GameStop, Robinhood: explain it to me

Bernie meme

Bernie SandersA smart, nearly 80-year-old man wears mittens suitable for a cold DC day. How does it become a meme? And when do we decide it’s over? At least Bernie seems amused if slightly bemused by it.

This pic, BTW, was forwarded to me by my daughter. I have no idea why.

GameStop? What’s a GameStop?

Explain it like I’m 5 years old: A desperate nation tries to understand the GameStop saga. “There better be a test about the GameStop saga. When it burst into the news, I dutifully dropped my other studies and applied myself to the stock market frenzy.

“The short. The short squeeze. Margin call. Payment for order flow. The CBOE Volatility Index. Go ahead, ask me anything.

“Wait, hold on a moment: I swear I understood it like a second ago.”

I think the Globe is correct, that “we’re dealing with a Category 3 story… That’s a story that’s simultaneously complicated and simple, compelling but somehow boring, and can only truly be explained by John Oliver or a kindergarten teacher.

“Category 1: These are stories that are so easy that any civilian could go on CNN with no notice and comment authoritatively. Meghan and Harry leaving the Royal family. Murder hornets…

“Category 2: Stories you will never understand, no matter how hard you try so you can skip right over them. Physicists finding a way to test superstring theory. The new AI tool that cracks the code of protein structures…

“But then there’s the third category, which is when facts you should be able to grasp — if the Wall Street bros can, why not you? We’re not talking Stephen Hawking here — briefly seem within reach, but then slip away.”

Hank Green spends four minutes explaining the “short squeeze.” Whatever that is.

Does it wear green tights?

And what the heck is Robinhood? I’d never of it. According to this two-star review of the app, its “claim to fame is that they do not charge commissions for stock, options, or cryptocurrency trading. Due to industry-wide changes, however, they’re no longer the only free game in town.

“The firm’s target customer base is young people new to investing, who are drawn to the app by advertising that leans heavily on words such as ‘free’ and ‘democratization.’ By and large, this tactic has succeeded, drawing in 10 million accounts held by an unknown number of customers. But what happens to them when they outgrow Robinhood’s meager research capabilities or get frustrated by outages during market surges?”

You know their control of the market is too strong when AOC and Ted Cruz both think so.

Too bad John Oliver is on hiatus. Here, read these pieces from Nation of Change and Business Insider. I think it means…

And

Why is clogging while eating spaghetti so fascinating to me?

Time for police reform continues to be right now

Create a policy for a transparent investigation process due to law enforcement misconduct.

police reformIn the area of police reform, the Minneapolis Police Department is particularly problematic, I’ve discovered. One might not be surprised to find a story in the Boston Globe, from 4 June with the headline. Don’t let labor agreements thwart police accountability. “Union agreements too often prevent police departments from firing officers who act violently or inappropriately. Lawmakers of both parties need to take police discipline out of labor negotiations so that accountability can no longer be used as a bargaining chip.”

Yeah, do you know who else wrote that? The Federalist! And with some chilling details: “In the particular case of George Floyd…: at least two cops should have lost their jobs long before the event even occurred. Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on [George] Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, had previously received 20 complaints filed against him, resulting in two letters of reprimand. His partner, Tou Thao, was sued in 2017 for stopping a man without cause and beating him in the street. In both cases, their contracts protected them.”

Here’s another dreadful piece of the puzzle: “Lt. Bob Kroll, head of Minneapolis’s police union, said that he and a majority of the Minneapolis Police Officers’ Federation’s board have been involved in police shootings. Kroll said that he and the officers on the union’s board were not bothered by the shootings, comparing themselves favorably to other officers. ‘There’s been a big influx of PTSD,’ Kroll said. ‘But I’ve been involved in three shootings myself, and not one of them has bothered me. Maybe I’m different.” Maybe.

So it’s a bit scary when a white man calls cops on black men at Minneapolis WeWork gym, which fortunately did not turn into a dangerous confrontation.

Still, Minneapolis public schools voted to sever their contract with the police. “We want justice for George Floyd, and we know that justice isn’t enough. And now is the time to defund the police and invest in the community.”

Likewise, according to the LA Times: “As protests over police brutality and the death of George Floyd [continued], Los Angeles officials said [June 3] that they will cut $100 million to $150 million from the city’s police budget as part of a broader effort to reinvest more dollars into the local black community.” Here’s what the defund the police movement means.

