Jun 032020
 

Just recently I have seen some posts from right-wing nut-jobs (or racist fascists) declaring that according to their statistics, there isn’t an imbalance between deaths to whites by the police and deaths to blacks by the police. At least one of which looked at shootings by the police which is kind of missing the point; and leaving half of the killings out.

So I had a look at digging up some statistics myself which turned out to be somewhat more difficult than I imagined. It seems that recent data is difficult to find – not least because not all states report on these killings.

The figures I have are from 2003-2009 :-

|         | Deaths in Custody |
| White   | 2026 |
| Black   | 1529 |
| Hispanic|  949 |
| Other   |  150 |
| Unknown |  159 |
| Total   | 4813 |

(Source: Table 3 of https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ard0309st.pdf)

So according to these figures, more whites get killed by the police than blacks; ignoring the racial issue for the moment, why is this not a problem on its own? The UK had a high of 23 deaths in custody in 2017; multiply this by 7 to get the same number of years and you get 161 deaths in custody over the same number of years (actually an overestimate).

But the UK is so much smaller? Okay we’ll compensate for the population disparity – multiply that figure by the US population (330 million) divided by the UK population (63 million). Which comes out to multiplying out UK deaths in custody figure by about 5.2 – coming out to 843 deaths in custody compared to 4813.

So the US police kill at almost six times the rate of the British police – the US has a serious problem even before considering race.

According to Wikipedia (also the source for the population figures), 72% of the population of the USA is white and (to meet the demands of my laziness) 28% is non-white. So let us calculate what the deaths in custody figures would be if they were in proportion of the racial mix :-

| | Percentage | Proportional Deaths in Custody | Actual DiC |
| White     | 72% | 3465 | 2026 |
| Non-white | 28% | 1348 | 2787 |

Now this is a rather simplistic analysis, but shows that the USA not only has a problem with their police using excessive force against all segments of society, but has a particular problem with anyone who isn’t white.

Now this isn’t a proper analysis – just a quick back of the envelope calculation. And there are plenty of problems with this analysis; not least is the dated nature of the figures.

But it should at least be reasonably obvious that anyone claiming there isn’t a racial bias in police killings is off their rocker or has a racist axe to grind.

Jun 012020
 

You could think that it all started with the killing of George Floyd; you would be wrong. There has long been a problem with extra-judicial killings by the police in a number of US cities for a long time.

Not all police forces, and not all of the police. But enough to qualify this killing as one of many.

Racism in the police? In many cases I tend to argue that “something” may not be racism but more to do with letting “sociopaths” be in control of the hierarchical capitalist economic system. Not that I am necessarily right, but it can be a point worth considering.

But in this case? It’s hard to argue against it in this case.

But it isn’t just racism; some of the police initiated incidents during the protests have targeted white people as well. Leading to the suspicion that some police regard themselves in some situations as above the law and willing to go too far in controlling certain segments of the community.

The community they are supposed to serve.

Just to highlight just a few incidents :-

  1. Arresting a news team where the journalist was black.
  2. Indiscriminate use of rubber bullets which has led to a photojournalist being blinded in one eye, and another journalist receiving minor injuries.
  3. Firing a tear gas round directly at a news camera.
  4. Drive-by attack on peaceful protestors with pepper spray.

Of course it hasn’t all been bad from the police.

Pitchfork Politics

A part of the community has been targeted by the police for a long time and that part of the community (the black community) has been protesting about that for a long time. And apparently ignored all the time.

If part of a community has a grievance that cannot be settled through conventional politics, they will resort to protest politics and eventually pitchfork politics.

We have seen something along those lines with the widespread disturbances in the US over the last week. There are numerous aspects to these :-

Not all protests have resulted in arson and looting, but some have. And despite the impression that some of the media portrayed, protestors don’t all set buildings on fire (it’ll be a tiny minority) and protestors won’t be looting (again a tiny minority – very often people who didn’t take part in the protest at all). Protestors have been known to complain about looting and violence.

Violence is never good, but if you think that property damage is more important than violence against the person then you are part of the problem.

Peaceful protests get ignored. If you ignore a complaint by part of the community repeatedly and for years if not decades, then you can expect violent protests. The more you ignore and abuse a part of the community, the more you can expect some to turn to the “cleansing purity of violence”.

This is after all the recipe for a violent revolution.

There are also indications that the violence and the looting is carried out by people other than the protesters. There is a) an arrested arsonist with white-supremacist tattoos, and b) rumours that white-supremacists are speaking about “getting their loot on”.

America: You have a problem, and it has nothing to do with burning buildings and looted shops. Restoring order won’t do a damn thing. Are you going to leave this problem to your children or your grandchildren?

