Current Affairs – US

Dear Mississippi

Dear State of Mississippi,

I hear from my spies that some of you, and some of your leaders, are deeply unhappy about the imminent future of the United States.

I believe that this is because A Guy You Apparently Didn’t Vote For, I think he is named Biden, is going to become the 46th President of the United States, because he beat The Guy You Apparently Voted For in the recent election.

Apparently, this change will be a Bad Thing for the United States, so some of you want out.

Well OK then.

Although the Constitution does not have any defined process for how a State can leave the Union, let’s not worry about that right now. Let’s also overlook that unfortunate little contretemps in the 1860s, where I seem to recall that a whole collection of you (by “you” I mean the Southern States) had a collective hissy-fit over the planned abolition of slavery, and decided to fight a bunch of other states over it. (By the way, You Lost. Those nice stars-and-bars cloth objects that some of you like to wave about from time to time are copies of the battle flag of a defeated secessionist army. In other words, Losers. But I digress).

Let’s assume that you, Mississippi, desirous of No Union At All, want to secede from the rest of the United States.

First of all, I think I need to point out that by most objective measures, Mississippi is heavily dependent on the Federal Government. When I looked at some hand-dandy charts, you are the third most financially and governmentally dependent state in the Union, after New Mexico and Kentucky. So the idea that you are, you know, ready to make your own way in the world, Just Like That, might be a wee bit optimistic. But, hey, all children dream of one day leaving home and having their own place. Right?

So, sure. Let’s talk about secession.

First of all, let’s talk money.

It’s like this. The USA has a national debt, which the last time I looked had passed $23.3 trillion (yes, that is a number that contains a blank of a lot of zeroes). And it is still rising. You, the good citizens of Mississippi, are, along with all of the other states, the collective owners of that debt. So, if you want to leave the Union, we will require you to assume a pro rata share of the debt. I just happen to have a calculator handy, and if we do it on the basis of population, your current share of the debt is…

$208 billion.

I understand that your current state debt is approximately $7.4 billion. I got out the calculator again, and did some more math. That will give Mississippi a debt to GDP ratio, after we do the math, of 182%. Not the worst in the world, mind you, Japan is at 238%. But then the next country is Greece. At 181%. Oh dear. You will be the second worst country in the world. That means your borrowing costs will probably rise. But hey, that’s how free markets work, right?

Of course, if you want us, acting on behalf of Uncle Sam and the US Treasury, to guarantee your debts, we can do so for a fee. This is for a state which <checks notes> is last in the Union at present on per capita GDP, so you folks will need all the help you can get.

There will be no more money from the US treasury. Of course, you won’t have to send us any either. This may be good for you, since I understand that a lot of you are always grumbling about sending money to Washington for “coastal elites”, “spongers” and “liberals” who might even be behaving according to “San Francisco values”. If you want to just have sales taxes and property taxes, and continue with your 5% maximum income tax, have at it. We will watch to see how you can balance the books that way. I think you might find that 5% is a tad low for an income tax, but hey, your call.

Now, let’s talk defense.

You will assume total control over the Mississippi National Guard and its assets. Why not? It is mostly older stuff that was passed down from the US Air Force, Army and Navy anyway. We don’t need the hassle of looking after old KC-135s and obsolete APCs. But you may have to pay more for spares, since you will be buying them as Mississippi, instead of using the Full Faith and Credit Of The United States. Unless, of course you want to kick some cash over to us to continue to enjoy some of that Full Faith and Credit.

Ah, you might want to participate in the overall US national defense, I hear you say? Well, we will have to talk about that. On normal commercial terms. Those F-35s are kind of expensive, and they don’t fly themselves. And Naval patrol boats cost money to run.

All Federal government installations will be closed down, unless you buy them from us at fair market value less 5%. That is more than fair, considering that you probably provide a lot less than 5% of the federal tax revenues each year.

You will be responsible for healthcare provisioning, and for deciding what healthcare systems replace Federally funded systems like Medicaid and Medicare and Tri-Care. We will allow you to participate for 5 years after secession in the systems if we can agree the price. If not, it’s over to you.

