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In the garden: Spring is here

I had intended to write something more elaborate, but then Baltimore happened. Here is my front garden, a few days ago. It's improved now!

See how discouraging mud season can be? My whole front garden is covered by what the passing plows throw up: That ginormous chunk of tar in the foreground, and then sand all over everything. Fortunately, the town does not use salt, or else the soil would be destroyed! And that box at top right? Read more about In the garden: Spring is here

Baltimore

NOTE Meditating changing the headline to "Baltimore: Day One." Nah. Let's be optimistic.

I'd hoped to re-introduce myself a bit more gracefully, but needs must. My Twitter list exploded, so a quick sitrep. Times are when I posted the info, not when the event described occurred. I'll go back and link in a bit after I survey matters:

UPDATE on Baltimore. From various sources I read:

1) Very heavy police presence today, including county police in addition to Baltimore’s. (This is often a very bad sign, since poor coordination between different forces leads to violence, certainly during Occupy Oakland.)

2) Incident where high schoolers pepper-sprayed tear-gassed on leaving school.

3) Clash between police and protesters after Freddie Gray funeral.

4) Hotels in Baltimore area being booked (implication: Those who can getting out/and or influx of protesters).

5) Family members tweeting advice on how to get out.

6) Tactical vehicles said to have been spotted.

7) Maryland governor [Hogan] declares state of emergency [[8:06PM]. This might not end well. Will be interesting to find out what people see from the windows of the Acela — which passes through Baltimore — tomorrow.

"This afternoon, a group of outrageous criminals attacked our officers. Right now, we have seven officers that have serious injuries, including broken bones, and one officer who is unconscious," Capt. Eric Kowalczyk told reporters.

Maybe. We'll have to see.

"This is not OK," Kowalczyk said. "You're going to see tear gas. You're going to see pepper balls. We're going to use appropriate methods to ensure that we're able to preserve the safety of that community."

Rocks, bricks. Pray god that's all.

* * *

Just to declare my priors, I'm an advocate of strategic non-violence. I'm not a Ghandian; I want to win, and I think that's the best way to get 80% of the population on "our side," without creating the conditions for "meet the new boss, same as the old boss." I'm also not a "worse is better" guy, i.e., I don't think "sharpening the contradictions" is always all to the good; I think worse is worse.

All that said, I liked what the son of the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, John Angelos (!) had to say in USA Today (!!), though in my book the first paragraph is a bit dogmatic:

Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

Now to round up some sourcing... My views evolve as I go, so cum grano salis.. . Read more about Baltimore

With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: An aristocracy of credentialism in the 20%

This paper, or pre-draft, or sketch, or whatever it is, started out with this title: "With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: An aristocracy of credentialism in the 20%." But then I realized I'd gotten in deeper than I thought -- one of those posts were the framework and the notes overwhelm the original idea -- and as it turns out its more noodling on set membership functions and identity politics. Nevertheless, the starting point is education, even if we end up somewhere else.

Except not! The post is too long, so I'm going to change my mind, and return to my original plan!

* * *

Previously we've urged this definition of conservatism:

What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?

Q: What is conservatism?

A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.

Q: What is wrong with conservatism?

A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world.

(The relationship or overlap between conservatism and neo-liberalism is a topic for another day.) Now, in the 20%, we can see an aristocracy developing based not on dynastic wealth, but by credentialled families and clans in the 20%. The Economist writes: Read more about With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: An aristocracy of credentialism in the 20%

With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Conrad Hughes Hilton III strutting around like The Compleat Asshole he has grown up to be

In the 12-Point Platform we advocate:

3. Tax the Rich

and we have also urged that one good reason for a steeply progressive effective tax rate is "for the psychological and spiritual well-being of the children of the rich themselves." Conrad Hughes Hilton III is one person who would clearly have benefited from the 12-Point Platform. He's an asshole, to be sure, but he's clearly troubled, and his family's inherited wealth is clearly part of the problem.

I'll spare you most of the detail on Paris Hilton's truly world-class in-flight meltdown, but here are some of the highlights. From NBC: Read more about With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Conrad Hughes Hilton III strutting around like The Compleat Asshole he has grown up to be

With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Handing over weapons caches to ticked-off locals who want to kill us

Via Nippersdad, the Guardian:

Chaos in Yemen has left the US military unable to monitor the vast arsenal it has spent years providing to its Yemeni counterpart.

