The Coming Race War Won’t Be About Race

writes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Yes, that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And he simply nails it, by calling out how the racism discussion is/will be a smoke-screen:

[U]nless we want the Ferguson atrocity to also be swallowed and become nothing more than an intestinal irritant to history, we have to address the situation not just as another act of systemic racism, but as what else it is: class warfare.

By focusing on just the racial aspect, the discussion becomes about whether Michael Brown’s death—or that of the other three unarmed black men who were killed by police in the U.S. within that month—is about discrimination or about police justification. Then we’ll argue about whether there isn’t just as much black-against-white racism in the U.S. as there is white-against-black. (Yes, there is. But, in general, white-against-black economically impacts the future of the black community. Black-against-white has almost no measurable social impact.)

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Posted in democracy, gender, media, Modes of control, oligarchy, Racism, Sexism | Leave a comment

“Sharing economy” is a euphemism for exploitation

CBS has a post up titled 5 ways the “sharing” economy works against workers. For those who don’t know, “sharing economy” refers to companies like AirBnB and Uber that have non-employees rent out private property like appartments or cars, and services and successfully skim off the top. The AirBnB-founder tries to coopt the terminology of Couch Surfing and use it as a shield. Yet, as CBS points out, this is just a great way of exploiting people:

Stability. One key difference between traditional employers and the Internet companies pioneering the sharing economy is that the latter can’t promise their employees steady income.
Income.[…]But such numbers can be deceiving. Companies may mention top-end pay or a gross amount for all workers. In fact, the pay for gigs appears not only far more modest, but often nowhere near a living wage.

Meanwhile, even when the cash seems good, much of the cost of running the business falls on workers.
Benefits. Most employers in the sharing economy don’t offer benefits because the drivers, maids and other workers in these industries aren’t employees.
Control. The companies that provide such services often emphasize the control people have over their time, and for some workers that flexibility can be a major plus. Yet unpredictable hours and unstable income can undermine that autonomy.
Protection. A key advantage for companies like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb is that they are largely, if not entirely, unregulated. Yet that is starting to change. Municipalities and states around the U.S. are now weighing whether and how to level the playing field. The legal and regulatory repercussions could end up falling more heavily on the drivers, renters and other individuals who participate in a given sector than on the tech companies providing the online framework for business.

So if you have the choice, spurn those companies’ offers – especially so if you try and shop exploitation-aware in other contexts, for instance trying to buy Fairtrade or organic.

Posted in exploitation, health benefits, Modes of control, workers' rights | Leave a comment

Of the idiocy of turning algorithms into law

Lambert is writing at Naked Capitalism about Algorithmic Regulation, “Code is Law,” and the Case of Ferguson. It’s a good deconstruction and should definitely be read but I had my facepalm-moment at the start of the piece when he quotes Tim O’Reilly:

Laws should specify goals, rights, outcomes, authorities, and limits. If specified broadly, those laws can stand the test of time.

Regulations, which specify how to execute those laws in much more detail, should be regarded in much the same way that programmers regard their code and algorithms, that is, as a constantly updated toolset to achieve the outcomes specified in the laws….

Increasingly, our interactions with businesses, government, and the built environment are becoming digital, and thus amenable to creative forms of measurement [one hopes not “creative” in the way creative accounting is creative], and ultimately algorithmic regulation….

There are many good examples of data collection, measurement, analysis, and decision-making taking hold in government. In New York City, data mining was used to identify correlations between illegal apartment conversions and increased risk of fires, leading to a unique cooperation between building and fire inspectors.

It’s important to understand that these manual interventions are only an essential first step. Once you understand that you have actionable data being systematically collected, and that your interventions based on that data are effective, it’s time to begin automating those interventions.

[A] successful algorithmic regulation system has the following characteristics:

  1. A deep understanding[2] of the desired outcome
  2. Real-time measurement to determine if that outcome is being achieved
  3. Algorithms (i.e. a set of rules) that make adjustments based on new data
  4. Periodic, deeper analysis of whether the algorithms themselves are correct and performing as expected.

This is absolutely mind-boggling! Any data mining researcher who has ever given this some thought agrees that such algorithms are only the tools and that the ways they can be employed (or are forbidden from being employed) have to be laid down in a political process.

And here is someone from outside who believes it should be the other way around…

Posted in belief systems, machine learning and data mining, techno utopianism | Leave a comment

Taxing consumers reduces growth – still!

