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

Why Not Fraud?

First to step out of the right hand corner was John Cornyn of Texas. Floated something he had read in Politico; it didn’t. None of Cornyn’s stings, stung. Departing the ring before the first was over; Cornyn mumbled something about butterflies and bees, or maybe it was something about Dinah. Next, Senator Lindsey of South Carolina would show his fellows how it was done; how to handle an uppity black women. Stepped in; wham never knew what hit him. Lindseee went down without even a sarcastic whimper. Time to bring in the heavyweight favorite from, and now of, Louisiana — in the right corner — John Kennedy. What is that on his lips, all over him? Is that molasses? Ref should check Kennedy’s notes for the presence of a foreign substance, of a fact. Leads off the round with a set of his very best question-interruption feints. Then tries another. Then another. Somewhere along about his fifth question-interruption feint attempt, Kennedy begins to realize that what he is seeing up close is the floor and that his face is the mop.

Irony is, these good old boys are from the same south that for a century had said that blacks weren’t qualified for public office and shouldn’t be allowed to even vote just took a mental whupping from a big beautiful black women in a white hat. Stacy, dear, you were way way too merciful with their dumb asses.

These Three Lilliputians of the US Senate were in turn interviewing the one and only Ms. Stacy Abrams of Georgia about Georgia’s newly enacted voting laws, something Ms. Abrams knows quite a lot about. No amount of training could have prepared them for this contest, they were simply out of their class.

All of which brings us to the question at hand: why are the former confederate states (FCS), if they are to be believed, so afraid of voter fraud? If they really are in such angst, why not go after the fraudsters instead of the voters? Somehow the role of ghost-busters seems fitting this mendacious lot.

These are the very same duplicitous bastards who would have very limited restrictions on who can purchase and own a gun; insisting instead that any control come via arrests for acts committed with a gun. That they have the right to own a gun, but a woman shouldn’t have the right of choice, that their right to own a gun is more important than a woman’s right to choose, or someone else’s right to vote.

Why make it harder to vote? Why the bassackward voter suppression thing? Because that’s precisely the intent. It is not about voter fraud at all. If it were, they would resort to their usual crime and punishment trope. It’s all about voter control; about who gets to vote.

Windsor, VA

Recently, in Windsor, Virginia, United States of America, a local police officer, Police Officer Gutierrez, pulled over Army Second Lieutenant Nazario; ostensibly for the lack of displayed license plate. As it was to turn out, a temporary plate was on display in the vehicle’s rear window. When Lt. Nazario slowly proceeded to a well lighted area in front of a convenience store, pulled over, and stopped, Police Officer Gutierrez, and a second, back up, officer approached the Lt.’s vehicle with guns drawn and pointed at Lt. Nazario while giving somewhat conflicting commands. Lt. Nazario is heard to say that he is afraid to get out of the car.

Was it reasonable force for the two police officers to draw to draw their weapons for a traffic stop after it was evident that there was no reason to make the stop in the first place? In the video, Police Officer Gutierrez is heard to say, “You received an order, obey it.” Do police have a god-given right to be obeyed? What is so suspicious about an army officer in fatigues near Hampton Roads, VA, (an area as aswarm with military installations and personnel as any in the world)? Why did the police officers demand that Lt. Nazario get out of his vehicle? Why not start with conversation? What right did the officers have to demand that the Second Lt. Nazario lie face down on the pavement? What compelled them to do so? Shouldn’t the police be required to produce proof of suspicious behavior before taking such drastic measures?

Numbers

The interviewee says that blacks are disproportionately imprisoned in the United States; notes that though blacks only make up 13% of the general population, they make up 40% of the prison population. While it is quite likely that blacks are disproportionately imprisoned, it is what the interviewee didn’t say that begs asking. Why is it that blacks are being disproportionately imprisoned? For the answer to that, first, let’s take a look at some U.S. Department of Justice data on arrests:

Selected from the above linked table: Estimated number of arrests by offense and race, 2019, All ages:

All offenses blacks more than 25% of total

Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter blacks more than 50% of totalotal….

Robbery blacks more than 50% of total

….

Aggravated assault blacks more than 33% of total

….

These Justice Department figures tell us that blacks are in fact committing a disproportionate percentage of all crimes being committed. What else do we know in our search for the why?

It is known, or at least believed to be known: That, by far, most black citizens are law abiding. That upper and middle income blacks are exceptionally law abiding. That in modern day populations, males are far more likely to commit crimes than females. That almost all crimes by black Americans are committed by young black males. That nearly half of black Americans live in areas of concentrated poverty. That almost all of the crime committed by black Americans is committed by young black males between the ages of 12 and 34 years of age who live in areas of concentrated poverty (most of their victims live in these same areas).