Roads, airports, ports? Over to you. If you owned them you get to keep them, but no more Federal money to help with upkeep. If the Federal government owns them, you get to buy them from us at market value less 5%. If you don’t want them, we will close them and sell them off to the highest bidder, no matter where that bidder may be in the world. Except for the Federal Interstates (hold on we’ll get to that in a minute). Hey, it’s simply responsible reclamation of taxpayers money. I hear that your government likes to talk about that a lot down there in the Summer heat.

By the way, you might need to work out some arrangement for hurricane and peril insurance. Those hurricanes are getting worse, and unless we can agree on financial terms, the Federal government cannot continue to guarantee flood and peril insurance for home owners. We note that some of your coastline is, er, very close to or below sea level.

If you want to continue to participate in GPS and the FAA, sure. There will be a fee for that. Controlling satellites and airspace is a tricky job requiring state of the art equipment, and those Air Traffic Controllers have to be kept supplied with coffee.

Now, about Federal Interstates. No, you are not going to make them into toll roads. If you do that, we will impose tolls in the other direction when your vehicles leave Mississippi. I don’t think you would want that. We will provide 5% of the cost of maintenance for Federal highways. More than reasonable. Ditto the Mighty Mississipp. You will not impose tolls on that waterway, unless you want to have to pay reciprocal tolls.

It is up to you whether you want to apply for admission to the United Nations and the WTO. We won’t take a position either way, except to note that if you want to join the United Nations, it will be as a new country without any of the privileges that the United States currently enjoys (like that permanent Membership of the Security Council). Ditto trading blocs. However, we may ask you to kick in a few million to pay for your share of representation on the world stage. Embassies, and United Nations and WTO representation costs money.

If you are serious about the idea of becoming a true country you may need to pay for the cost of setting up a Federation Ambassador office in DC, as will we in Jackson. Standard United Nations diplomatic rules will apply.

Passports? Customs declarations? Border posts? Hell no. We are not going to get into that border shit. I mean, if you really really want a border, you can have one, but then we will require passports for any of your folks to enter the United States, and we will impose work permit and visa controls, just like we do with other countries. Also, you will need to have your own border controls, agreed with the 4 states with which you will share a border. I don’t think you really want to go there. There will be reciprocal visit rights by US citizens to Mississippi and Mississippi citizens to the USA. However, Mississippi citizens will need to apply for permission to move elsewhere in the USA, and if the states want to impose their own quotas and work restrictions, well, State’s Rights and all that. You will need to talk to them about that, unless you want us to act on your behalf, in which case I am sure we can do so. If the price is right.

No, you may not become a tax haven country. We have had enough trouble in the past dealing with oligarchs on big yachts, surrounded by men in dark glasses, carrying cases with strange bulges in their clothing. I know this may come as a shock to those of you who are used to a failed casino operator running the country, but we do have some standards.

Ditto alcohol and tobacco and other mind-altering substances. If you decide to try and become a haven for smugglers or “country entrepreneurs”, the neighboring states will have our forbearance if they want to change the ways that they interact with you, legally, logistically and commercially. It’s that States Rights thingy again. I think you rather like that (at least, you always seem to think it is important whenever the Federal government wants to do something you don’t like).

Yes, you will have to continue to enforce the same environmental laws that the rest of the United States enforces. You may have noticed that there are artifacts on the planet such as weather and water, that tend to move substances across state boundaries. We are not going to allow your factories, power plants and other industries to send shit into the water table or oceans, or into the atmosphere where it can drift over Our Way. In return, we undertake to not do the same to you. Deal? After all, if you start dicking about with things like vehicle emissions laws because you want to have, oh I don’t know, Rolling Coal as a state pastime, that is going to prevent Brandon and Brett from driving to New Orleans to see the Saints, and that seems a little restrictive, don’t you agree?

Which brings us nicely onto sports. You make your own arrangements for teams like Ole Miss. Whatever you want to do is fine with us.

This list is not exhaustive. We’re just getting warmed up.

