Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Two Monuments

The Colfax Massacre occurred during Reconstruction when Republicans, many of whom were black, won the election. The White League and kukluxklan joined forces to take back the Parish Court House. 300 armed white militia faced black and white defenders of the court house. When James Hadnot was shot by his own men, the attackers started to shoot the black defenders who had surrendered. 48 were killed that day and the white militia turned its anger on the black residents.

Villifying Black Republicans. Colfax Riot, 48 Black Americans massacred after surrendering and another 100 residents killed by the white mob.

Sign erected by the Colfax Chamber of Commerce in 1951 commemorating the Colfax Riot. The exact count of Black Americans shot to death after surrendering is uncertain. It ranges anywhere from 80 to 300. Three White Americans die.

Heroes Fighting for White Supremacy

Honoring White Supremacists. The greatest travesty was the SCOTUS decision by the Waite court.

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On the erection of Confederate memorials: in which I have to get this off my chest

(Update…Dan here…I erroneously posted this post under Barkley”s name but it is NDd.)
On the erection of Confederate memorials: in which I have to get this off my chest

Below is a photograph of the World War Two Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Keep it in the back of your mind. I’ll return to it.

I am a data nerd, and leaping to conclusions about data is a pet peeve of mine. I really hate it when anyone, and particularly my own side, falls for groupthink, jumping to instant conclusions which then become the only acceptable opinion. In the last 48 hours, without consideration of other possibilities, or looking for contrary vs. corroborating data, it seems that just about everyone on the center and left has become an instant expert on the fact that Confederate statues were erected because of Jim Crow.

In support of that, a number of graphics, such as this one, have been used:

So, has it occurred to nobody that there might be a more straightforward reason why there would be a huge spike in Memorials (cough, cough, hint, hint) ***50*** and ***100*** years after the Civil War?

Yes there were a number of racial incidents that occurred in the 1910s.  But before the last 48 hours, the general consensus was that there was a resurgence in violence associated with white supremacy in the 1920s, not the 1910s.

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Donald Trump’s White House

Newspaper Editorial Cartoonists are having a field day with Donald Trump’s comments condoning the Charlottesville’s supremacists rioting, killing one person, and injuring many more. Living his father’s legacy of racism and supporting ku klux klan. Trump 2015: “ My legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy.”

Trump’s staff is complaining Trump went rogue and David Duke kkk member is applauding. If Trump finds himself alone as more people abandon the White House, I doubt he will care and sink into another unintelligible bombastic rage.

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Real retail sales disappoints . . . the Doomers

Real retail sales disappoints . . . the Doomers

This morning’s report on July retail sales once again belies the claim that “hard data” and “soft data” are divergent..

Not only did July come in at a strong +0.6% (+0.5% ex-autos), but June was revised up as well. Given basically non-existent inflation, this means that real retail sales made two more new records for this expansion:

In fact, real retail sales look like they are right in line with a multi-year trend.

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One tiny little ray of hope

One tiny little ray of hope

After the Charlottesville, VA white supremacy violence, and his failure to explicitly condemn it, Donald Trump’s Gallup approval rating has fallen to a new low of 34%, and his disapproval to a new high of 61%:

This puts him below the lowest ratings during their entire term of Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. Only Truman, Ford, Carter, and George W. Bush ever scored lower.

So far, alas Rasmussen has not followed suit.

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Woodie Guthrie, Racism, Trump, and Beach Haven

From an old sixties coffee house person, just a little history. In 1950, Woodie Guthrie signed a two year lease to reside in a Fred Trump’s Brooklyn development. Having wandered around the countryside for a number of years, he knew the North did not have any special claim to racial enlightenment. One event of a shooting at a bus terminal in Freeport, Long Island stuck in his mind. “Ferguson Brothers Killing” by Woody Guthrie.

“The town that we ride through is not Rankin, Mississippi,
Nor Bilbo’s Jim Crow town of Washington, D. C.
But it’s greater New York, our most fair-minded city
In all this big land here and streets of the brave.

Who’ll tell these three boys that their Daddy is gone?
(He helped whip the Fascists and Nazis to death)
Who’ll tell these three sons that Jim Crow coffee
Has killed several thousand the same as their dad?”

