The poverty trap

As far as some of the recent property damage in Baltimore goes, Slate's article Why the CVS Burned: The rioting in Baltimore wasn’t hooliganism. It was a protest against the depredations of the ghetto economy.. The complaint seems to be basically the following:

... when I look at the Baltimore riots of the past week, I see something more complicated than mere hooliganism. To me, the riots reflect fury not just at the police, but at the constraints of the ghetto’s retail economy, where the poor pay more. As I see it, the indignity of being roughed up by the cops is of a piece with not being able to afford to shop in your own neighborhood. ... Economists have found that prices for consumer goods can be as much as 15 percent higher for the poor.

The article also talked about stores offering credit being amongst the most targeted, with people feeling resentment over high interest rates. And then there was this comment:

Services that might be free for the middle class cost real money for the poor, whittling away at their already low incomes.

Despite being argued as one of the better ways to improve the lives of the poor,
microfinance loans also have quite high interest rates. It's unfortunately difficult to serve the poor without losing money.

The crime associated with ghettos also makes it difficult for businesses to operate there:

Crime prevents businesses from thriving by generating instability and uncertainty (at micro and macroeconomic levels). This is true in markets of all sizes, national, regional, municipal and even neighborhood-al (okay the word doesn’t exist). That's why having a business in a ghetto is rarely a good idea.

Baltimore's mayor spoke in the original article linked above of how hard the city had to work to make CVS willing to invest in a pharmacy in the area, one now looted and destroyed in the rioting. The destruction can't help CVS's future property insurance premiums. In this case rioting to protest higher prices and interest rates demanded by businesses in the area seems likely to make the area an even less compelling location for businesses to invest in in the future. The poverty trap continues.

What social justice / civil rights activism sounded like back in 1895

Meet Ida Wells, a campaigner against lynching and in favour of female suffrage. Her words:

It is a well established principle of law that every wrong has a remedy. Herein rests our respect for law. The Negro does not claim that all of the one thousand black men, women and children, who have been hanged, shot and burned alive during the past ten years, were innocent of the charges made against them. We have associated too long with the white man not to have copied his vices as well as his virtues. But we do insist that the punishment is not the same for both classes of criminals. In lynching, opportunity is not given the Negro to defend himself against the unsupported accusations of white men and women. The word of the accuser is held to be true and the excited blood-thirsty mob demands that the rule of law be reversed and instead of proving the accused to be guilty, the victim of their hate and revenge must prove himself innocent. No evidence he can offer will satisfy the mob; he is bound hand and foot and swung into eternity. Then to excuse its infamy, the mob almost invariably reports the monstrous falsehood that its victim made a full confession before he was hanged.

It seems to me that a lot of what passes for social justice activism these days is almost diametrically opposed to the above, though I think the above standard is a good one to aim for.

It doesn't deny that a lot of those accused of an offence are probably guilty, yet it attempts to hear all sides of the case rather than jumping to conclusions and also seeks to treat all equally.

Random links

Israel won't recognize Armenian genocide, says ambassador
Turkey is one of the few Muslim-majority Arab countries that Israel gets along with semi-well which probably explains this decision. Still the wrong one though.
FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades
"The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000." It's worth noting that "The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison" though even if this bit of evidence was faulty its possible that a substantial portion might still have been convicted.
Up Next: Lava Lamps?
Sounds weird, but it seems that giving cows waterbeds results in them being more comfortable and as a result producing more milk. There's even an introductory video to go along with it.
Graphene light bulb set for shops
A combination of cheaper, longer-lasting, and more-energy-efficient sounds good to me.

Walter Scott and child support

I've mentioned Walter Scott's murder twice before, but here's a third side of the case. The New York Times yesterday published Skip Child Support. Go to Jail. Lose Job. Repeat. which focuses on the completely idiotic approach to child support collection, though it seems a specific case of larger trends of both the criminalization of poverty and the breakdown of family structures:

By his own telling, the first time Walter L. Scott went to jail for failure to pay child support, it sent his life into a tailspin. He lost what he called “the best job I ever had” when he spent two weeks in jail. ... “Every job he has had, he has gotten fired from because he went to jail because he was locked up for child support,” said Mr. Scott, whose brother was working as a forklift operator when he died. “He got to the point where he felt like it defeated the purpose.”
... Though the threat of jail is considered an effective incentive for people who are able but unwilling to pay, many critics assert that punitive policies are trapping poor men in a cycle of debt, unemployment and imprisonment.

I'm not quite sure how "suspending driver’s licenses and professional licenses, and then imposing jail time" is supposed to enable the poor to repay debts and seems only to reenforce a culture of poverty.

Unless something's changed the same happens as well in Canada. e.g. back in 2010:

Paul had been paying regular child support since 1996. But during the trucking industry's recent hard times, Paul was temporarily unemployed, and missed two support payments.
Although he was soon back at work, Paul's commercial licence was suspended by the FRO. They refused to reinstate it without payment of $1,500 Paul hadn't yet earned. Their irrational licence suspension ensured he couldn't earn it.

That story didn't lead off with that but rather that Ontario had begun to seize cars as well of those owing child support. Again, not exactly a great way to make it easy to make a living. The same system seems to exist in Alberta as well.

As the original NYT story here noted, jail for nonpayment can be effective in some instances but the system definitely doesn't seem to be getting all those instances right. It seems to me that there should be a lot of justification needed to take away someone's means of earning a living if they aren't able to pay their bills.

If talking of over-incarceration the following bits of the NYT story seem worth noting:

in 2009, a survey in South Carolina found that one in eight inmates had been jailed for failure to pay child support. In Georgia, 3,500 parents were jailed in 2010. The Record of Hackensack, N.J., reported last year that 1,800 parents had been jailed or given ankle monitors in two New Jersey counties in 2013.

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