America is headed for a showdown on election rules that may change our country forever. The Republicans who control many state legislatures have been hurriedly changing the game rules to strengthen their electoral hand. Dems who have no clout in many state legislatures are, as a counter, trying to get a national bill of election rules passed by the congress and signed by the president—but one of their own, Democratic Senator Manchin of West Virginia, just declared in print that he wouldn’t go for the proposed national bill unless it was bipartisan, when it’s fairly clear that the Republicans have nothing to gain by compromising on this. What Manchin’s game plan is escapes me. The senate is split 50-50, so his vote is now critical. However, if the Dems pick up another senate seat or two in 2022, I suspect Manchin is going to be a very lonely guy. What the Dems fear is that the changes being made by the Republicans will cost them control of the house, which would seem to be probable. To my mind, there is a basic part of our constitution at risk here and that’s the right to vote, or at least the right to get the ballots counted fairly. The next part is a peaceful transfer of power to the winners. Currently, 60 percent or so of the Republican Party believes that this last presidential election was stolen and no sort of evidence will dissuade them. If the Republicans manipulate the rules or the counting or are perceived to be doing so in the next election and 60 percent of the Democrats are left believing the election was stolen, well then a clear majority of our country will have lost faith in our country and what happens after that is, I suspect, open warfare—and I’m guessing it will be bloody. There is still time, but the clock is running out.
If you haven’t been to downtown LA lately, I’d suggest you visit, because it’s an experience. There is new construction going on all over the place, most of it high rise, most of it very expensive with new expensive restaurants and venues. Simultaneously, there is a steady growth in the homeless population, people living in the streets in tents with minimal sanitation and hardly anyplace to shower or wash clothes. It’s dangerously unsanitary and it’s populated with many people who are mentally ill. The two worlds live side by side and if you walk downtown you have to carefully plan your route. Clearly, it would be more manageable if the homeless were spread out over the county, but politically that is a problem. Just read the comments locally online about the homeless and the overall agreed-up solution is to send them somewhere else, which doesn’t work very well. Tuesday’s LA Times had an article about a move to build some small units in Arcadia, a high end suburb, and the local community has come unglued, with protests and attacks on their local leaders. No elected politician wants to solve a serious ongoing problem like homelessness if it means their political demise. So, every officeholder is just paying lip service and essentially not sticking their necks out. The only solution I see is that, ultimately, we’re going to have large areas populated by homeless, much as you see in third world countries: tent cities, shanty towns perhaps with social services and basic sanitation. Maybe that’s a solution, large areas, laid out with streets, and instead of buildings, row upon row of tents, or something like the old Army barracks. We did it in wartime, we quickly and cheaply housed thousands and thousands, so why can’t we do it in peacetime?
Some of you have been following the stories about the growth of the industry of hackers and the development of ransomware. It’s only a matter of time before they organize and try and put it on the Big Board or at least the NASDQ. I don’t understand the technology at all, but I do understand the concept of paying protection to someone, which is an old and honored industry in America, practiced by many, for many centuries, usually against immigrant communities by earlier immigrant communities. It’s more of an art than you believe. As explained to me many years past, by some neighborhood kids who went on to be professional criminals or cops, I can’t remember which anymore, it has to be done with a light touch. If you ask too much money, they lose heart and won’t pay; if you come back too often, they just quit, so finding the sweet spot is an art. I don’t know how corporations handle it in their books, maybe calling it public relations or whatever, but these days I suspect they take out ransomware insurance, which may even involve a negotiation process with the ransomware entrepreneurs. Technology is wonderful the way it creates new industries.
I walked Legacy Park this morning. The park is still without water and bereft of life. I had what passed for a conversation with the last two very depressed ducks who looked like they too were about to pull up stakes and move, and it was kind of like seeing the old neighborhood breaking up. There were pigeons, of course, but they seem to be the ultimate survivors with an incredible life force. The squirrels were still there and an occasional bird. But our natural world runs on water, without which it ceases to be. It’s been another week but I’m still hoping.