It’ll be interesting to see if the misunderstood and frankly misleadingly labeled defund movement takes hold, and if so what it will mean.

Perhaps, it’ll be like what Bernie Sanders is pushing for: “civilian corps of unarmed first responders to supplement law enforcement, such as social workers, EMTs, and trained mental health professionals.”

Watch/read this now

If you’re still grappling with what this policing issue is all about, I most highly recommend Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. At the very end is a very eloquent, very angry young black woman talking about Protesters, Looters, Rioters, and the social contract between black people and the police.

The Weekly Sift guy explains How Should American Policing Change?

Surprisingly, in AIER, Donald J. Boudreaux suggests we protest also against police unions and qualified immunity.

New York State

“What we’ve been seeing play out across cities and townships throughout the country [recently] are Americans taking to the streets speaking out to say they’ve had enough of the status quo. Protesters are demanding meaningful systematic and structural changes to address the egregious racial inequities in our justice system and, really, in every facet of our government and society – including in policing, housing, health care, education, and employment, to name a few.”

There’s a list of potential police reform initiatives in the above graphic for New York State. Item #1 is the repeal of New York State’s police secrecy law, Section 50-a, which “hides police misconduct and abuse records from the public.” Retired Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox: “Repealing New York’s 50-a law is a critical step to protect the public safety of all New Yorkers.” It was just passed!

Nationally

On the federal level, there is a bill called the Excessive Force Prevention Act. It was originally introduced in the House by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries which would make police chokeholds illegal under federal civil rights law. [The next bit I purloined from an email.]

National Bail Out is a Black-led and Black-focused organization that works to end the horrific policy of pretrial detention and cash bail that keeps so many people of color in jails and prisons without a conviction, simply for being unable to pay. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, National Bail Out has been working to bail out Black mothers and caregivers—and now to bail out protesters who have been arrested en masse.

Senator Brian Schatz (D–HI) has announced that he will introduce an amendment that will prevent local police forces from getting tear gas, drones, armored vehicles, and high-caliber weapons of war from the military. This important amendment — in addition to initiatives to defund police departments and hold police officers accountable for committing crimes against the public — will help combat systemic police brutality in the U.S.

Contact Congress TODAY to stop police departments from buying weapons of war.

Arming police forces with military weapons doesn’t reduce crime or protect law enforcement officers from violence. In fact, police forces that are equipped with weapons of war are more likely to kill civilians. Even worse, militarized police forces often target Black and minority-majority communities, where getting killed by the police is among the leading causes of death.

Local law enforcement agencies have bought billions of dollars worth of guns, explosives, helicopters, and more from the military. Senator Schatz wants to end this practice by passing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. This important amendment will prevent the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies, but only if more members of Congress support it.

Have we had an American Stonewall? “If a politician wants to exercise real leadership, let them proclaim a day of healing where they lead a march of police and protesters together in support of a new era in police relations.” OR you can go the other way, with heavily armed men who refuse to identify themselves patrolling the streets of Washington, DC, sent by the Bureau of Prisons.

The other three

After Nearly 10,000 Arrested During Week of Protest, Three Other Police Officers Finally Charged Over Murder of George Floyd. “All you had to do was arrest three more.” “All four police officers involved in George Floyd’s death are now facing criminal charges. Until now the only one charged was Derek Chauvin, the officer who pinned Floyd down with his knee on his neck. Minnesota’s AG announced he’s facing second-degree murder charges, updated from third-degree charges (which carry a shorter sentence). The three other officers – Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J Alexander Kueng – were charged with aiding and abetting murder. But recent news could escalate tensions.”

People have asked me, “What can I do?” Find whatever initiatives on policing that have been undoubtedly been kicking around your locality or state for years and let your representatives know you support police reform.

Allowing people in prison to vote

Fourteen states and DC allow voting rights to be restored automatically upon release from prison.

elon-voting-bars-buttonHmm. The idea of allowing people in prison to vote had never really crossed my mind before recent events.

Now the notion that people who were OUT of prison regaining the franchise HAS been an issue for me. For instance, voting rights can ONLY be restored through an individual petition or application to the government in Iowa and Kentucky, a draconian process.

This was also the standard in Florida until 2018, when the people decided to change it. Voting rights are now restored automatically upon completion of sentence, including prison, parole, and probation.

The right to vote is restored automatically once released from prison and discharged from parole – probationers can vote – in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Oklahoma, and New York. I can support this.