 

Yours sincerely,

The United States

 

 

 

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Anatomy of a confrontation – St Louis MO

UPDATE – 3

A lengthy thread where Greg Doucette, aided by locals who have read zoning legislation and national historic place documentation, explains that while the houses in the subdivision and the subdivision is private, the roads and footpaths are not.

UPDATE – 2

  1. The McCloskeys have a record…of behaving litigiously and confrontationally.
  2. Local demonstrators held a demonstration against them outside the subdivision.
  3. A number of local people in the subdvision are not impressed by the McCloskeys’ behavior.

Conclusion – the principals of McCloskey Law have a track record of being bumptious asshats.

UPDATE – 1

  1. The gated community in question is, for many people in St Louis, a profound illustration of racial and economic divides in the city. It is less than 1 mile from some of the more deprived inner-city neighborhoods.
  2. The lawyer couple have given interviews to local media where they explain why they ended up waving guns all over the place on their front lawn. They have lawyered up already, expecting that they will be investigated by law enforcement, and they clearly intend to invoke the “castle doctrine” defense to any inquiries by law enforcement. (No surprise there). But you have to laugh at this quote from their lawyer’s prepared statement:

“My clients, as melanin-deficient human beings, are completely respectful of the message Black Lives Matter needs to get out, especially to whites,” said lawyer Albert Watkins.

ORIGINAL POSTING

Yesterday, during a street demonstration in St. Louis MO, a couple, who own an early 20th century mansion in central St. Louis, were videoed standing in front of the house waving firearms at demonstrators and shouting at them.

The identities of the house owners were very easy to determine. The house is one of a collection of turn of the century houses that are regarded as local museum pieces. Their house was actually built by a member of the Busch family.

The house owners, no matter which way you parse the video, looked ludicrous. They came steaming out of their house, barefoot, angrily shouting and waving a pistol (the woman) and what looked like an AR-15 (the man). Demonstrators shouted back at the couple. It all looked very edgy, with the potential for something dangerous and possibly fatal to occur.

This is how I initially responded to a snapshot on counter.social:

I was criticised for posting the slam on the couple without knowing all of the facts. So I went off to find out as many facts as I could about the dynamics that led to the confrontation.

The backstory to these events, as usual, is interesting. The demonstrators were in front of the couple’s house because they were trying to get to the house of the Mayor of St. Louis, Lyda Krewson, as part of an attempt to demonstrate against her. She published the names and addresses of citizens last week during a discussion about pushback on the local police. That was regarded by many people as an abuse of power, and a threat to the personal safety of those individuals.

The important fact is that the demonstrators were not interested in the couple’s house, or them personally. In fact, they probably had not even noticed the house, until the couple came charging out waving their firearms.

Missouri law allows for private streets as well as private gated subdivisions. Both the Mayor’s house and the house of the couple are part of the same gated subdivision, with private streets.

There are two gated entrances. As is normal, there are swing gates for motor vehicles, with a side gate for people walking in and out.

The demonstrators can be seen, on video, walking into the sub-division through the side gate of one of the entrances. The side gate did not appear to be locked, and there was no sign of any security personnel to prevent them from entering.

Once inside the subdivision, they were on private property without permission, and therefore trespassing.

There has been a lot of nonsense talked about legal sanctions against the couple, who are personal injury lawyers.

Claims have been made that they can be disciplined by the Missouri bar association. Somehow I do not see that happening. Bar associations almost never discipline members, and expulsions are very rare. Generally, the only way you can be expelled from a bar association is for embezzling clients’ money. Anything else likely will earn you a reprimand or at worst a token suspension. “Behaving like a posturing dick” does not a bar expulsion make.

The next question is whether they could be charged with brandishing a firearm in a threatening manner. Well, yes, there is a statute that covers that. HOWEVER…it is almost certainly overridden (in this case) by Missouri Statute 563.031. This is a classic “stand your ground” statute, and, like most statutes of this type, it is very defendant-friendly. In order to be found guilty of violating the statute, the prosecution has to prove that the homeowner had no logical basis for feeling threatened. I think that is unlikely in this context. Although the demonstrators were not targeting the couple’s house, they were on private property, and there were a number of them. A sympathetic jury will not be convicting the couple on that basis.