To end the wars, end blowback. To end blowback, dismantle the self-licking ice cream cones

Given that the 12-Point Platform has this plank:

10. End the Wars

I've come to the conclusion, with a sense of dawning horror, that I actually have to develop some views on defense policy.* Which is complicated. However, since we're now entering the budget season, it seems natural to take a look at the defense budget. And leaving aside from squillion-dollar anecdotes, like the F-35 boondoggle, what seems really remarkable, to my naive eye, is that the Pentagon doesn't actually know what it's sending that trillion dollar budget on. In contrast, Obama just decided to publish yearly physican payment data under Medicare. OK, fine, but how come the Pentagon gets a pass when it comes to "yearly contractor payment data," anyhow?** Seems like a double standard...) Foreign Policy:

The Pentagon has never been audited, despite having a budget larger than any other federal agency anywhere in the world. Despite a coalition spanning Ralph Nader to Grover Norquist, the agency has resisted the fiscal accountability requirements imposed by law on every other branch of the government. The Defense Department has for years slow-rolled demands to get its books in order, though now claims to be on the verge of readiness to have independent auditors come in to inspect and validate its accounts. But signs of dysfunction, waste, and corruption persist, and a complete audit during the next two years is not guaranteed.

"Never been audited." What could go wrong? Read more about To end the wars, end blowback. To end blowback, dismantle the self-licking ice cream cones

With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Troops in Syria

I'm starting to sense a consensus congealing:

Lindsay Graham:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is considering a 2016 presidential bid, said on Sunday it would require 10,000 American "boots on the ground" to stop the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria.

Coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria won't destroy the group, but do help in some regard, Graham said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Yet more noodling on intersectionality (the 1%, the 20%, and the 80%)

Last post we developed a notation for classifying or categorizing people into classes (sets) using a set membership function; because it's so ubiquitous, we translated "white working class male" into an instance of the set membership function f(x; R, C, G) by "filling in the blanks" (parameters) for R (race), C (class) and G (gender) for our individual person, "J," thus: f(x; "white", "80%", "male") . Read more about Yet more noodling on intersectionality (the 1%, the 20%, and the 80%)

With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Humongous boondoggle weapons systems

Daily Beast:

New U.S. Stealth Jet Can’t Fire Its Gun Until 2019
The Pentagon’s newest stealth jet, the nearly $400 billion Joint Strike Fighter, won’t be able to fire its gun during operational missions until 2019, three to four years after it becomes operational.

Of course, the Air Force is trying to get rid of the A10 Warthog, which can fire a gun, with the F35. Read more about With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Humongous boondoggle weapons systems

With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Marijuana arrests. Take that, Loretta Lynch!

When in the 12-Point Platform we say:

#10: End the Wars

we mean all the wars, including the so-called War on Terror, and the so-called War on Drugs; all the self-licking ice cream cones. (Ending the War on Drugs, besides sparing many thousands of citizens from having an arrest on their permanent record, would also strike major blows at the streams of rental extraction controlled by the prison-industrial complex and the surveillance state.) Read more about With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Marijuana arrests. Take that, Loretta Lynch!

More noodling on intersectionality (more on the 1%, the 20%, and the 80%)

[UPDATE I realized I left the legend off Figure 2, so the colors in the Venn Diagram must have seemed random. They're pretty random anyhow, since in order to get the color to blend properly, I had to use beige to mean white, which is another instance of the fact that developing a sense of visualization and a visual vocabulary isn't all that easy. Anyway, if (a) anybody read this, and (b) reading it, found Figure 2 to be the source of bafflement, Figure 2 is improved. --lambert]

Some may think this series (part one) is dry.... To which I would respond so is the edge of a sword, until it's used....

If we think of the 80/20/1 as sets of people (classes), how do we figure out how to put one person in one set, and another in another?

Informally we might say with a litmus test: In the case before us, one litmus test is whether they purchase labor power (the 1%) or sell it (the 99%, with other litmus tests to classify the "pillars of the regime" into the 20% from the 80%)[1]. More formally, we might say, for "litmus test," "set membership function," as we see in Figure 1. And as you can see, I'm still learning to sketch (and might even have to give up, or learn both to draw, and especially to print and/or write, better): Read more about More noodling on intersectionality (more on the 1%, the 20%, and the 80%)

With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: College students sleeping in their cars to avoid debt

This story from 2014 made my blood boil. Here it is again:

Josiah Corbin spent a lot of weeknights over the past four years sleeping in his car in a Walmart parking lot.

Thanks in part to his routine, the 23-year-old will graduate from the University of Maine with a biology degree, and without debt, on Saturday.

Corbin, a fifth-year student who took his last exam Thursday, got a work-study job in his second year of school that kept him on campus late — sometimes past midnight. His family’s Dover-Foxcroft home is about an hour drive from the UMaine campus. Once he decided on a science major, he found many of his required classes were only available at 8 a.m., which meant very little sleep, especially when he had to factor in drive time and studying.