Fourteen states and DC allow voting rights to be restored automatically upon release from prison. Hey, this appeals to me even more.

But in Maine and Vermont, voting rights are retained while in prison, even for a felony conviction. This partially explains the position of Bernie Sanders, Presidential candidate and the US senator from the Green Mountain State

In an interview with Truthout’s Amy Goodman, Ari Berman, senior writer at Mother Jones, notes: “Prisoners are already counted for redistricting purposes, so they are already counted where they are incarcerated, but yet they’re not allowed to vote. So it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

“And if you believe the purpose of prison is not just punishment, but rehabilitation, then allowing people to still have one of their most fundamental civic responsibilities is a key aspect of rehabilitation.”

Of course, this gets into the whole conversation about whether prison is designed for incarceration or rehabilitation. Check out this 60 Minutes story about how a Connecticut prison is trying to implement a German-style (i.e., civilized) system.

How do other countries deal with the voting issue? Here is a chart of how 45 countries regulate the ability of felons to vote in or , out of prison, or not at all. Note that Canada and Germany are among the least restrictive.

This Truthout title caught my attention: Allowing People in Prison to Vote Shouldn’t Be Controversial. “The mass disenfranchisement of incarcerated people [in the United States] has a racist past and a racist present, and has been used in particular as a tool to suppress the Black vote.” This is clearly true.

“The denial of the vote to people behind bars takes a sharp toll on many marginalized communities, subjecting them to what many call ‘civil death’ — depriving a person of all legal rights.”

Naturally, Arthur chimed in on this issue – in fact, his post popped up as I was writing this piece. “Incarceration is disproportionately directed at people who aren’t white. But that’s an issue on its own, and not, by itself, a reason to let all prisoners vote. Or, maybe it should be?

“Maybe it could help restore justice to the criminal justice system by letting the victims of that system have a say. I don’t yet know what I think, but I’m listening.” That’s about where I’m at. But I’m leaning towards Bernie’s position, significant in that I had had NO position only weeks ago.

Whither? Zither! I still don’t care

It’s my general disdain for having to deal with the political process this early.

zitherAnother Ask Roger Anything reply! Bill, who I know because he’s a friend of my sister Leslie: OK, here’s my question: Whither?

There’s obviously a lot going on in my subconscious.

To which, Dan, who I know IRL, replied: Wither? Zither!

In a recent dream, I’m at some sort of conference, where the participants are sitting in a large circle. The instructor is riding me constantly for being so backwards. I’m using a tablet when everyone else is using their smartwatches.

I’m becoming increasingly irritated. After repeated snark, I storm out of the room.

For some reason, rioting ensues on the campus. I am sitting on a toilet, with people pounding on the door to get in; it is NOT the only stall.

Bernie Sanders walks into my stall. I get up and throw him down a flight of stairs.

This is obviously a dream about my technophobia. Plus it’s my general disdain for having to deal with the political process this early. It’s not so much antagonism towards Bernie, who I voted for in the 2016 Democratic primary.

To wit, Kevin, who I’ve known since college, asked: Who do you favor for the Dem. nomination for Pres at this point in the campaign?

As I noted here and especially here, I don’t care all that much, yet.

I AM grumpy about people saying that Joe or Bernie or Elizabeth – who appear to be the front runners, so far – should not run because they’re over 70, or will be soon.

This piece about Mayor Pete pleased me.

I don’t think my senator Kirsten Gillibrand has a shot. She was perceived as too “corporatist” early, and she got Al Franken booted out of the Senate. (The actual facts re: the latter are irrelevant to the narrative.)

Re: Beto, I’m still trying to figure out if there’s a there there.

I get more email from Jay Inslee, governor of Washington state, than any other candidate, almost entirely on environmental issues. It IS a way to differentiate himself.

Why people hate politics

vote-button-3I was a political science major at the State University of New York at New Paltz in the 1970s, a fairly yeasty time of Vietnam, Watergate (I watched the hearings voraciously), and the first President (Gerald Ford) selected through the 25th Amendment, after Vice President Spiro Agnew, and later President Richard Nixon, left office.

I remember the sharp partisan divide. Yet I recall a strong sense of duty to the country, being greater than a duty to party, taking place, as the Republican members of the Senate committee investigating the break-in, and the House committee that was considering the impeachment of a Republican President, resolutely, though not without anguish.

