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

Eating the Fingers of Fish

“The fish stick is the bane of school children who consider it to be a bland, over cooked, breaded – crusted, cardboard tasting, fish-less effort of lunchrooms and mothers to deceive them into consuming more protein.”

In the 1920s, entrepreneur Clarence Birdseye developed a novel freezing technique. Food was placed between metal plates which froze the food quickly and prevented large ice crystals from forming. When used on fish, the method created large blocks of intermingled fillets. When pried apart, the fillets tore into “mangled and unappetizing chunks,”

Clarence Birdseye’s Frozen Food Machine

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 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?

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.

Monday Morning Reads

The Real Border Crisis, The Atlantic, Adam Serwer, March 2021

This border surge is no different than 2019 and going back a decade. It will peak in May and the decline.

What is the border crisis? Is it the recent surge of migrants, or is it the treatment of those migrants in detention facilities? The answer to that question—or whether you consider the situation at the border to be a crisis at all—most likely determines what you think the Biden administration should do about it.

For conservatives, the answer is clear: Democrats invited the increase in migrants with their permissive, open-borders immigration policies. Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas has accused President Joe Biden of announcing that “the United States will not secure our border, and that is a big welcome sign to migrants from across the world.”

If the Biden administration’s leniency is responsible for the increase, as Republicans like Cotton believe, then it follows that the U.S. government should employ harsh measures in the interest of deterrence, much like the Trump administration did.

Some Republicans have sought to have it both ways, accusing the White House of being too permissive while also attacking the administration for detaining large numbers of migrants. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida declared on Twitter the increase in apprehensions was “caused entirely by President Biden’s words & actions” and, on the same day, that the administration was “putting kids in cages.”

Seasonal Migrant Surge At the Southern Border

The same as the last 10 years.

We can take this one more step and examine the trend by looking back to 2012 going forward and displaying the cumulative totals by month over eight years ending in 2020.

A Curious Form of Sex Addiction

A Curious Form of Sex Addiction, EconoSpeak, Barkley Rosser

 The murderer of 8 people recently in the Atlanta area, of whom 6 were Asian American women, mostly (if not completely) Korean American, has claimed that he did not do it out of any anti-Asian prejudice, much less anti-women prejudice, although apparently only one of those killed was a man.  Rather he claims that he did it to “remove temptation” for himself due to a claimed “sex addiction” he has.  

I note that for at least one of the three massage parlors he hit numerous individuals are strongly denying that any sexual activity ever went on there, which might also be the case at one or both of the others as well. However, there is another rather curious fact that sticks out regarding these murders. Four of them, that is half of them, with these all being of Korean American women, were of the ages respectively of 74, 69, 63, and 51.  I find it hard to believe that a 21 year old white male would seriously think that killing women of those ages would somehow help remove from him temptations to have sex.  But then, what do i know.  I am rather on the older side myself.

Barkley Rosser

51st anniversary of the largest wildcat strike in U.S. labor history

Steve Hutkins: This week marks the 51st anniversary of the largest wildcat strike in U.S. labor history: The Great Postal Strike of 1970

March 18th marks the day fifty-one years ago when postal workers walked off the job in New York City in what soon became the largest wildcat strike in U.S. labor history. Last March we posted this article by postal historian Phil Rubio, author of Undelivered: From the Great Postal Strike of 1970 to the Manufactured Crisis of the U.S. Postal Service.

The article is as good as ever, so Save the Post Office is posting it again this year.

For eight days in March 1970, over 200,000 postal workers staged an illegal “wildcat” strike — the largest in United States history — for better wages and working conditions. Picket lines started in New York and spread across the country like wildfire. Strikers defied court injunctions, threats of termination, and their own union leaders.

In the negotiated aftermath, the U.S. Post Office became the U.S. Postal Service, and postal workers received full collective bargaining rights and wage increases, all the while continuing to fight for greater democracy within their unions. Using archives, periodicals, and oral histories, Philip Rubio shows how this strike, born of frustration and rising expectations and emerging as part of a larger 1960s – 1970s global rank-and-file labor upsurge, transformed the post office and postal union.

In this post, Dr. Rubio writes about the importance of commemorating the nationwide postal wildcat strike on the day of its fiftieth anniversary. You can also read his 2015 blog post, which includes a more detailed account of the strike, here.

Interesting Commentary on a Wednesday

Letters from an American” Professor Heather Cox Richardson’s column today I find interesting and hopefully AB readers do also.

Professor Cox Richardson’s first topic of the day discusses the Justice system and how it is being influenced by political moneyed interests.

Her second topic touches on McConnell warning Democrats not to change the filibuster. McConnell’s warning comes across as a threat not just to Democrats but to all Americans.

I have added a Medscape topic discussing vaccinations and requiring people to be vaccinated.

The last topic is Republicans whining about the military defending women soldier’s capabilities from Tucker Carlson’s prejudice.