May 272020
 

For the benefit of those tuning in late, or to refresh the memories of those coming back to this years later, Dominic Cummings (Boris Johnson’s chief political advisor) has been caught breaching lockdown restrictions whilst ill with the coronavirus.

Now there are those who believe he did nothing wrong; they’re idiots but it is no longer a question of what he did or didn’t do, or whether it was against the regulations themselves, or whether it was against the spirit of the regulations. Or even if he put other people at risk.

Although it is worth pointing out that as his wife was already sick with coronavirus he was not supposed to leave the house for any reason.

No, now it is the response that is more significant.

If Dom and his buddy Boris had responded sensibly – admitted that it was wrong, and Dom had resigned – that would be fine. Or at least no worse than we expect from the Tories.

But to claim that he did nothing wrong when to most of us it has all the appearance of one rule for us and quite another for the Tory toffs, is just inflaming the situation.

Dumb move by a political advisor!

Apr 102020
 

… is a slogan invented by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Frequently used and abused by those with no clear understanding of what it means.

The first thing to note is that it is just a slogan and a nineteenth century slogan at that. It isn’t necessary for it to be taken literally.

Secondly it does not refer to all property but specifically to land ownership, and needs to be understood in the context of nineteenth century grand estates owned by aristocrats.

Aristocrats had built up huge estates over many centuries; and not always by simply buying it. Feudal land grants from kings were originally more like rents – “I give you this land for your lifetime; in return you owe me military service to include 10 knights and 200 men at arms when I call”. Originally for a lifetime but gradually became inheritable and the military service that was owed as “rent”? That gradually faded away as kings found more professional armies were more reliable.

Laws were often arranged to protect large land holdings – for instance Scotland had a law that protected estates from being broken up and sold off during bankruptcy – effectively protecting the fundamental wealth of an aristocratic family from their creditors.

Lastly those close to the bottom of the rung of the rural community who saw in just a few short generations change from protected feudal client (roughly the equivalent of a tenant farmer) through to a day worker who could be discarded on a moment’s notice. At the same time, enclosures took away “common land” (which every member of the community could use for grazing, etc.) and gave it to local land owners.

In a real sense, this is where the notion that property is theft comes from – in many ways, although legally done, land was in some cases stolen.

When you come down to it, is it any wonder 19th century radicals were steaming at the ears at the land ownership of the elites?

But Today?

But is it still relevant or appropriate today?

Well yes and no. Certainly as a campaigning slogan it does apply. 

In the intervening decades, a number of laws have been introduced to mitigate the worst aspects of the landlord (in the most general sense of the word) tenant relationship, but there are still many, many opportunities for abuse.

It is one thing when a landlord is the owner of one or two properties and quite another when a landlord owns a large enough portfolio of properties to distort the local market. And in my history of renting homes, the later is far more common than the former (although this might be peculiar to my location). 

One of the biggest problems is that property prices (and rents) have inflated far faster than salaries (or wages) which is fundamentally a problem of supply and demand. Supply is always going to be limited (creating new land is rare).

Demand is split into property investment by the rich, and homes for everyone. The former limits the supply for the later, and in the case of property shortages (and excess costs), it is arguably true that the former should be suppressed in some manner.

Hypothetically

Before considering how to get from a world of private ownership of property to a world where that doesn’t exist, let us consider how a world without land ownership might work.

Land could be “owned” by the community as a whole, and a lifetime tenancy granted to people with an appropriate use case. With an appropriate rent owed – a monthly payment, profit share, etc.

At the end of the leasehold (when the leaseholder dies or gives up the lease for whatever reason), the community compensates the leaseholder for improvements – buildings constructed, land improvements, etc.  And the leaseholder compensates the community for any neglect of the land (and any buildings on it) – environmental, necessary repairs, etc. 

The community could look at any land returned to it and make decisions on such matters as whether it should be sub-divided – is a 6-bedroom house on a half-acre of land suitable for an inner city?

There are undoubtedly problems large and small with a solution to land such as this; but there are problems large and small with our current solution to land.

Whilst we have tinkered with land ownership rights and wrongs, we have not yet thrown the rulebook away and started again. Don’t give up on the idea just because it is not done the way it has “always been done”.

 

The Red Door
Mar 212020
 

Now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic (or close to the beginning of it), everyone is proclaiming health care workers to be heroes. Not that I disagree.

But if they’re heroes, why have you been cutting their pay for the last ten years? For seven years there was a 1% cap on cost of living pay increases, which came to an end with a 6.5% increase over three years – which is nowhere near enough to make up for the shortfall.

Today a nurse is earning less in real terms (i.e. stuff he can buy) than a nurse earned in 2008.

Is this how you treat heros?

Now we are not individually responsible for taking a few more of life’s little luxuries away each year, but collectively we are.

So make a resolution: Never under any circumstances vote for a Tory ever again.

Solitary Windsurfing
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