It would help to know: What percentage of those black Americans who live in areas of concentrated poverty are males between the ages of 12 and 34. What percentage of this group commit criminal acts.

If we estimate 12 to 34 year old black males constitute 12% of the black population in areas of concentrated poverty, and that one-half of them are committing criminal acts; we aren’t looking at 13% of the population committing a disproportionate of all crimes committed. We are looking at (0.5 x 0.12 x 0.13 x 100 ~ 0.9%) less than 1%, of the overall population committing an extremely disproportionate per cent of all crimes committed. More specifically, we are talking about young black males in poor urban black communities committing an extremely disproportionate per cent of all crimes.

Why is it that 12 to 34 year old black males who live in urban areas of concentrated poverty are committing crimes at such a disproportionately high rate? Why is the cause we seek. Living in poor urban areas of concentrated poverty is the where. Why do young black males living in poor urban areas of concentrated poverty more like to commit criminal acts? It is known, or thought to be known, that young males are more likely to commit crimes. There appears to be little, if any evidence, that race alone is a factor. Leaving us with young males living in poor urban areas of concentrated poverty; with good reason to suppose that the lack of adequate housing, food, healthcare, education, hope, … of everything they need, and want, might be the most significant factor, the greater cause. These causes/things: inadequate housing, inadequate food, inadequate healthcare, inadequate education, little reason for hope, …, are things we as a society can do something about. Our doing so would be far better than going forward with the long failed more and more incarceration, imprisonment.

It appears that the most proximate cause of the most disproportionate percentage of young black males being incarcerated was their socioeconomic environs. Suppose that the reason for one group of citizens having a disproportionately high arrest rate was found to be because of their ‘culture’, their biology, their genetics, their upbringing, their psychology, …? Or, some combination of these things? What would an ‘Estimated number of arrests by offense and socioeconomic status’ look like? What would an ‘Estimated number of arrests by offense and culture’ look like? We have learned that there is a strong correlation between whether the child was wanted. What would an ‘Estimated number of arrests by offense and parenting’ look like? What other things do we not know? Asking the right questions and getting the correct answers is all important; is our best hope for finding solutions.

On Ghost Walls

Raffi Khatchadourian’s Ghost Walls {Surviving the Crackdown in Xinjiang ( As mass detentions and surveillance dominate the lives of China’s Uyghurs and Kazakhs, a woman struggles to free herself.)} is beyond Margaret Atwood dystopian. Ghost Walls gives a victim’s accounting of her own experiencing of China’s reaction to the cultural differences between the Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other indigenous Turkic peoples, and China’s Han Chinese majority. A reaction that seems to be a crazy of mixture of the 13th and 21st Centuries with a f—ed up, post Mao, culture thrown in. For the world, the worst thing that could possibly happen is for this manic genocidal crackdown to succeed. When in doubt, when in China, double down. Can anybody make anyone do anything?

The idea of imposing one group’s set of values on another hasn’t worked very well so far. Seems it is rather a recipe for conflict and strife Looking ahead, this problem of living in multiracial, multicultural societies is an old one that is suddenly getting worse. One we really need to figure out.

It is said that Africa is home to more genotypes than the rest of the world combined. Our neighbor to the south is not a land of one people but is rather home to a thousand peoples. All around the world: Hong Kong, Tibet, Mongolia, and Xinjiang in China; the Kurds in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran; the Palestinians in Israel (or vice versa); the Rohingya in Myanmar; all across Africa; …, the world is trying to come to grips with differences. Too often, we see one group trying to make another second group behave as they, the first group, think they should.

What the Future Holds

It was a warm October evening, back in 1957, when we heard the news and began looking anew toward the night skies. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) had just launched a satellite that they called Sputnik into orbit; an event that changed the world forever. A whole new concept; actually, a couple, maybe more, new ones. Thenceforth everyone knew what a satellite was; well, most everyone. Took us awhile longer though to wrap our heads around the orbit bit.

That launch into orbit started a space race that pretty much defined the next 12 years. Actually, it was more of a technology race, a how to do and how to do it first race. How to get a rocket with a man onboard into orbit and on into outer space; how to do all sorts of things in a weightless, atmosphereless, environment? One small step for man, lots of giant leaps for technology. Care for some silicone grease on that silicon chip? How about a wafer with your eggs? All in all, not all that much was learned about space itself that we didn’t already know.

On Gerrymandering

Every citizen of the United States has the right to be represented in both their state and federal governments by a representative chosen in a free and fair election. In a free and fair and election, each and every vote is equal. By definition a gerrymandered election is unfair because it favors one group of citizens over another. In a gerrymandered district, one’s vote may count for nothing, one party’s vote may count for nothing. In a gerrymandered state, the majority of residents’ votes may count for nothing. In gerrymandered states, many of the state’s residents are being deprived of their right to representation at both the state and federal level.