So, the Japanese prime minister Abe proposed a bastard-Keynesian program for getting Japan out of its stagflation, nick-named Abenomics. But because he still effectively thinks neo-liberally, the program included a consumption tax increase to “balance the budget” (while at the same time reducing corporate taxes, of course).

Bill Mitchell has predicted for past such actions that they would reduce economic growth and was right.

And, as was to be expected by anybody in touch with reality, this has happened again:

  1. GDP contracted by 1.7pc between April and June, after a revised 1.5pc expansion in the first quarter after a consumer buying binge ahead of the increase.
  2. This translates to an annualised contraction of 6.8pc, but was less than the 7.1pc economists were expecting following the VAT rise in April, so the Nikkei edged up 0.2pc.
  3. With the exception of flat growth in the last quarter of 2013, this is the first quarterly contraction in nearly two years.
  4. Household or private consumption, which accounts for about 60pc of the economy, fell 5pc.
  5. Household investment shrank by 10.3pc, business investment fell only 2.5pc.

This happens so reliably, and we have had so many “natural experiments” since 2007/2008 that one would think that this is accepted wisdom by now. Well, one would be wrong:

9. Abe wants to raise taxes again to 10pc next year but he faces criticism over the pace of his efforts to shake up the highly regulated and protected economy.

Posted in austerity, belief systems, economic policy, macroeconomics, MMT, neo-liberalism | Leave a comment

Collective punishment in Eastern Ukraine

Ok, now we see the purpose of the “Russian invasion under humanitarian disguise claims”:

  1. the Ukrainian army has already declared that dead civilians in Donezk due to Ukrainian shelling are the responsibility of the rebels for placing rocket launchers in residential areas (otherwise known as the “Gaza gambit”),
  2. and now the “fear of invasion” is used to make sure that no humanitarian goods can get into Donezk, adding to the collective punishment inflicted (also a much-used technique in Gaza).
Posted in civil war, geostrategy, media, military interventions, warfare | Leave a comment

The vegan myth of a B12 Eden

I am currently in the process of transitioning to a vegan life style. My reasons are ethical and environmental and those reasons have firmed themselves due to the advocacy of my wife. Nutrition-wise there’s almost no problem with being vegan: all essential amino acids can be found in plant-based foods, if one pays a bit of attention one gets enough protein, and so that’s that.

The only thing that needs supplementation is B12 vitamin because it only occurs in animal products. Interestingly though, it is produced by bacteria, not synthesized directly, which is the reason that humans need to consume it. Not a big deal, though, B12 gets produced by bacteria colonies and can be added to foods or taken as a supplemental pill.

So far so good but there is a vegan myth about B12 that bothers me. That myth goes something like this: in the past, the B12-synthesizing bacteria were plentiful in the soil, so that if one ate produce that had not been washed too thoroughly, one got the B12 one needed. Nowadays, however, produce gets cleaned too thoroughly, and anyway, the over-fertilization and/or use of pesticides has leeched the soil of the bacteria, making this unfeasible.
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Posted in environmental sustainability, evolution, pseudo-science | Leave a comment

NFL: reflecting barbaric mores

As Shutdown Corner points out, the NFL has upped their abysmal handling of the Rice situation (my emphasis):

The NFL is still being criticized for giving Ray Rice a light, two-game suspension, as well it should.

The league did a really poor job explaining why the Ravens running back got a surprisingly short suspension for an incident in which he allegedly knocked his fiancee (now his wife) unconscious and dragged her in an Atlantic City casino. One possible explanation is that NFL punishment was lighter because Rice avoided trial in his case by accepting a deal in which he entered a pretrial diversion program.

Now we get to a fairly apples vs. apples argument, and that’s with the one-game suspension of Bills linebacker Nigel Bradham.

What did Bradham do to get his suspension? Injure another person? Put someone in harm’s way? Physically abuse a female companion? Nah, he had a little bit of marijuana on him.

Bradham was charged last year for marijuana possession. He wasn’t even arrested because the amount he had was so small. The charges were dropped. Yet, the NFL took it upon itself to protect the masses from the horrible, heinous crime of marijuana possession (legal in two states) and suspended Bradham to ensure the image of the league remains pristine.

So let’s get this straight. Possessing a small amount of marijuana with charges dropped? Short suspension. Beating your wife or fiancee? Short suspension. If Bradham’s marijuana charges weren’t dropped, what does he get, four games?

That’s basically the conservative mind set, and one that still holds sway in US laws and politics (and not only there, large parts of Europe haven’t progressed much either).

Posted in conservativism, drug prohibition, gender, gendered violence, Hypocrisy, professional sports, Sexism | Leave a comment