowing its ideological “revolution” in South America. It needs Venezuela as a corridor to run Colombian cocaine to the U.S. and to Africa to supply Europe. It also relies heavily on cut-rate Venezuelan petroleum.

This is the first time this year I’ve seen this mentioned in an article in a national newspaper. O’Grady’s article is a must-read.

One can only wish other “journalists” were in the same league as O’Grady. They might even find a Russia Russia Russia angle – and a little China for measure.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT –  The 2017 New Orleans mayoral race qualifying period has closed with a total of 18 candidates, only three of which are considered major candidates.

As most are aware, New Orleans has been the center of much turmoil and negative attention in the past few months. During Landrieu’s term crime has risen dramatically and what is different about that is that it is now in the tourist areas around the French Quarter which has never been more dangerous than it is right now.

The Confederate monuments controversy has also pulled a great deal of attention to the city both positive and negative, depending on your perspective of the issue. At the very least, removal of the four historical monuments has made the city a little less unique and has pulled Landrieu’s attention away from more pressing matters, like police staffing, infrastructure, and crime.

The major candidates in the October 14 primary are “former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, and former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet.”  Crime is certainly going to be the top topic in this election.  “Crime is ravaging our city,” said Bagneris, who first ran for mayor in 2012. “Crime is up because police manpower is down, and criminals know it.”

There are no Republicans on the ballot:

Fellow businessman Frank Scurlock, who announced at about the same time as the “Big 3,” also could get a little traction using his own financial resources from his inflatable bounce house empire and his public opposition to the removal of the Confederate monuments to carve out a niche.

Scurlock is one of six white candidates in the field to lead a city with a population that is about 60 percent black. Eleven of the candidates signed up as Democrats, three are running as independents, and four others are running without a party affiliation. There are no Republicans on the mayoral ballot.

As of today, there have been 100 murders in New Orleans this year and countless shootings, muggings, assaults, and other violent crimes.

The primary is October 14 with a November runoff; Landrieu will remain in office through May. According to pundit Stephanie Grace:

[Landrieu] hinted that he hopes to help guide the choice of his successor, perhaps through the political action committee he has set up. While he hasn’t endorsed a candidate, Landrieu has bemoaned New Orleans voters’ history of focusing on change and has advocated for philosophical and policy continuity from his administration to the next.

This race will be closely watched throughout the state as many who have objected to Landrieu’s Confederate monument position have vowed not to visit the city until he is gone.

If a Landrieu clone is elected that tourism ban may continue.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

So I’m a Millenial. Well, or a Xennial (or maybe an Oregon Trailer!) since I’m a bit older, or maybe something else. But in this crazy world, I can identify as a Millenial, so that should be good enough for you, and you’ll just have to accept me as I am.

I work with lots of younger Millenials. I like them, and I think most of the Millenial criticism has more to do with coming from broken families. But I’m seeing a few trends that seem to be unique to this upcoming generation. More importantly, I worry that these are holding people back when they have to work with older people.

Continue reading “How Millenials hurt themselves socially”

Yes, I know you’re busy and don’t have time to read, and this list is so hoity-toity you could puke, but please bear with me.

We are enduring a long-term warn against Western culture and values. Universities are throwing out rigorous curricula for victimology “studies” while making sure any dissenting views are not merely discouraged but downright expelled. Not even the long-gone Puritans are safe.

And the sad thing is that those who value Western culture are frequently unfamiliar with it.

Enter the Western canon: A list of the world’s literary tradition since antiquity, divided in four eras,
A. The Theocratic Age: 2000 BCE-1321 CE
B. The Aristocratic Age: 1321-1832
C. The Democratic Age: 1832-1900
D. The Chaotic Age: 20th Century

That’s four thousand years of literature.

The list itself has an interesting history, and it came about from the publishers of Harold Bloom’s book The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages. Bloom’s book presents his (emphasis added),

arguments for a unifying written culture, it argues brilliantly against the politicization of literature and presents a guide to the great works of the western literary tradition and essential writers of the ages

That is, Bloom was arguing against the politicization of literature in 1994, twenty three years ago. As Wikipedia correctly describes,

Bloom argues against what he calls the “School of Resentment“, which includes feminist literary criticismMarxist literary criticismLacaniansNew HistoricismDeconstructionists, and semioticians.

In practical terms, reading literature has now become a form of guerrilla warfare against Marxists, deconstructionists and their destructive pals.

So where to start?

You may have read a few already without realizing it, such as the Bible, which the Vatican recently removed from its website, Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, which is part of his Christmas Stories, or Orwell’s 1984. So browse through the list and pick one you haven’t read. Many of the books are available for free in Kindle editions.

Once you do, commit fifteen minutes a day to reading it. If you are able to listen while you commute, most of the titles are available in audiobooks for free at your local public library.

If you like to watch movies, Shakespeare plays have come to life on film for over a century. I recommend Much Ado About Nothing for a comedy, and both of The Hollow Crown series for the tragedies.