In states with gerrymandered districts, the members of the state’s legislature are not representative of the majority of the residents of that state. In states with gerrymandered districts, the state’s delegation of representatives to the US House of Representatives is almost certainly not representative of the majority of the residents of that state. In gerrymandered states, only the residents’ votes for US Senators and US Presidents are immune the distortion in representation caused by the gerrymandering.

State Legislatures write and pass laws that apply to any and every one in the state. If the state is gerrymandered, these laws are being imposed on those denied representation by this gerrymandering; are likely being written by representatives elected by a minority of the voters in the state. The US House of Representatives writes and passes laws that apply to any and all persons in the US. These federal laws, too, are being imposed on those denied representation by gerrymandering.

State and federal legislatures allocate government funds to state and federal districts within a state. This allows state and federal representatives to ‘bring home the bacon’. In gerrymandered states, the bacon is more likely to go to the district(s) that voted for the elected representative than those that didn’t. The spoils of gerrymandering go to those who did the gerrymandering.

In state after state, we see gerrymandered state legislatures override voter approved initiatives and referendums; deny the will of the people. At the Federal level, we see popular legislation voted down because of gerrymandering at the state level; the will of the majority of the people being denied.

For all intents and purposes, in gerrymandered districts, the minority’s votes don’t count; they are being denied their right to vote, their right to representation. Gerrymandering is voter suppression. Gerrymandering is most undemocratic. Gerrymandering is not playing fair.

The Danger From Within

No doubt, they saw these decisions as moments of greatness. Or, at least hoped that history would see it that way. One, an egotistical ass who used his intellect as a cudgel with which to intimidate, to bully others. The other, simply a small minded man selected for that very smallness of mind. The one, recently departed Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The other, now Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Had Justice Scalia been even half as smart as he thought he was, he would have known that America is as great as we the people make it. That the right to vote, not the right to possess a gun, is our path to our destiny. That the constitution was given to us not as sword to fall upon, but rather as a rock upon which to build our democracy.

As a consequence of Justice Scalia’s Heller decision, and, make no mistake, it was a huge mistake and it was his; across the nation, we now have half-wits too dumb to understand democracy armed with assault weapons forming armed militia in order to ‘protect to democracy’. To these idiots; democracy means their right to bear arms; democracy comes from the barrel of a gun, not with the vote. Many of them couldn’t even be bothered to vote. After all, what does voting have to do with democracy? As a consequence of Heller, America has more guns per capita than any other country; more gun deaths per capita than any other country.

Chief Justice Roberts no doubt hopes to be remembered well; perhaps, even as being a great man. Don’t we all? Too bad, Justice Roberts. History will see you for the small minded man you were: The Chief Justice who unleashed the forces of wealth against our democracy in Citizens v. FEC, the Chief Justice of Shelby v. Holder, the Chief Justice of Rucho v. Common Cause; as the Chief Justice Taney of the 21st century. Let us pray that Citizens, Shelby, Rucho, …, don’t take so long to be overturned; that another Chief Justice comes along soon who sees the wrong in these decisions; that they must be overturned. A Chief Justice that can again set us on a path forward.

Did Justice Scalia even believe in democracy? Let us look to his votes. He voted with the majority in Citizens, Shelby, and Bush v. Gore. So, let us say that he didn’t. What of those members of well armed militias enabled by his Heller decision who assaulted the Capitol on January 6, 2021 in an attempted insurrection? Those who would use force to overturn that very cornerstone of democracy, a free and fair election? How was it that the ‘brilliant’ Justice Scalia was incapable of foreseeing the consequences of Heller?

Chief Justice Roberts, does he believe in democracy? Again, there is no evidence that he does, a lot that he does not. It seems that John Roberts does believe in serving the Republican party (he ran to George W. Bush’s aid in Florida in 2000), in the Federalist Society, and in something he calls ‘Originalism’. What of the consequences of his Citizens decision? Tens of $Billions of dark money being spent on political campaigns, on appointing Federalist Society adherents to the Federal Courts (including the last three appointments to the Supreme Court). What of the consequences of Shelby v. Holder? To date, republican legislatures in forty-three states have taken steps to suppress minority voting based on that decision. They could do this because they could because of the Shelby decision and of the gerrymandering permitted under the Rucho v. Common Cause decision. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is no friend of democracy.

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Imagine four or more Sears and Roebuck catalog — and much, much more — type web pages; one of which belongs to the USPS, Amazon gets to keep one, if they can show copyright. Let’s call these Web Pages Amazon, Nile, Mississippi, and Danube, with Mississippi being assigned to the USPS. Each of these Four or More Rivers of commerce would have large numbers of manufacturers/producers as paid subscribers; we are, after all, now in the post retail, post warehouse era.