Corbin didn’t get as much financial aid as he hoped and didn’t want to incur student debt over his next four years of school. So he made an unusual decision — hunker down in the car.

He started out sleeping in a parking lot near Alfond Arena on campus, curling up in his car, a rusted-out 1987 Toyota Corolla. By pulling out his front passenger’s seat, he was able to lay down a small “mattress,” which isn’t much more than a body pillow. By wrapping up in a couple of sleeping bags, he was able to make himself “relatively cozy.”

After a few weeks in a UMaine parking lot, police found Corbin in his car late one night and told him he couldn’t sleep in his vehicle there. So Corbin relocated to Walmart in Bangor, which has a relatively steady population of overnight sleepers, according to Corbin. Some come in recreational vehicles, others in their cars. A surprising number of them, especially in warmer months, are from Canada, he said.

Walmart policy allows recreational vehicles to park in its lots as space allows, but the policy doesn’t say anything about people sleeping in cars. Walmart says on its website that sleepover policies and regulations largely are up to individual stores and local laws. Corbin said no one from Walmart ever bothered him about sleeping there overnight in his car.

Corbin estimates he probably saved about $8,000 per year avoiding room-and-board costs, avoiding a meal plan and cutting down his commute. That works out to $32,000 through the course of his college career, most of which he would have needed loans to cover.

Tell me its not a great country! Read more about With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: College students sleeping in their cars to avoid debt

Noodling on intersectionality (more on the 1%, the 20%, and the 80%)

Still trying to learn to sketch. However, my handwriting, bad with pen and paper, is horrific with an iPad and a stylus, so herewith a digital version of the initial assumption:

Class, in other words, is "vertical"; the others are "horizontal." This is a restatement of the 80/20/1 framework discussed here. I'll try a sketch that has fewer words: Read more about Noodling on intersectionality (more on the 1%, the 20%, and the 80%)

A Post Office Bank and the Democrats (Part II)

This is the second part of a two-part post that explores the rationale for a Post Office Bank, #8 of the 12 Point Platform:

8. Post Office Bank

which I started working on because I thought it would be easy, instead of doing more work on #1: A Living Wage, which entails a definition of wage labor as a social relation. Anyhow, Part I of this post was a potted history of the Post Office, and it's good I just set the bar low there with "explores," because when I wrote Part I, I didn't yet know about Save the Post Office, and so along with a lot of other excellent material I missed these two excellent long-form backgrounders:

I don't think it will come as a surprise to anyone here that the Post Office privatizers are full of shit; what came as a surprise to me is just how full of shit they really are. Read those two pieces; you'll see too.

Part I took us all the way to 2012, where there was an interesting but all-too-temporary Post Office Bank boomlet (link, link, and link for example) touched off by this report (PDF) from the Post Office Inspector General[1] (and not, mind you, the neo-liberal infested USPS management). For our purposes, we can reduce the report to four points. From the 2014 version: Read more about A Post Office Bank and the Democrats (Part II)

With the 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Payday loan ripoffs

[I've sworn off reacting to the news on a daily basis, because it keeps me reactive, and that's a distraction from the 12 Point Platform, which is what I really want to work on, am working on, and is a book-length effort. However, the "theory of everything" posts to back up each point take a lot of work, as chapters in books do, and the consequent absence of posting doesn't keep the hot air balloon at the altitude I prefer, i.e., not crashing into the ground. So, I'll try to react to the news at least once daily, but framing the post so that it advances the 12 Points. New editorial formula! --lambert]

Payday loans are grossly usorious. MLive:

Using names like Check 'n Go, Cash Advance and Payday Loans, there are companies throughout Detroit and beyond that specialize in immediate, high-cost, shot-term loans with interest rates often reaching 30 percent or more.*

"Michigan is one of 35 states across the country that authorizes payday lending in some form," Michigan United said in a statement Monday. "While some states and cities have worked to put a stop to predatory lending, federal laws still largely allow payday lenders to prey on vulnerable communities and benefit from borrowers' financial hardship - with annual interest rates that routinely reach 400 percent or more."

Michigan United says the industry thrives on the poor, entraps them in a "cycle of debt."....

A Google search for of payday loan centers yields nearly 70 such businesses located in Detroit, some operating 24 hours a day. Their loans are accessible online with automatic bank deposits. In-person cash loans are available at on-site locations.

Most require proof of a steady income and establishment of a bank account before loan approval

So you can imagine the problems the precariat has, let alone the System D people, or the millions without a bank account in the first place. And lest it be though the "new economy" and "big data" haven't notices, check this out from the New York Times: Read more about With the 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Payday loan ripoffs

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