Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Crips and the Bloods could not whip a decent paying Ronald McDonald

I read Wilson's When Work Disappears and Venkatesh's American Project simultaneously. Wilson's narrative ends around 1980 when the minimum wage still paid $7.75/hr in today's dollars. Venkatesh's book went on into the 80s and 90s when the minimum wage dropped to the 1939 level (.30/hr adjusted).

The projects were a place of hope as Wilson's story started out, before -- reasonably paying -- work disappeared. The projects ended in gang infested hell as the minimum wage virtually disappeared to a pay level that American born workers would show up for.

My contention is that if American labor looked after its interests in the robust way that European labor does -- especially with Americans' greater tendency to be workaholics -- that the jobs left behind would have paid more than enough to keep hell from taking over urban minority life. IOW, the Crips and the Bloods could not whip a decent paying Ronald McDonald.

One Chicago U. economist found that drug dealing only pays about $10/hr for all but the very top leaders (even the economist's gang leader lived with his mother). Who would choose that over the European minimum wage (also the 1968 American minimum wage) of $9.50/hr -- supplemented in Europe with paid vacations, holidays, maternity leave, etc., etc., plus paid medical -- AND NO JAIL?

Enough money is here somewhere -- just as enough is enough in Europe (where people work one-third less (many fewer hours X many fewer family members working) -- to pay Americans enough to free all from ghetto hell (remember: the schools wont work if the parents wont work; and American born parents wont work if you don't pay them enough).

The US Census family income survey says top-fifth families AVERAGE $176,000 a year. But the survey contains a check box marked "over one million dollars" -- which means the survey "top-codes" all income over a million out of its report. Adjusting for that (by matching family growth with un-coded per-capita income growth) gives me more like $250,000 AVERAGE income for the top-fifth.

I hardly need point out that one out of five families in the US are not earning anywhere near this level (unless they live in lower Manhattan, where wealth is a plateau not a pinnacle).

Much more to the point: $250,000 a year is the average pay of the better paying medical specialties. $150,000 is the average income of today's primary care providers (the latter down 10% from 1995 to 2003 -- while average income in the US grew 12%).

Average income climbs 10-15% every decade (not even counting the free advances of technology) -- while 95-99% of American incomes stand still or go down -- and are going to keep standing still or going down until Americans realize they have to organize labor here the modern every-where-else-in-the-world way: some kind of legally mandated, sector-wide, labor agreements.

The Newt Gingrich, Chicken Littles of the world call every progressive European innovation "socialism". Interestingly, right-wing Europeans have no objections to strong unionization -- but only carp about over-regulation (cannot fire anyone) and over-welfare (automatically on the dole if out of work) as they should.

Just keep saying to yourself, over and over: "The Crips and the Bloods could not whip a decent paying Ronald McDonald", "The Crips and the Bloods could not whip a decent paying Ronald McDonald", and you will know all you need to know about untangling the multi-factor web of deep-seated urban pathologies. :-)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

One hundred million addicts saved?

The drug war:
One million prisoners doing hard time at any given time.
More millions have done hard time at one time.
Perhaps ten million with life ruining, unnecessary felony convictions -- even if they did not go to jail.

One hundred million addicts saved? Maybe not one.

A "very enlightened" policy whereby we threaten to ruin your life: we will break up your family, we will take waste your years, we will make you unemployable thereafter -- if you take the chance of ruining your life using a dangerous drug.

Meantime back at the economy: we have had a 1939 level federal minimum wage level ($4.50/hr, w/no taxes in FDR's era -- adjusted for inflation) to combine with the prohibition. What do we naturally get?: street gangs selling prohibited substances. Only difference between the today and the '30s: the gangs are African-American and Latino instead of Irish, Italian and Jewish.

What a wonderful set of ass-backwards policies.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

In defense of the Vietnam War

I think those who strongly oppose the Vietnam war or the war in Iraq mostly don’t want to watch war on television. I think if withdrawing from Iraq, for instance, would mean seeing three times as much violence on TV (there would certainly BE three times as much) they would be much less vehement. To be frank, I don’t think most of them would have supported the Civil War to free the slaves if they had to watch it on television – least of all would they have sent their kids to fight in it “that horrible mess”.

I think they just cannot understand how war could make any sense from the perspective of their rich, symbol manipulating (IOW, normal modern?) existences – have a lot harder time understanding anyway.

To fully understand Vietnam you have to look from the perspective of the time: 20 years before the decision year (1965) two little fascist nations almost took over the world (mostly Germany – we only directed 15% of our own war effort at Japan). Now, the two big communist nations that the two little fascist countries could not bite off were coming for us – one with 11 times zones; the other with a billion people; both with thermonuclear arms. Neither Kruschev nor Mao made any secret of their intention to “bury us”.

PS. At the time the Soviet economy was growing 7% a year to our 3% (as far as we knew) -- the Russkies were graduating twice as many scientists and engineers as we were – and they ahead of us in space and in jet engine technology (as far as we knew -- our intercontinental bomber had 8 little engines to their 4 big ones). In 1965, communism was at high tide.

In strategic terms, Ho’s invasion of the South represented the craziest communist dictator willing to kill millions of his own people to add on a little bit of communist real estate. Our fear: if the democracies rolled over and did not put up a fight, we might face every less crazy communist leader comming out of the woodwork to try to take over the real estate next to his.

More widely, we could expect every “Che” in the world to step up his attempt at home based revolution. You may remember LBJ’s recorded phone remarks that he was afraid if he let go in Nam “the communists might chase you right back to your kitchen.” Don’t forget: the psychological is to the physical as three is to one – just to keep folks on our side we felt compelled to win the race to the moon; we feared backing away from a fight could have far reaching consequences too.