The Role of Big Money in Our Justice System

First, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has asked the Justice Department, now overseen by Attorney General Merrick Garland, to look into the unusual circumstances through which Brett Kavanaugh’s large debts disappeared before his nomination to the Supreme Court. While this question is important to understanding Kavanaugh’s position on our Supreme Court, it is more than that:

it is part of a larger investigation into the role of big money in our justice system.

Last May, Whitehouse, along with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), released a report titled

“Captured Courts: The GOP’s Big Money Assault On The Constitution, Our Independent Judiciary, And The Rule of Law.”

It outlined how the “Conservative Legal Movement has rewritten federal law to favor the rich and powerful,” how the Federalist Society and special-interest money control our courts, and how the system benefits the big-money donors behind the Republicans.

On March 10, Whitehouse began hearings to investigate the role of big money in Supreme Court nominations and decisions. Aside from Chief Justice John Roberts, every Supreme Court justice named by a Republican president has ties to the Federalist Society, a group that advocates an originalist interpretation of the Constitution, which prohibits the use of the courts to regulate business or to defend civil rights.

While the Kavanaugh story that is getting media attention, the longer story is whether our courts have been bought.

McConnell Threatening America Over the Filibuster

“How The Humanities Building Went Wrong” Or Does Brutalist Architecture Represent Fascist “Institutionalized Tyranny”?

“How The Humanities Building Went Wrong” Or Does Brutalist Architecture Represent Fascist “Institutionalized Tyranny”?

 My freshly arrived Spring 2021 issue of “On Wisconsin,” the alumni magazine of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has an article whose title is the first part of the title above in quotation marks.  The later quotation marks phrase appears in the article, but not the word “fascism.” The article is about a famous but much criticized building on the UW-Madison campus Peter Dorman well knows, long known as the Humanities Building, although renamed the George L. Mosse building in 1999 after the famous history professor of that name who died that year and had give a lot of money to UW, and who, ironically, was not only a refugee from Nazi Germany in the 1930s but would become a famous scholar of fascist culture and its origins.  His name also does not appear in this peculiar article in which the building is always called by its original name, the Humanities building, and until recently it did contains much of both the music and arts schools on campus.  After much criticism over decades, it is now scheduled to be torn down sometime after 2029 and replaced with something else, budgetary considerations depending.

It is indeed considered to be an icon, if flawed and troubled, if the brutalist style of architecture, designed in 1962 by Harry Weese, who would design Washington’s metro stations. By the time it opened on campus in 1969, the year I started grad school thereafter completing undergrad there also, it was already a time when tastes began to change in the midst of anti-war protests and hippies all over the place, with it viewed by some as the article notes as representing “institutionalized tyranny.”  It is large and blocky and concrete and “modern,” with no frills or designs on it, classic modernist brutalism.  Although it turns out that many of the harshest criticisms came because of dysfunctionality arising from budget cuts during its building.  It is horribly energy inefficient, falling apart, leaking toxic chemicals, and numerous other problems.  It is these more than the long-running denunciation of its appearance that is doing it in ultimately.  The article even recognized that it had the potential to be an architecturally great building, especially for those who like that architectural style (as my daughter Sasha does who lives in Madison). I was never all that great of a fan of it, and remembered the nice brick buildings there before it that were in the style of the still-standing University Club.

Alabama? A Potential Shift in the Contours of Political Parties

Another big event is on the United States horizon, in Alabama, and its occurrence portends a potential seismic shift in the contours of our political parties.

Amazon workers at an in Bessemer, Alabama facility are going to vote on unionization. And of course, Amazon opposes unionization. Amazon has a lot at stake if the Bessemer facility unionizes as it employs more than 400,000 warehouse and delivery workers. It is shaping up to be the biggest fight over unionization in American history.

Unionization of workers at an Amazon plant “may” (and I say may) be the beginnings of a political party shift in Alabama favoring Democrats. Democratic President Biden is messaging his support of unionization.

Amazon warns the unionization of its workers may increase costs and slow growth. To counter the effort, it has staged mandatory company meetings flooding workers with anti-union messaging and literature and gone as far as to post signs in bathroom stalls. Workers have complained about working conditions and mandatory overtime and in response, Amazon points out Bessemer workers benefits are good and the starting pay of $15.30/hour and exceeds the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour.

As Heather Cox discusses in her March 5th “Letters from An American;”

Two Audio Interviews: Rethinking the Constitution and The New PhD

I thought readers would enjoy the following two interviews.

The first is with Mary Anne Franks: The Cult of the Constitution. The discussion is titled: Rethinking the Constitution. She gets into the first and second amendment. What I found thoughtful was her presentation of the Constitution being viewed as a sacred document. Think the Bible etc. Considering the influence of the Evangelical Right in the Republican party, it put clarity to the Right’s arguments involving the Constitution. This discussion coincides with Peter Dorman’s post: We need a Plan for Militias.

The second interview I heard a bit ago: The New PhD, How to Build a Better Graduate Program. Leonard Cassuto and Robert Weisbuch. What they suggest is that the Graduate programs have to change from their conservative (not political conservative) historical approach to this aspect of the education and make it more relevant to what is present for such students in today’s world.

Both interviews are about 1 hour long. Enjoy.