This site isn't totally dead yet

I finally got around to overhauling this with PHP 5.6 and the latest release of Drupal after it'd fallen rather out of date. Figured I'd still like to keep this site around - more as just a place to collect my thoughts than anything. (As before, the tools installed on various subdomains are what I probably use more than this blog anyways).

One annoyance that I had in the past was with piles and piles of spam comments such that I wound up making it next to impossible for anyone to comment. Now that's gone and replaced with Disqus for commenting on the off-chance that I haven't chased everyone away. For now this site is also using a new theme as the old one no longer works in the latest Drupal release.

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.

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