PS. The “big lesson” of WWII – which I have only realized is bunk lately – is that if Chamberlain had not “appeased” Hitler, there would never have been any WWII – obviously if the guy was going to invade Russia there was going to be war.

Is this going on too long?: it is the justification for a way that killed 60,000 of us – and millions of dead Vietnamese.

By 1975, when we lost locally, we were winning globally (even if the locals weren’t) – communism was receding.

The best portrayal I have seen of the struggle with communism over those ten years is Thomas Lipscomb’s “Prosperous Southeast Asia Proof the U.S. Did Not Fight In Vain”. Note: the free Southeast Asia nations are the ones that showed the world (including China) how to raise the poorest people in the world to near Western prosperity.

Oh, did I forget, after all this – definitely too long – we might have won the war after all but then threw it all away. Seems that for the last three years the South Vietnam Army took over all the ground fighting – AND WE CRAZILY (!!!) WITHDREW THEIR FINANCIAL SUPPORT AND THEIR AIR SUPPORT. Congress was upset so we took our bat and ball and went home. According to a book by ex-CIA employee Frank Snepp, Decent Interval, we had a guy on the politobureau in the North who reported they voted to throw in the towel after Nixon’s Hanoi bombing – but when they realized the South had to ration how many bullets a soldier could fire a day, etc., they started up all over again.

Saving the best (policy) for last, there was a proposition to call up the reserves and send four times as many troops (two million – saw this in Glenn… ). This would have ended it all fast and relatively bloodlessly, if very expensively.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Is Israel just a big Jewish neighborhood -- or a real county?

Is Israel just a big Jewish neighborhood -- or a real county?

I am afraid that after two thousand years of going without a country Jews no longer know what to do with one when they've got one (some might claim "got one back"). After two thousand years on the move, maybe all they can think is: "neighborhood", "neighborhood", "neighborhood".

How else to explain well fed -- liberal -- Israelis living complacently down the road from painfully poorer Arabs within Israel proper: the Arabs seeming to them more from unrelated neighborhoods than from any overall society.

Ditto for settlements in the occupied territories -- just more neighborhoods. If poor Arabs are not content to be poor somewhere else (move down the road; "How much difference can that make?"), but actually have the temerity to fight back (if often immorally -- but who invented the truck bomb?), they are always terrorists, never patriots.

The geopolitical concept of "sovereign-territory invading sovereign-territory" endlessly eludes Israelis where Palestine is concerned -- which is why the dots between Israel's American giant military/political/economic support and mad (by both definitions) Arabs blowing holes in New York City fail to connect also (Americans by and large fail to connect the dots, too -- 2 far for 20/20 vision?).

Word to Israel: You have been away for two thousand years. Two, two hundred year old technologies have "lately" altered the psychic landscape: the railroad and the telegraph, which made national borders feel both much less flexible and much more "sacred".

Back when the furthest you could extend your personal influence was how far you could ride your horse in one day (if you could afford a horse), the further reaches of your political realm might seem like the far side of the moon -- life was mostly "neighborhood". The railroad and the telegraph pulled the continental US together to the point where African slavery that was tolerated in the North in 1800 had become too close for psychic comfort by 1850.

The medium could be the message in the nineteenth century, too.

If Israelis ever get the message -- to go along with their country -- they will at last heed the need to cease, 24/7/365/40, provoking a billion-plus potential Palestinian adherents to wage violent jihad against David -- and his big friend Goliath.
If I were President of the United States I would send the Marines into Gaza to liberate that country. There being no Israeli troops there, the most important intention would be to develop the psychological concept of Gaza as a real country who can invite whomever it pleases.

I would follow that up by sending American or coalition troops into the West Bank (by Palestinian invitation) to promote the same psychic-geopolitical notion there. Israeli troops would not dare to fire on American troops -- geopolitical suicide.

Coalition troops would open the Israeli-only highway system to all (except perhaps one day a week when it would run only one-way: out), end check-points, allow Palestinians to drill water wells wherever they would, block new settlements of course and most importantly move all Israeli military without a shot being fired...

...all of which should make continued residence untenable for the great majority of Israeli settlers -- without so much as addressing a word to them.

I don't believe that Palestinians would harm a hair on Israeli settlers' heads -- at first; while waiting on a negotiated shake-out. I take the Palestinians to be the easiest people on earth to get along with -- after ever mounting Israeli abuse all they seem to ask is to be left alone. I suspect the Irish would have stormed Tel Aviv, by now, swinging broom sticks if that were all they had, if they had been subject a tenth of the same abuse (authority: I have 5 Irish grandparents counting my mother's step-mother).

My method would be to "fester" -- not "force". All would be calculated to firmly establish in Israeli psyches that the West Bank and Gaza are in fact another country -- not Israel's outback. The psychological can outweigh the physical as three is to one when opposing an illegal occupation, too.

How hard would it be for settlers to move back to Israel? How hard was it to move to the West Bank in the first place -- or would it be to move to Brooklyn? Moving would be much cheaper in the long run than maintaining as many tanks at the ready as Western NATO and the US armies combined -- on 1% of the population base -- and infinitely less costly to the Western liberal psyche.

Maybe the settlers might not have to go; not all anyway -- as long as the Palestinians held complete sovereignty and control. Seems a shame to waste all that nice real estate development that Palestinians could not afford to keep up, when both sides can profit. Perhaps the poorer Palestinians will rent the settlements back to the richer Israelis; maybe not even to the same Israelis; maybe to all comers; all the market will bear (and sell the Israelis the water resources they have been raiding, too)! Could mean a humongous amount of money for third world Palestinians to catch up on lost development with and hopefully not too much for first world Israelis to fork over (hey; this is the Middle East; you bargain) -- all hinging on the Palestinians keeping total and absolute control.