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

Manchin on Voting Rights

The news is that Joe Manchin has described a voting rights compromise which he supports. Also Republicans immediately said it was unacceptable to them. This reminds everyone that there will be no bipartisan compromise on an issue where the two parties have diametrically opposite interests. If there were any Republicans who did not equate democrats with Democrats, and pigs could fly, it would be different, but there aren’t.

I am reasonably confident that nothing will come of this. To pass a bill it would be necessary to eliminate the filibuster and Manchin (and Sinema) won’t do that. However, I am actually interested in an incredibly vague part of Manchin’s proposed bill “Ban partisan gerrymandering and ‘use computer models,’ the latter of which isn’t further specified;”

It does seem that “computer models” doesn’t narrow things down much. However, I think it is quite simple really. It is possible to use precinct level data to calculate the ratio of Republicans elected to Republican votes statewide implied by districts. It is easy to compare proposed districting with the rule that if the ratio is closer to one with one set of districts then it must be preferred. The only non obvious detail I propose is that the results of the most recent 2 elections be used, because the turnout in midterm elections is very different from that in presidential year elections.

I would propose that only if two proposed sets of districts have the exact same estimated partisan bias according to this formula may any other properties of the districts be considered. I am reasonably confident that the bias can be reduced to the fact that we can cut congress people in half (even if the idea is sometimes appealing). In any case, the party with a minority in the state legislature has a very strong incentive to look very hard for proposals to reduce the bias.

I often read that Democrats are necessarily automatically at a disadvantage, because, even aside from partisan gerrymandering, Democratic voters are concentrated in cities and so many Democratic votes must be wasted. I do not believe this at all. Rather I think not explicitly partisan rules about compactness and respecting municipal and county boundries if possible favor the Republicans. There is no reason such rules deserve consideration at all comparabile to the importance that legislative majorities correspond as nearly as possible to the popular vote. I think that (except of course for the US Senate) they can correspond almost exactly.

I would like a law requiring that they do.

Again, I don’t expect to get it, or anything, but the problem is very simple, and the solution is obvious.

SCOTUS Rules 7-2 in Favor of ACA

Writing for the majority on the ACA ruling, Justice Breyer:

“We do not reach these questions of the Act’s validity, Texas and the other plaintiffs in this suit lack the standing necessary to raise them.”

The lack of standing comes from:

“The states having brought the suit could not show that they will suffer any injury from the fact that some form of the mandate is still in effect, and threw out the lawsuit as a result.”

In the majority were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, accused the majority of ducking the constitutional issues that conservatives for years have argued make the federal healthcare overhaul unconstitutional.

More later:

Still a developing report and waiting on additional emerging details.

CALIFORNIA ET AL. v. TEXAS ET AL.

Hook and Peg

Your money or your life. Highway robbery has been around since. On the high seas, was known as piracy. Been writ that pirates didn’t always even offer the choice. All made for generations of good bedtime reading for youth. And, for mock sword, and bow and arrow, fights. And, really bad movies. Thanks, Howard Pyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, …, and Walt Disney. No thanks, Errol Flynn.

These days, it’s neither sword nor bow and arrows, musket nor cannon. It’s malware. Goes by cyberattack or ransomware attack. A malware fight? Has no lilt. Aargh! I’ve been hit by a virus.

First, there had to be computers. Ransomware showed up; around 1980, about the time computers got really going. By floppy or tape, then. Your cashier check or you crash. No panache; besides, too easy to trace. 1983, cryptographer David Chaum came up with the idea of electronic money. In 1995, he came up with digicash, which was untraceable.

Then, came 2008. Digital currency, most often known as bitcoin, was born out of the 2008 financial crisis. Obviously, something needed to be done about banks. Fair to say that those most knowledgeable were compromised, so it fell to those with lots of imagination and little actual knowledge. As a first attempt, these less than knowledgeable came up with a combination of butter churning and mining by computer which they dubbed bitcoin, or cryptocurrency.

Others, with some imagination of their own, saw bitcoin as an opportunity. Amongst them were ransomware hackers. Now it was by email, your bitcoins or your data. Bitcoins were pretty much untraceable. Russia, for a small fee, provided the Sherwood Forests, the Caribbean Isle. Voila, for a small fee, capitalism provides the likes of GroupSense to negotiate with the hacker.

Keep the good and throw away the bad. Some, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, see ways that digital currency could solve some of the problems inherent banking, such as access, overcharging, …. Liz had a lot to say about the bad aspects.

The Lewis Powell Court

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, RI, has recently begun giving a series of speeches on the Senate floor in ref. dark money and the effect on the Supreme Court. The two so far have centered on Lewis Powell’s secret memo to the US Chamber of Commerce in 1971 just before his appointment to the US Supreme Court. The two speeches go a long way toward explaining the present makeup of the Court, how we got to this point, how capitalism works in America, southern aristocracy, our aristocracy, … . Herewith, for your perusal, are links to the videos of both the speeches along with copies of their transcripts.