Personally, my belief is that the couple can use the incident to actually bolster their marketing credentials. Many personal injury lawyers like to boast of being “tough”, “mean”, and “relentless”. They cultivate an image of bellicose aggression towards The Big Guys, acting on behalf of The Little Guy. What better way to demonstrate your bona fides than by aggressively defending your home against marauding savages…er, demonstrators? I can hear a voice-over now. “We defended our home relentlessly against marauding bands of thugs. We bring the same attitude when we Fight For You”.

I stand by my original reaction. The couple were waving firearms around in a way that tells me that they either never attended a firearm safety course, or if they did they forgot everything about it. The man, at one point, was pointing the AR-15 directly at his wife. The video looked like he was holding her hostage, threatening to shoot her. They looked both ludicrous and stupid at the same time.

I once spent time talking with an ex-military guy about firearms, and something he said stuck with me. He said “these are devices designed to kill people. If you don’t want to kill somebody, you should not point one of these devices at them. Ever”.

Personally, If I was them, I would be asking the management of the subdivision “where the hell was our security”? A group of demonstrators were clearly able to march into the subdivision with no impediment. Given that the demonstration was being publicised on social media, the management company of the subdivision should have been taking precautions.

At a time where the concept of white privilege is finally being discussed seriously, they also looked like exemplars. Their house, both outside and inside, looks like a mini-Versailles. It is huge – 13,900 square feet in size, with tacky and pretentious artwork all over the interior. They then proceeded to look and act every bit like over-privileged, scared people.

Now, thanks to the merging of the internet and the age of phone video, their actions are immortalized, for good bad or ugly.

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Texas – how “opening the economy” has fuelled Covid

When Texas began to re-open the state, many experts said “this is too soon”. This made no impact on the government here, which is solid GOP, and for whom listening to experts is one of those activities that they despise. What, listen to dudes in white coats who use words with multiple syllables? No way.

So, the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor have been walking around making all of the right noises, while failing to make rules that can be enforced. So they try to face both ways on mask wearing, saying it is beneficial, but refusing to mandate it. Some counties (like my own Dallas County) have mandated wearing masks in public, but even that carries political risks, with the adolescent pseudo-libertarians up in arms (some might want to do that literally, judging by their online smack-talking).

The result was inevitable. The Covid-19 case count is exploding in key areas. Like in my own county, Dallas. When I went out at the weekend, the roads and stores were full. Everybody was marching around like it was a normal Summer saturday. Some people, despite the rules, were not wearing masks. (Jesus Christ on a pogo stick).

So this is what happens when you try to open a state too soon in a pandemic with insufficient focus on safety and social responsibility.

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Birthday Thoughts – 18th June 2020

  1. My birthday 

I officially became old UK pensionable age today at age 65. Nothing eventful. I have a slight creak (hernia, to be operated on once Mary is better), but other than that, my body seems to be in good shape. We live in interesting times, I am not so much worried about myself as I am worried about the robber baron fascist scumbags totally taking over the USA and the UK. The electorates in both countries have, in aggregate, been foolish enough to vote for authoritarian scumbags, and it may or may not be too late to turn that back.

2. Covid-19

The published number of new cases in Dallas County late yesterday is BAD. A new bad record.

3. The Pandemic Insurance market that never took off

This is an interesting article about an attempt, starting some time ago, to seed a general insurance market for Pandemic protection insurance. It never took off, because the potential buyers failed to take the impact of a pandemic seriously enough to be prepared to pay premiums up front. Today, it would be different, but because of the infrequent and huge payouts involved in this type of insurance, up-front payments for years are needed for insurers to have enough reserves to actually pay any resulting claims. It’s not motor insurance.

