Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Thoughts on race, class, and wealth

What else is white supremacism if not the ideology and practices of a class system? 

What else was US white supremacism founded on if not the desire to gain wealth by enslaving Africans? Because people didn’t just say, “Oh, yes, let’s go capture some slaves.” Oh, hell, no. They made money at it. Nor did this end with the formal abolition of slavery.

Social insurance undermines class systems. Social insurance programs are so effective that they have to be dismantled, and huge efforts have been made to persuade the public that they would gain from shutting such systems down. (“Put on those chains. You will be much safer wearing them.”)

Do I believe that an end to poverty would be an end to supremacism? I doubt it. The impulse to supremacism seems to be pre-human, and perhaps will turn out to be post-human. But we do not need to governed by it, and it is certain that impoverishing is one of the great strategies and tactics of supremacism.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Everyone Is Watching

About a month back, people were rightly outraged by the Cruz campaign hiring a sleazy data miner to scrape Facebook for information about millions of users. But … but … back in 2011 the Obama campaign put together a database containing information about every registered voter. The Romney campaign couldn't match it, and the database probably won the Democrats the Presidency. Then we had the recent squabble over the Sanders campaign accessing Hillary Clinton's version of the Democratic Party's voter database. And it turns out that one of these databases has been published online, and who knows how may people and groups have read and copied it. And there are the credit reporting agencies, the NSA's PRISM, and who knows what else.

Building a database of personal information about, literally, everyone is within the reach of any moderately wealthy person or group, and it is entirely legal in the USA. The paranoid nightmare of someone watching has been realized. Not only is someone watching, everyone is watching.

Shoulda listened to the cipherpunks when they warned us.

I Hate Explaining the ACA

Richard Mayhew is, or at least claims to be, the pseudonym of an insurance-industry middle manager at Balloon Juice. He has provided much useful advice and commentary for people in the lower tranches of the US health care system. However, he also has a habit of defending the systems and saying it is the best possible. A few weeks ago, this led me to write the following comments on one of his posts (remarks slightly edited):
Man, do you have any idea how awful the ACA system is? Better than what we had before, but that’s like saying having a tent and a place to pitch it is better than sleeping on the streets. It is, but that is no comfort to families that have to care for sick children. Most people would rather have a home with walls. And it’s only going to get worse, as the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the hospitals learn how to work the system. Until the power of the right-wing coalition is broken and Citizens United is overturned there will be no improvement, so we’re talking years.

I do not believe that this was the best compromise possible. As with the banks, the Obama administration just rolled over. I do not know what hold the financial services industry [which includes the insurance industry] has on this administration, but it is profound.
Hey folks, couldn't you have given us a good system? One which places the expenses of the system on the people who can afford to pay, rather than creating a system which puts the biggest expenses on the working poor and moderately well off people in their 50s and early 60s? Couldn't you have regulated the big price-gougers in the system: the insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmaceutical manufacturers?

I have gotten to hate explaining to people on the right that this is the system they asked for, and debunking right-wing lies. I have gotten to hate explaining to people on the left that, yes, this is a rotten system and it is nonetheless an improvement. And I have gotten to hate explaining to my friends and family the reasons to sign up, even though it’s a crappy system and an extra expense.

The statistics of officer-involved shootings in the USA

No-one actually knows the statistics:

The only official source is voluntary reporting by police departments:

But US police kill more in days than other high-income countries police kill in years:

There is active opposition to compiling the data:

Lacking reliable data from official sources, there are various independent attempts to compile statistics:

The Guardian, Why We Must Keep Counting

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Notes on the Occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

The Bundy group seems to have hoped to spark an uprising of the radical right, but even the radical right thinks they're crazy. On the other hand, #BlackLivesMatter and Islamics are angry. They  see this lot of heavily armed cranks being treated with patience and wonder why people of color and/or Muslims are being beaten and shot for minor, or even no, infractions.

And could we please stop calling it "a federal building?" It's the headquarters of a remote bird sanctuary, not an FBI office. All the buildings on the site put together might be the size of a few houses.