The political climate in the United States in 2016 is awful. I understand why people hate politics and decide to ignore politics altogether.

These are things I believe about the current season:

The Hillary Clinton supporters who have been nagging the Bernie Sanders supporters to “get in line,” to give up the quest, were wrong. I’ve been saying for MONTHS to leave them alone, respect their views. Bernie has been signaling, for WEEKS, that he would eventually back Hillary Clinton.

But he was waiting. Waiting to get concessions on the Democratic party platform. He had what is called LEVERAGE. You do not give away leverage for “the sake of party unity,” but rather exploit it. What Bernie did was, frankly, brilliant.

Sarah Silverman telling Bernie supporters Monday night that they were “ridiculous” for continuing to support the Vermont senator was demeaning and unhelpful.

Likewise, those Bernie folks who screamed “WE trusted you” repeatedly at Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) during her address Monday night, as though they were demanding some sort of ideological purity, were extremely rude.

I appreciate the debate about Who Should Bernie Voters Support Now? Robert Reich vs. Chris Hedges on Tackling the Neoliberal Order. One can disagree without being disagreeable, as my mother used to say.

I stole this from Elaine Lee on Facebook: “A primary campaign season is like a nasty divorce negotiation. Each side builds its case against the other, in an effort to paint the other as evil, in hopes of winning the house. Also like a divorce negotiation? It’s most important to think about the future of the kids.”

The Democrats were right to get rid of the party head Debbie Wasserman Schultz over bias toward Hillary. No, she’s not getting a cushy job with the Clinton campaign, but the optics, with novice supporters unfamiliar with the nomenclature, could have been a LOT better.

She’s referred to as Hillary because there was a previous President Clinton. I’m not feeling the sexism here. Her signs have a big H, not a big C.

The Democratic convention, for me, was easier to watch than the Republican one last week. The GOP version was a dystopian version of America that was, frankly, exhausting. I avoided watching the Hunger Games movies for a reason.

Voting for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, or Jill Stein, the Green Party standard-bearer, or writing in Bernie, or voting for no one, is NOT voting for Donald Trump. I so wish my Clinton friends would STOP SAYING THIS. It convinces no one, because it’s bad math. If there are 100 people, and 50 of them voted for Trump, and 50 of them voted for Clinton, if the 101st person votes for Stein, Trump and Clinton still each have 50 votes. The ASSUMPTION is that vote would otherwise go to Clinton, when there is no evidence of that.
hillary.clinton
After supporting Bernie Sanders in the primary, I am voting for Hillary Clinton in the general election, for several reasons, some having to do with my deep fear of a Donald Trump Presidency, but others having to do with the positive attributes laid out by Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, among others. Plus this cartoon. It helps – a lot – that Bernie requested that his supporters do so.

That said, I strongly favor people voting. Even for Trump, Lord help us. Or vote for Johnson or Stein. As I’ve noted, I fear a write-in vote would be less effective because state laws vary in how much they are counted.

But I VIGOROUSLY oppose people not voting at all. If you know the history of this country, and how difficult it has been for black people, and women, to exercise the franchise, you bring shame to America by staying home. (I could have soft-pedaled that a little… nah.)

I freely admit I don’t “get” Donald Trump’s appeal. At all. He appears, to me, singularly unfit for office, as historians such as David McCullough have indicated.

And he invited the Russians to hack into a former secretary of state’s email to help him win an election?

However, I do not believe that anyone who supports Donald Trump is necessarily a racist, or stupid, or whatever. I was, accidentally, the conduit, of such an attack, on my Facebook feed, with someone I know personally bashing the husband of a friend of mine. There were 17 or so comments back and forth, and frankly, I stopped looking.

Ad hominem attacks win over no one except those already inclined to believe that point of view. Fighting on FB about politics is the logical equivalent of eating glass. Maybe a little won’t tear your insides out, but I’m not looking to discover the threshold.

This is especially an issue because social media is the place most likely to view calumny, an offense against the truth, in the political discourse. “We become guilty of this offense against the truth when by remarks contrary to the truth, we harm the reputation of others and give occasion for false judgments concerning them.”

Anyway, there it is. I expect a lot of, “Well, I agree with some of what you say, except…”

P.S. Here is a 1992 cartoon by Paul Mavrides, which initially appeared in Heavy Metal magazine. It’s annoyingly accurate, still. Used with permission.

Power.Mavrides