(A caution: Watch the movie, read the book doesn’t always work. Beowulf was a disaster.)

If you prefer to build up your list, start with short books.

You can’t win a war if you don’t understand what you’re fighting for. I suggest you start with reading from the Western canon to focus your understanding.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

For fear of sounding like Pauline Kael, who apparently said,”I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon,” yesterday I did an informal survey of people I’ve known for years and all but one said that they’re “up-to-here” and fed up of hearing about Russia Russia Russia in the news. Some used less delicate words.

The only one who is interested in Russia Russia Russia/Trump campaign story at this point lives in Washington, D.C., is heavily involved in politics and despises our current President.

Perhaps “I live in a rather special world.” Perhaps Washington is the “rather special world.” But by now everybody, except for those in D.C., who has been hearing about this for over half a year is concerned about their well being and that of their families, health and personal problems as they may arise, paying their bills and solidifying a stable financial situation, and myriad other problems. That is, the same problems adults grapple with their entire lives consume their time.

Some are in terrible situations: Larry O’Connor’s radio show caller dramatically explains (emphasis added),

O’Connor: Allen in Southern Maryland, you’re on WMAL. Go Al.
Allen: I’m sick of the Donald Trump stuff, all the Trump stuff. I consider myself one of the forgotten men and women. I’m worried about job creation. I’m worried about tax cuts. I need more money. I’m living paycheck to paycheck. They just cut off my cable bill. I’m rubbing two nickles together. My girl can’t find a job to help me. We’re out here struggling and these people don’t get it. I mean they really don’t get it. [Inaudible] I don’t have money. I mean, I’m cutting back on my medicine, my groceries. She can’t find a job…
O’Connor: Do you feel like the President … Allen, do you feel like the President is keeping his head down and doing what he promised to do to try to help you and other Americans like you?
Allen: If they let him do it and give him a chance. They are fighting him every step of the way. We need help out here. We’ve been struggling for years under Obama and he had the right message. We voted him in because of that. We need tax cuts. I need a couple of extra dollars on my paycheck every week. We need jobs. We need Trump and these liberals, the press and all this to get off that and think about us that’s out here putting our boots on everyday, getting up at four o’clock in the morning, going to work and trying to provide for our families and it’s hard. I love you Larry.
O’Connor: Thank you Allen. Thanks for listening and keep the faith.

I’ve written at my blog about how this media obsession is obscuring coverage of whatever else is taking place around the world; when it comes to Latin America, our hemisphere has nearly vanished from American media.

We could spend days discussing the disconnect of the media and the Beltway from the average American, or speculating about who benefits from this Russia Russia Russia/Trump campaign story obsession. My colleague Snoopy at WoW! Magazine posits there’s someone laughing:

. . . the only man that is still laughing is the one in Kremlin. Watching the travesty of the ongoing witch hunts and the administration busy at counterattacking the media, instead of doing what the government is meant to do – how could the man not laugh?

Aye, there’s the rub.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Shortest summer ever.  I report back to work Thursday with a series of workshops and on our new high school ELA curriculum and students report back to class August 2.  When I first started teaching twenty years ago, my first report date was August 25; seems like it backs up every single year.  I suppose year-round school is the ultimate goal but nobody is saying that.

At any rate, I’ve made the most of my summer with a couple of little trips and tending to some chores that get neglected during the school year.  I’ve read some books – probably the one that has had the most profound effect on me was Beautiful Boy by David Scheff, which tells the story of his son’s battle against addiction. I can’t imagine what it took to write this book.  Raw pain on every page, but such a beautiful story of love.

What I should have been reading is all of the new material in our new ELA curriculum. Most of the selections we are now required to teach are things I’ve never read or have not read in thirty years.  I am now required to teach, for example, chapter one of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which is about the effect of pesticides on the environment; also on our required list is “Address to Congress on Women’s Suffrage” by Carrie Chapman Catt, excerpts from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, “Nothing but Death” by Pablo Neruda, countless speeches and essays, poems I haven’t read since college…and I’ve got to find a way to make this relevant and meaningful to 10th grade inner city students.

I’m a little concerned.

But, I like a good challenge, so I’m sure it will be fine.

What I find disturbing, as a teacher, is the scripted lessons that come with this new curriculum; I suppose this might be helpful to a brand new teacher, but for years we’ve been told that all students learn differently – I’ve been to countless workshops on various learning styles. Now, apparently all kids learn the same and from the same teacher script.  Thank you, Common Core.

Well, I have three more days to procrastinate and I won’t worry about that now. For the next three days, it’s still summer.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

Graphic courtesy of the Illinois Policy Institute

By John Ruberry

On Thursday the Democratic-dominated Illinois House, with aid of ten Republicans, overrode Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of a 32 percent income tax hike. The corporate rate jumped by 35 percent.