Anything anyone might want to purchase would be listed on one or more of these Web Pages along with the price and delivery time. The Four or More Web Pages would compete with one another on the basis of their Web Page and quality and value of delivery service. The manufacturers/producers would compete with one another on the basis of quality and price (value), and time of delivery with their ads on one or more of the Four or More Web Pages. The Web Pages/Four or More Rivers would compete with one another for producer/manufacturer listings; and, for orders based marketing skills, rates charged, and quality of service.

Each Web Page site would perforce be huge with millions of listings, employ thousands, and undoubtedly consume gigs and gigs of has to be green power.

In the olden days of retail, manufacturers took orders then produced lots that sat around on the factory floor or in warehouses. In the post-retail/warehouse era, goods are shipped as produced, or shortly thereafter. Instead of buyers and sales, producers will produce a product on the basis of market analysis; a prediction of what the market will be tomorrow that will prove to be more accurate and timely than the old method based on orders received. When a producer gets an order for a size 4 Simier Fariry blue dress — the demand is now — that dress will either be being made or be just finished.

When an order is received by the producer, the item is either ready to ship or will be within hours. The producers will package the order/item and hand it off to one of the Four or More Rivers who will then and there do the sorting and loading by destination. Some mini, van to van type, transfer points, may be required, but this is only all the more reason yet to have production proximate the point of consumption. The order for the blue dress is placed and within hours the dress is delivered to the purchaser’s home by one of the Four or More Rivers.

A Wee Bit of History

Off and on, in 1967, 68, 69 & 70, I worked the San Francisco waterfront as a marine electrician troubleshooter while going to University. Then, there were still the freighters owned by big shipping lines, the cruise lines, and a lot of the old Victory ships coming and going from SF. I worked on all of them before they were no more. This was during the Vietnam war. In the early years, I saw stevedores and longshoremen working the docks, down in the holds, troubleshot the boom winches, the radars, the steering, emergency generators, …, engine room stuff. Worked on the first Sealand and Sea Train ships (They were the first container shipping lines; really just converted/extended old freighters). Both were in and out of Oakland. In those days, most ships were steam turbine propulsion, had boilers and steam turbines. Sea Train used turbine electric propulsion, so I got to work on the voltage regulators, etc. Worked for Sealand for a couple of months one summer.

Sealand and Sea Train were the beginning of the end for the old lines such as Pacific Far East, State, Grace, American President, … . Now, of course, both Sealand and Sea Train have long been swallowed up. The Port of San Francisco has long been gone over to Oakland. Oakland’s a railhead and that’s important. Better trucking access, too. In the early days, they did load the containers with cranes. Then an outfit (PACECO) in nearby Alameda invented the Portainer and the rest, is as they say history; or at least a beginning. Portainers, used a lot of new technology, were very fast. Even in those days, turn around time was less that 24 hrs. Still was with the first generation behemoths. Why bother going ashore? Six months at sea, he said; they would pay me ton to sign on and a hell of a salary. Alcoholism and divorce thrown in.

The old freighters weren’t really all that big. The Ever Given pushes the boundaries for behemoths. Perhaps a bit too much? Turns out there’s an insurance limit, and, it seems, maybe a 47 ft draft problem. Loaded, the athwart-ship wind load for her is huge, and desert wind storms blow hard. Still, the turnaround time is probably less than 24 hrs. The car haulers coming in here to Richmond carrying 2-3,000 cars; moor and begin unloading in less than an hour. Likewise with the casting off. Total in and out the Bay turnaround time is less than 16 hrs. Appears no one bothers going ashore.

Infrastructure

An Investment in the Future

It is said that Eisenhower brought home the Autobahn; that he foresaw the need for airports. Let us say that President Eisenhower, seeing these needs for infrastructure, brought America into the 20th Century, and say, “Thanks, Ike.” Through the years, the interstate gave everyone access to work, to recreation, to their Doctor, to the shopping mall, … ; Today, for these same reasons and more, every household should have good access to the internet, and, have a few other good things.

Before Eisenhower, President Roosevelt’s New Deal and its kin employed the unemployed of the Great Depression to build a lot of infrastructure, much of which is still in use today, nearly one-hundred years later. New Deal infrastructure included: safe clean water supplies, electricity, telephones, roads, schools, libraries, universities, parks, hydroelectric and irrigation dams, … . All of these things improved our quality of life. Imagine the 20th Century without them. Imagine today without them. Imagine life without recreation, recreation without those hiking trails. Our National Parks without conservation. Quality of life is important. Infrastructure improves our quality of life.