Fred Trump used federal funding to build what became known as Beach Haven and what Woody would call “Bitch Havens” in time and after discovering the racism of Fred Trump. Fred methodically blocked black Americans from taking resident in his development. Woody responded with a song called “Old Man Trump.”

“I suppose
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
Racial Hate
he stirred up
In the bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed
That color line
Here at his
Eighteen hundred family project ….”

Fred Trump was arrested in 1927 for participating in a Ku Klux Klan rally in Queens. The Beach Haven apartment complex was built afterwards and it was was intended to give returning WW II veterans affordable housing. With his words to the public about the Charlottesville riots by white supremacists, Donald could have changed what his father left as a legacy for him. Instead, he purposely chose not to do to placate them. As David Duke said publically. . . . “remember who put you in office.”

Trump 2015: “ My legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy.”

In the age of Trump, we need another Woodie Gunthrie to remind us of our history. Then too, Trump would probably tie him up in court.

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Reducing the Gender Disparity in Incarceration: A Thought Experiment

According to the latest figures, 93.3% of federal prisoners are men. The male to female incarceration rate is also wildly lopsided in state and county facilities, and to my knowledge, pretty much everywhere else in the world. I also am unable to think of a single example where there is reason to believe that women outnumber men in jails and prisons. Furthermore, I don’t see any particular reason why incarcerated men will not continue to outnumber incarcerated women as long as there are prisons or people.

Before I go on with this thought experiment, allow me to provide full disclosure. I was born and raised and continue to be a male. My parents and my wife are willing to corroborate the details should anyone wish to delve more deeply. It is also relevant to note that the only incarceration facility whose inside I have seen in real life is the Alcatraz, but it was decommissioned as a prison well before I was born.

Now, despite my male identification and my desire to remain unincarcerated, I have no problems whatsoever with the lopsided ratio of men v. women in our prisons and jails. I think there’s a good reason for the ratio to be what it is. (If you want to argue that there are too many, or too few guests of the state, that’s a different issue outside the scope of this post.) I suspect most of us are better off with the male to female incarceration ratio being in the ballpark of what it is. See, it turns out that men commit more crime than women. A lot more crime. And a lot more violent crime. That not only is true today, it has been true for as long as there is has been a concept of crime.

Does it diminish me as a guy to state that fact – that men are far more likely to be criminals than women – baldly? Not as far as I can see. How am I being hurt by the fact that men are incarcerated more frequently than women? Well, provided I am not one of those men engaging in crime, not much, if at all.  I am more likely to get the  jaundiced eye from any random law enforcement officer, which in turn may mean less I am more likely to be searched, and possibly even falsely suspected of crimes than a randomly selected woman.  I note that I also benefit, to some extent, from the fact that men like me are watched more carefully than women like my wife.  After all, men are not just disproportionately the perpetrators of most crimes.  They are also disproportionately represented among the victims of many crimes, particularly most violent crimes such as murder.  But I suspect that the effect of men being subject to extra scrutiny (or worse) is not large enough to put a dent in the ratio of crimes committed by men v. the crimes committed by women.

The converse is also true –  I don’t see much gain to the women from the fact that men are more likely to be more incarcerated than women.   Nor does the gender difference in incarceration affect the likelihood of any single individual ending up in jail.

But the fact that men are more likely to commit crimes does have real world effects. Anecdotally (and autoethnographically?), every time I share an elevator with a woman I don’t know, I make an effort to stay glued to the wall, and I do my best to look non-threatening. Why? Well, common courtesy. Because women do have something to fear from being in an enclosed space with a guy they don’t know. And I would hope that if enough people behave with common courtesy, the women in my life will also get the benefit of such courtesy from men they don’t know when they find themselves on an elevator.

Note that threats can appear from everywhere.  Men also can be attacked by women, but crime statistics indicate that a man has less to fear from a woman he doesn’t know than vice versa. That said, while I have noticed the “unthreatening” look on many men’s faces and posture on an elevator, I don’t believe I have ever seen it on a woman. Perhaps if a woman were to do so it might come across, to the wrong man, as a show of weakness and invite violence.  There are, after all, a not insignificant number of dangerous men out there.

Beyond the elevator situation, there are also some other courtesies I extend to women that I don’t extend to men. As one example, if I am walking behind a woman who is wearing a skirt and she begins walking up stairs, I will hang back until she is well up the stairs before continuing up myself. Alternatively, I will move quickly, taking the stairs three at a tie to get around her. As far as I know, it isn’t illegal for a guy to walk up a flight or two of stairs with his eyes staring straight ahead buttocks-level. But it also isn’t hard to noodle out that doing so would make many women uncomfortable. So once again, a small change of behavior qualifies as common courtesy.

But let’s get back to incarceration rates. Let us say it became perceived as unfair that more men are incarcerated than women. Perhaps a situation arises where people would insist there is no real difference between female and male behavior, and if there is a difference in incarceration outcomes, it must be due to society imposing an extra burden on males. That might lead to society seeking to arrive at a 50-50 incarceration ratio between men and women.

Of course, that would be a commendable social goal if the commission of the types of crimes that lead to incarceration were equal among men and women. But what if the crime ratio was still lopsided as the one we observe today? In that case, to achieve incarceration parity, we would have two options. One would be to release 86 male prisoners for every 93 men that are currently incarcerated. Another would be to incarcerate an extra 86 female prisoners for every 7 women who are currently incarcerated. (Technically, we could do something between the two scenarios, but I will ignore that option for that essay.)

Neither of those ways of achieving a 50-50 balance is healthy. The first will lead to letting out a lot of people who probably belong in jail, which will result in more crime against innocent victims. The second option leads to incarcerating a lot of people who shouldn’t be in jail. Leaving aside how we collectively decide which innocent women should be incarcerated in order to achieve the desired balance, there will be a huge personal cost on many women (and their families). It will also hurt the economy in the process.

If there is no observed change in the Male to Female ratio of criminality, a substantial change in the incarceration ratio is more likely to cause quite a bit harm than good. To change the male incarceration rate without causing harm, the male criminality rate must also be reduced.

But there is also one other fact to consider.  A world in which a) serious crimes are committed by males in wildly disproportionate rates, and b) society was seeking to achieve a 50-50 incarceration rate  will have little or no serious discussion about point a.  After all, admitting that criminals are disproportionately male (which is a very different thing than stating that all or even most males are criminals) is also an admission that the desired incarceration rate is hard to achieve.  Worse, looking into why the crime rate is so much higher among men and women could lead to the unfortunate conclusion that the only way to achieve social goals is for the justice system to come down on women much harder than it comes down on men.  This is a hard conclusion to stomach, and it leads to cognitive dissonance since the whole point of 50-50 incarceration is, presumably, to make society more fair.  And really, there is only one way to deal with cognitive dissonance:  a mountain of self-righteous outrage would be heaped on anyone who pointed out the mutual contradictions or why they exist.  It is hard to imagine a world where points a and b are simultaneously true, but with a bit of effort most of us could probably come up with its broad outlines.

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The Democrat’s “Better Deal”

In a recent email exchange with Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism: “This is not going to work with voters. Tom Frank has been all over this topic, saying again and again, the Dems are refusing to give up on their losing strategy of focusing on the 10%, and are trying to cover for their abandonment of middle and working class people with identity politics.”

What Yves is commenting about is a recent post and the “ Better Deal” proposed by Schumer and Pelosi.

Schumer: “When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself,” In speaking on the Dems new plan, he continues; “So what did we do wrong? People did not know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump, and people still believe that.”

Pelosi: In a separate interview, the House Minority Leader says the new focus “is not a course correction; but, it is a presentation correction.”

Yves Smith again; “Pelosi is upfront that all the Dems are doing is trying a new PR strategy.”

Sounds like Schumer recognized the issue; but as Yves and Pelosi said, it “is not a course correction; but, it is a presentation correction.” In other words, we are going to say the same “stuff,” but it will be said in a different way. That is not going to work for urban and rural dwellers alike who are worried about everyday life. .

Progressives and activists both believe the repackaging of a failed message in 2016 is going to miss the targeted middle and lower income constituents needed to win the 2018 elections. Paul Ryan and his caucus speak of specifics such as “proposals to revamp poverty programs, health care and taxes, and a hawkish national security stance” which plays well to rural constituents who are fed news from conservative sources. In contrast, the Democrat party’s establishment economics addressing the 10% again fails to talk about the everyday life of the rest of voters with a progressive message addressing quality of life improvements. Democrats have to rebut Repub ideology with sound proposals reinforcing and improving healthcare, jobs, education, retirement, long term care, etc. which are attacked in Ryan’s message.

In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 37 percent of Americans said the Democrats currently stands for something, while 52 percent said it just stands against Trump. With Trump being one of the most unpopular Presidents early in his first term, Democrats miss the opportunity to define what they stand for specifically capitalizing on Trumps 36% rating with a strong countering economic message. Where is the loud rebuttal by Democrats to Trump’s attacks on progressive healthcare, student loan forgiveness, and minorities. Where is Democrat pushback to tax repeal for those making >$200,000 annually and tax cuts largely going to the 1% of the household taxpayers and large corporations?

Republicans talk in headlines; Democrats speak in fine print,” In his Brooklyn town hall meetings, Democrat Congressman Hakeem Jeffries heard the messages about “pocketbook issues, housing challenges, crime, public safety, failures of the public schools,” and little about the “existential threat to our democracy by Trump and the Russians or what is going on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” It is here the Democrat message fails with its sole concentration on Trump the person rather than attack on Trump administrative fubars, what the Republican economics means, and Republican policies. There is not enough of a loud outrage in the new Democrat party message. Instead of a new brew of political coffee to sip upon and savor like one would a Starbuck’s French pressed serving of Veranda, we are being served yesterday’s warmed over and weak political brew.

And in the end we will not turn 2018 into a resounding rebuttal of Republican policies and Trump.

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Missouri Travel Advisory

At a conference on Wednesday, National delegates voted to adopt the advisory for Missouri It is the first time the NAACP has issued a travel advisory for a state. The “extreme caution” notification is not exclusive to high crime areas such as may be found in cities. The notification is meant to make minorities more aware of surroundings while traveling in Missouri and to be cautious with encounters with police. What is sad about this is it is telling minorities do not give the white man any reason to take issue with you such as what you wear, being in a heavily white populated areas, a broken tail light, not signaling, rolling stops or going through lights on the yellow, etc. Jim Crow has emerged again and heavy force will be applied to put you into the role expected of you.

The advisory is as follows:

(Jefferson City, MO – Missouri NAACP State Conference Office – edited) Unlike seasonal weather advisories where unnecessary travel on city streets or parking might be directed; the NAACP wants to make Missourians and visitors alike aware of a looming danger which could include the following examples of what has happened to some residents and visitors in the past.

– Tory Sanford was never arrested and yet died in a jail cell. He ran out of gas when he traveled into the state accidentally.
– On campus racist attacks on University of Missouri students after the university system spoke in favor of Romine’s Jim Crow Bill.
– Black high school students in St. Louis have been attacked with hot glue and racially denigrated.
– Two foreign born men were gunned down in Kansas City after their killer thought them to be Muslim.
– African Americans are 75 percent more likely to be stopped and searched than Caucasians according to the Missouri Attorney General.
– Public threats of shooting ‘Blacks’ by an alleged racist and others have terrorized University of Missouri students and members of the public.

Individuals traveling in the state are advised to travel with extreme CAUTION. Race, gender and color based crimes have a long history in Missouri. The home of Lloyd Gaines, Dredd Scott, and the Missouri Compromise gives Missouri the distinction of being one of the last states to lose its slaveholding past.

The Missouri State Conference of the NAACP will follow Governor Greitien’s review of this Jim Crow Bill – SB 43 and will update the NAACP advisory for the State of Missouri if this measure is vetoed. SB 43 legalizes individual discrimination and harassment in Missouri and would prevent individuals from protecting themselves from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in Missouri.

Moreover, overzealous enforcement of routine traffic violations in Missouri against African-Americans has resulted in an increasing trend and has resulted in increased traffic fines, senseless searches of vehicle and persons, and on occasion unnecessary violence.

The advisory is in effect until August 28.

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