Apologists for the income tax increase love to point out that many states have higher income tax rates, but last week’s override places Illinois within the top 20 of the 50 states. And these tax lovers always leave out some painful facts. For instance, while sales tax rates vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, Illinois’ sales tax rates are very high across the board. Chicagoans, at 10.25 percent, pay America’s highest sales taxes. And depending on who you talk to, Illinoisans suffer under America’s largest property tax burden–or they are near the top. Chicagoans deal also suffer with nuisance taxes such as a seven-cents-per-bag tax at grocery stores, and had a judge not temporarily struck down a Cook County–where Chicago is–a penny-per-ounce sugary drink tax would be in place right now. Food stamp recipients don’t have to pay those last two. And those nuisance taxes add up, of course.

As a lifetime resident of Illinois, I can assure you that the services we receive from the state are terrible. Last year the Chicago Tribune phrased it more eloquently, “As a result, Illinois government is a massive retirement system that, during work hours, also offers some services.”

Illinois’ personal income tax rate is now at 4.95 percent and the corporate rate is now 7 percent, but because of a local only-in-Illinois 2.5 percent state personal property replacement tax, the corporate rate is really 9.5 percent, which makes the overall rate the fourth-highest in the nation.

And before these tax hikes Illinois was one of the few states losing population.

So ends the Prairie State’s national record two-year span of operating without a budget.

“Shake Up Springfield, Bring Back Illinois”

Governor Rauner, a Republican, was elected by voters to, as his campaign slogan vowed, “Shake Up Springfield.” While never averse to a tax increase, Rauner, who never held public office before, said he’d approve one as long as it included such items as term limits, redistricting reform, workers’ compensation law changes, and property tax freezes. House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), who has held his job for 32 of the last 34 years, of course views term limits as anathema to him, and this master gerrymanderer created legislative maps that gave the Democrats supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly in the first two years of Rauner’s term. The Dems still have a veto-proof majority in the Senate.

One of the reasons the Republican General Assembly members who sided with Madigan gave for their votes was that Moody’s and S&P warned that if Illinois didn’t have a budget in place for fiscal year 2018 its bonds would be rated as junk. Guess what? Moody’s says it might downgrade Illinois’ bonds anyway. The new taxes don’t address how Illinois will tackle its $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Pension payments already consume a whopping one-quarter of the Illinois budget. And even assuming enough funds are there for Illinois schools to open in the fall, more legislation is needed for allocating that cash. The state has over $15 billion in unpaid bills-which is over 40 percent of the ’18 budget. That backlog will take years to pay off. Adding to the debacle is a late June ruling by a federal judge for Illinois to pay $586 million per month to bring down its past-due Medicaid bills. Which means that other vendors will have to wait even longer to get paid. How many of them will go out of business waiting for their bills to be settled?

Didn’t I mention that Illinois is losing population?

Blogger at the border

At best, the Illinois budget deal is a band-aid for much more serious problems.

Rauner is a candidate for reelection in 2018. That task was made more difficult by the manner that the tax hike was passed. In the first go-round 15 Republicans–the Madigan 15–voted for the tax hike. That allowed Boss Madigan, who has been chairman of the state Democratic Party since 1998, to allow, yes, allow 11 Democrats in vulnerable districts to vote “No.” In the override vote, four of the Madigan 15 voted “No.” Another one missed the roll call. Of course Madigan “found” the other five votes among his caucus.

Democratic candidates for governor are of course calling the tax increase “bi-partisan.”

But already one Madigan 15 member has announced he’s not running for reelection.

In my opinion bankruptcy, even though it will be called something else, is still coming to Illinois, despite this budget “fix.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio (née Warren Wilhelm Jr.) apparently “rushed off at the last minute” to Hamburg, Germany, to join the protestors at the G-20 summit (emphasis added):

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday skipped an NYPD swearing-in ceremony made somber by this week’s assassination of a cop — then hours later revealed he was busy preparing to jet off on a surprise trip to join leftist protesters at the G-20 summit in Germany.

Hizzoner’s overseas jaunt was kept under wraps until just 90 minutes before he took off from Newark Airport. A last-minute announcement said he “will attend several events surrounding the G-20 Summit, including Saturday’s Hamburg Zeigt Haltung rally.”

Or as the Church Lady said, “isn’t that special!”

Hamburg Zeigt Haltung means Hamburg Shows Attitude, and de Blasio will be the keynote speaker, where the rally organizers will be paying for his expenses and that of his spokesman and two other toadies.

De Blasio, a former sandalista Sandinista supporter who honeymooned in communist Cuba, may have to travel across the Atlantic to Show Attitude, but you can’t expect him to show spine anywhere:

Asked why de Blasio — who spent the day holed up at Gracie Mansion — didn’t join O’Neill to help rally the recruits, spokesman Eric Phillips replied: “Scheduling conflicts.”

I could not find if de Blasio’s “scheduling conflicts” prevented him from calling the relatives of slaughtered NYPD officer Miosotis Familia, but the NY Post reports that

Following Familia’s slaying, her sister, Adriana Sanchez, ripped de Blasio, saying that “the mayor has to do something for this madness to stop,”

since the city is not protecting its police officers.

De Blasio left town to Show Attitude, but the NY Post gets the final word:

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog