By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
March is always a month of transition – if not turmoil and chaos.
March of 2020 was when COVID was declared a world-wide pandemic.
March of 2022 brought us the end of mask mandates in public places and the beginning of something most of us never imagined we’d see any time in our lifetimes – war in Europe.
And in sports
Russell Wilson leaves Seattle and Tom Brady un-retirees. Seattle will face both of these prominent players in the season of 2022.
Elon Musk saves the day. Maybe. Sort of.
In a story too unbelievable for The Onion, Tesla billionaire Elon Musk has challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin to “single combat”, with the “stakes” being Ukraine. With Mr. Putin’s name written in Russian and Ukraine written in Ukrainian, the Tesla chief executive tweeted: “I hereby challenge (Vladimir Putin) to single combat. Stakes are (Ukraine).”
The Everything store, not-store
Amazon, like those fires and storms that are so vast that they cause their own weather, creates its own news. On March 9, Amazon (AMZN) announced a 20-for-1 stock split, the company’s first split since 1999 and its fourth since the IPO in 1997. Amazon also announced a $10 billion share buyback plan.
The Seattle-based company is also closing 68 brick and mortar stores (66 stores in the U.S. and two in the United Kingdom), enabling it to concentrate its efforts on Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market, a fully-automated concept called Amazon Go (recently parodied on Saturday Night Live: https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/snl-hilariously-takes-amazon-121800726.html?) and its upcoming Amazon Style stores.
Amazon opened its first physical bookstore in 2015, two decades after it began selling books online and helped drive many traditional book shops out of business.
Amazon’s non-digital shops, which first made their debut in 2018, carried a limited selection of best-selling products from top categories that Amazon.com sells, including consumer electronics, toys and games.
In mid-March Amazon also closed its $8.5 billion deal to buy MGM, the fabled movie maker behind “Rocky” and “James Bond”. This deal expands Amazon Prime Video’s library by more than 4,000 film titles.
Amazon also is raising its annual prime membership fee in the U.S. to $139 per year from $119. It’s the first price hike for the Prime membership since 2018.
Welcome to the 1970s revival
Your image, or, if you are old enough, your vestigial memories of the 1970s might focus on clothing (like white polyester bell-bottoms and wide-collared shirts – with massive gold medallions) or the music (electronic and disco) but the dominant theme, and ultimate buzz-kill of the 1970s was inflation/stagflation. This was where basic costs – like food, fuel and housing expanded in price while pay scales did not.
The theme song of this episode of the ’70s revival could be “Happy days aren’t here again”.
Washington has a state sport; Pickle ball
Washington became the 16th state with an official sport when Inslee signed the pickleball bill.
The mash-up of badminton, tennis and pingpong has come a long way since its invention on Bainbridge Island, Washington, in 1965.
Other states that have gone before have obvious associated sports or activities such as Hawaii with surfing, Minnesota and ice hockey, Alaska and dog mushing.
A sport that can be played outside as well as in is a perfect fit for our variable weather state.
We’ll see if it catches on in other states.
The Starbucks workers in Capitol Hill, Seattle became the first Starbucks store on the west coast to form a union. The Capitol Hill Starbucks joins six other company-owned stores around the country that have had its employees voting to unionize under the umbrella of Starbucks Workers United. Six other Seattle Starbucks locations have filed for union elections.
And in other Starbucks news, Chief Executive Kevin Johnson was given a more than $60 million payout on departure. A little more that a year before he left, he was given $25 million as a “retention bonus”.
That leaves the former CEO with an income of about $284,000 each month according to immediateannuities.com.
Howard Schultz will return to lead the company in early April.
Will Smith stole the show on Oscar Award Night 2022 – but probably not the way he, or anyone else, might have wanted. In an act of violence/heroism, Will Smith struck Chris Rock on the Oscars stage after the comedian made a (not very funny) joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith.
But beyond that incident, Oscar 2022 was record-breaking.
“CODA” made history with Troy Kotsur being the first deaf male actor to win an Oscar. He joins “CODA” co-star Marlee Matlin, who became the first — and until now — only deaf performer to win an Oscar, when she won Best Actress for 1986’s “Children of a Lesser God.”
Disabled actors are not rare in film, but most actors and even Oscar winners portray disabled people like objects of pity or inspiration. In “CODA” however, the disabled characters in the film are humanized and treated like three-dimensional characters, normal people in other words, thanks to deaf actors.
CODA was also the first Best Picture produced by a streaming service (Apple).
“Dune” scored six Oscars, all for technical awards.
Politicians work together
In a rare move, the US Senate passed a measure that would make Daylight Saving Time permanent across the United States. The bill has bipartisan backing including several Republican and Democratic cosponsors.
While most of us (and apparently most of our politicians) hate the idea of changing our clocks twice a year, most experts who study sleep and other human time cycles insist that we should keep standard time instead of Daylight Saving Time. You can see why here: https://www.syracuse.com/us-news/2022/03/making-daylight-saving-time-permanent-is-a-bad-idea-says-sleep-expert.html.
Would it be too much to ask that our politicians work together on some more pressing topics?
Have pity on the billionaires
Russia might have its oligarchs, notorious for their collusion with the KGB and the Russian mafia, and known for their impunity from law or taxes or any accountability, but we in America have our own billionaires. For the most part we idealize them and see them as models of success – even though they too are nearly impervious to the laws or legal constraints – like taxes – that the rest of us live under.
That might change under the Biden administration.
The proposed Biden plan would be a new tax that would require the top .01% of households—with $100 million in wealth, or more—to pay a minimum tax of 20% on their “total income.”
If you’re not a multimillionaire, you may not know this, but the super-wealthy generate a lot of wealth that the IRS doesn’t count as “income”. Actual “working” generates little if any of the “average” billionaire’s income.
Collectibles and illiquid assets, from stocks and bonds to inherited estates have a multitude of tax avoidance strategies and exemptions.
Taxes, as the rich like to say, are for “the little people”.
Meanwhile, at the gas pumps
President Biden ordered the release of 1 million barrels of oil per day over the next six months from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This will be the largest release from the reserve in its nearly 50-year history.
Assuming that the law of supply and demand still applies, this should lower gas prices.