Just Some More Interesting News

Cut the Bullsh*t‘ and Tax Rich People Like Us, Common Dreams, Kenny Stancil

Monday is Tax Day in the United States this year and the Patriotic Millionaires—rich Americans who advocate for greater redistribution of wealth and power to working people in the U.S.—are using the occasion to launch “an offensive” against the “selfish billionaires, Wall Street tycoons, and CEOs” who are trying to undermine progressive tax reforms that would require the country’s wealthiest individuals and corporations to pay a fairer share.

The nation’s super-rich, said the group in a statement, are “fighting tooth and nail to protect their own special tax breaks and misleading the American people” about proposals to raise taxes on a tiny minority of high-net worth households and corporate giants and to bolster enforcement to ensure the collection of trillions of dollars in revenue currently lost to tax evasion.

Kevin McCarthy Comes Out Against 1/6 Commission, Crooks and Liars, Susie Madrak

“GOP House leader Kevin “I think Putin pays Trump” McCarthy announced this morning he opposes the proposal for an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, which of course will hollow out support for the vote. And of course he is opposing it for highly principled reasons!

McCarthy wanted the new panel to expand beyond violence by Trump supporters and also investigate other groups, like antifa and Black Lives Matter.”

How does one reconcile the lying in their heads? They have to know it is wrong.

New dashboard on the PRC Advisory Opinion on the change in service standards

Steve Hutkins from Save the Post Office. As you can see, postal service delivery would lengthen from a maximum of 3 – day delivery to 4 and 5-day delivery service for First Class mail and Periodicals.

The impact of the changes in delivery would would slow approximately 20.7 billion pieces of First Class Mail, or about 39 percent of FCM volume (see chart below).

The Postal Service has requested an Advisory Opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission concerning its plan to relax service standards on First Class mail and Periodicals. We started a new website page that provides easy access to the PRC’s docket (N2021-1), as well as some charts, tables, and blog posts about the proposal.

You can find the page here; it’s also a tab, N2021-1, in the main menu above.

When the Law is Part of the Problem

Whether it be by legislative intent, or due to some interpretation of the law by a judge or by the supreme court; behind each incidence of police brutality, shooting of an unarmed person, or other unwarranted police behavior in America, lies the question of how is it the law of the land allows law enforcement officers to act with relative impunity? Of course, there is the question of whether the law does indeed allow law enforcement officers to use unnecessary, excessive force? While there can be no doubt that they should be be allowed to use necessary force; does it not follow that any force beyond what is necessary is unnecessary force? And, that anything beyond necessary is excessive? Should a routine traffic stop warrant a police officer pointing a loaded weapon at the traffic violator? It does seem that the limits for the force used by law enforcement, should be matters of the law. There are, after all, strict restrictions on things like wire tapping and other means of surveillance.

Given our nation’s history of abusive policing: the fugitive slave laws, the notoriously cruel early Texas Rangers, Wyatt Earp, et al, one might have expected the court to have acted to curb abuses by law enforcement. But, this isn’t what has happened. Why not?

Mining Poverty

Recall Senators McConnell’s and Graham’s strong opposition to the first COVID relief package? Said it was because they feared it might reduce the incentive of workers in their states to work for low wages; that’s really low wages as in less than a living wages. Mitch and Lindsey, and most of the present day republican party, are miners of poverty. Miners as in get every last possible cent possible out of the working class and personally wheelbarrow it up to those living in the big houses on the hill. Being as they are professionals, Mitch and Lindsey don’t come cheap.

Right to work states are right to mine states. With few exceptions, right to work states are red states. A living minimum wage is an anathema to the miners of poverty.

The miners’ motto: Get every last drop of blood. Though a hand full of democratic members of Congress (think FL) do prenez l’argent, most of the support for poverty mining comes from republican politicians. Faced with regulation or restriction, lenders of payday loans, cash advances, title loans, low wages, and such, turn first to the the republican party.

Another way of obtaining the very last drop is on the spending end. There are stores that deliberately take advantage of poor people. They may do this by way of taking advantage of the customer’s inability to compute price per unit in real-time, their innumeracy, senility, etc. Major grocery chains avoid low-income areas. Dollar stores move in and sell inferior goods for less.

Payday loans take a big cut of the working poor’s wages without hardly lifting a finger beyond signing a political contribution check. Car title loans are a great way of getting at any asset/savings the working poor might have.

Peonage, as practiced in say Alabama, is the cruelest of all the various means of mining poverty. Arrest someone for little or no reason, brand them a felon, then throw them in prison. Once incarcerated, the great state peddles their labor as a source of revenue. Local turkey/chicken/pork processor, general contractor, furniture manufacturer, … hires the the prison labor for a few dollars a day so as to better compete with turkey/chicken/pork processors, general contractors, furniture manufacturers who pay their workers a living wage. Meanwhile, across Alabama, the working class poor are competing for jobs with prison labor. Fine economic model you have there, Mitch and Lindsey.

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 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?