4. Pandemic mask wearing and logical fallacies

There are any number of people who are behaving like privileged asshats, laboring under the delusion that (a) not wearing a mask in public is a good idea, (b) that they somehow have this magical “freedom” to do whatever they like. This leads to all manner of expansive and bullshit claims being made when organizations mandate mask wearing. The Google School Of Law has never been busier.

“I refuse to wear a mask” justifiers are tying themselves into knots over the issue. This person hit a perfect twofer for logical fallacies in their attempt to argue that they should not have to wear a mask:

The CO2 poisoning would be news to all of the doctors and nurses who have been laboring for hours at a time for decades in hospitals wearing face masks. So I definitely detect the fragrant odor of caca on that excuse.

But notice how he tries logical fallacy #1 – Moving The Goalposts, by swiftly shifting to complaining that masks are never 100% effective anyway.

He walks right into logical fallacy #2 –  Fallacy of Binary Thinking instead. No, you fool, a mask is not 100% effective. but then nobody with any pretence to smarts claimed that it is 100% effective.

To use an analogy, seatbelts are not 100% effective at stopping people from being killed or injured in road accidents. but they are mandatory, and most people accept that they are not 100% effective. However, you will notice that there is a small subset of the population who are hostile to wearing them, on the same damn grounds that people are trying to refuse to wear masks – they are not always effective, and Mah Freedoms.

However, the analogy, while useful, is not a match. The difference between a person who refuses to wear a seatbelt and who dies or is injured in a road accident is that they only harmed themselves. Not wearing a mask not only increases a person’s chances of contracting Covid, it also increases the chance that they will aerosolize the air around them with virus, which may increase the chance of others contracting the virus.

Unfortunately, pseudo-libertarians and retarded adolescents (who are often the same group) keep trying these “mah freedoms!” arguments. They are never cogent or useful, but they keep trying.

 

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COVID stuffs – 16th June 2020

  1. Ask the people who actually know

An expert actually, you know, went off and talked with experts today. This is his summary. It’s not good reading.

2.The Dallas County Graph is still bad.

3.  Florida and Arizona

Bars and Restaurants in Florida are finding out the hard way that re-opening when a pandemic is in full swing is…not a good idea.

In Arizona, restaurants are making the same unfortunate discovery.

4. Deaths – South Korea vs. the USA

Currently, the official death toll in South Korea from Covid-19 is…278

The US total just passed 200,000.

If you pro-rate the South Korea death rate upwards by the difference in popuations between the USA and South Korea (320 million vs. 52 million), the death toll in the US for the same death rate would be…

1,732

The US death rate is 115 times higher.

It’s not a population density thing. South Korea has a much higher population density than the USA. It’s a competence of government difference, and a population attitude difference. You don’t hear about South Koreans rampaging in the streets without masks, ratchet-jawing about “my rights”.

 

 

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Briefs – Sunday 31st May 2020

  1. Riots

The appearance of angry demonstrations in many US cities is no surprise to me. The peaceful protests from several years ago against entrenched and endemic racism were contemptuously dismissed at the time (see Kaepernick, Colin). So now the disaffected have moved beyond peaceful and passive demonstrations.

There is a lot of evidence that agents provocateurs are operating within demonstrations. This is SOP for fascists, it is one of the standard tactics from their playbook, going back to Germany in the 1930s.

Media members are being caught in the crossfire all over the place, but when you have a supine, non-inquiring media that insists on perpetuating a clearly false “both sides”narrative, and which refuses to take the correct action when confronted by a President who routinely dismisses them as enemies of the people, this is the logical end result. The media becomes a target for law enforcement, just like the demonstrators. The media, in a broader sense, have been demonstrating so far in 2020 that they have learned nothing from 2016. As Jay Rosen keeps pointing out, they are using a broken playbook for dealing with Donald Trump.

2. Covid-19

The Dallas County Covid-19 new cases trend is now upwards,following a decline in the number of new cases for over a week. I predicted this, but it is not good to see. I have not looked at the trend in other counties. I still worry about rural counties, which have limited to non-existent medical treatment capacity for people who become very ill. And many of those rural folks, here in Texas, are not going to be insured against medical costs.

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