They Trample the Head of the Poor

img071A Post from my Friend, Homophilosophicus

My friend discusses moving into the inner city of Dublin. He says, “Over a year ago I decided to move into Dublin’s inner city, to the Liberties; an area of town which has historically suffered the worst from the conditions of poverty and social exclusion. What I had thought to do was to test my own prejudices and those of ‘better-off’ Dublin concerning the lifestyle choices and attitudes of the people who live in those run-down houses between Cork Street and Thomas Street. Was it really the case that the houses were so decrepit because their inhabitants lacked any real care for their environment or any sense of social responsibility?”

Why don’t you read all of it and see what he discovered?

James Pilant

They Trample the Head of the Poor

(a one paragraph excerpt below)

On viewing the house all of the windows were open; airing the house, the beds were covered in new linens and a leather sofa was taking up most of the living room. Now that I had the keys, and could battle my way through the front door – which had evidently been ‘kicked in’ and repaired a number of times before my arrival – it was a completely different story. Nothing could have prepared me for the state of the house once the smoke and mirrors had been removed. With the windows closed over the lack of ventilation created a stench of mould and urine which was suffocating, the kitchen produced a wholly indescribable stench and the general condition of the air caught like a powder in the back of ones’ throat. Upstairs was where the real shock was waiting. The mattresses in both of the bedrooms were bare and both were sodden with human filth; the true extent of which would only transpire later in conversation with neighbours. It took one whole month before the house was fit for human habitation, and it was only then that I would allow Ambrose (the dog who lives with me) to move his things in. Everything in the house had to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. With the help of my longsuffering and dearly beloved friend the mattresses and the bed frames were removed from the house and destroyed. The insect infested wallpaper was removed and a fresh coat of paint was put on every wall. …

From Around the Web.

From the web site, landlordrocknyc.

From an earlier  Wall Street Journal, 2010….”. Jetsetter and social activist Bianca Jagger has lost her legal bid to keep her knock-down-price rental at 530 Park Avenue.

A New York state judge last week ordered Mick’s ex to pay $708,600 in back rent and other fines to her landlords. Ms. Jagger spent nearly 20 years in the two bedroom apartment—rent-stabilized at $4,600 a month. But then she complained about poor upkeep, The landlords in turn noted that Ms. Jagger, in the U.S. on a tourist visa, shouldn’t pay the lower rent since New York isn’t her “primary residence,” one of the criteria under rent control laws.

Middle Class And Poor To Feel The Pain After Deal Is Passed (via Sky’s Universal Predications)

Yes, as always, this is the case. The beltway bloviators, the “villagers,” the 24 hour news networks, the opinion makers, etc. long ago decided that the great mass of Americans were a bunch of lazy, unmotivated, whiny, and fat hogs who need the discipline of the market in their pointless lives. I am reminded of the condemnation in the Bible for those who load the poor with burdens while being unwilling to bear any burden of their own.

James Pilant

Middle Class And Poor To Feel The Pain After Deal Is Passed (As always, the middle class and the poor will feel the pain the most, while the wealthy get another tax break. And when we hit the debt ceiling again in a few years, they'll be asked to do it all over again–by taking it up the ass for the rich.) Debt hope: Obama praises 'Gang of Six' plan WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and a startling number of Republican senators lauded a bipartisan deficit-reduction plan Tuesday that includes $1 tri … Read More

via Sky's Universal Predications

Heritage Foundation’s Report Lacks Real Information (via Colloquial Usage)

I was appalled when I read the Heritage report. Apparently if your children have video games and you can afford a fridge, you really can’t be in that much economic distress? How weird are these guys? I appreciate this take down of their case that appliance ownership negates economic insecurity.

James Pilant

Heritage Foundation's Report Lacks Real Information What is Poverty? a new report by The Heritage Foundation, has been getting a lot of press this week, first from Fox News and then from The Colbert Report. In fact, a link to the report was the first item that came up this morning when I searched for the term “poor in America” on Google. According to the abstract, the report's aim is to address the following problem: Exaggeration and misinformation about poverty obscure the nature, extent, and cau … Read More

via Colloquial Usage

An Economic Wake Up Call (via Here’s What Nancy Thinks)

Income inequality in the developed nations is almost exclusively an American phenomenon. As you can see from the graph, we are more equivalent to African nations with limited economic development in terms of income

Another interesting article is the graph on the origins of our budget problems. Please pay attention to the enormous role played by the Bush tax cuts in destroying revenue.

James Pilant

An Economic Wake Up Call I don't want a "share the wealth" society in the sense that Republicans like to threaten the people with… You have to admit, though, that there used to be a time when money made it to the top, the top would keep a little and spend the rest to grow their business by hiring new people and so forth. When the money trickled down, there was more money to trickle back up. Now, the mighty dollar is harder to come by because the money makes it to the t … Read More

via Here's What Nancy Thinks

Policy failures of the GOP: the debt could disappear if the rich paid taxes at 1960s levels (via Under the Mountain Bunker)

Well, yeah. I knew that.

James Pilant

Is anyone surprised by this? Yet discussion of increasing tax revenues from the wealthy and corporations is off the table,  no compromise, according to the teaparty Republicans. If Corporations And The Rich Paid Taxes At The Same Level As The 1960s, The Debt Would Disappear … [Institute for Policy Studies’ (IPS) Sam] Pizzigati cites an IPS paper from last spring to make the argument that if corporations and households making more than $1 millio … Read More

via Under the Mountain Bunker

What I’m Reading Today – Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges

Death of the Liberal ClassI ordered this online and I have been very impressed. This is the first book by Chris Hedges that I have ever had. I am annoyed with myself for not having discovered him earlier.

Here is an excerpt – The inability of the liberal class to acknowledge that corporations have wrested power from the hands of the citizens, that the Constitution and it guarantees of personal liberty have become irrelevant, and that the phrase consent of the governed is meaningless, has left it speaking and acting in ways that no longer correspond to reality. It has lent its voice to hollow acts of political theater, and the pretense that democratic debate and choice continue to exist.

I think the correctness of his reading is illustrated today by the negotiations over the debt ceiling held between Congress and the President. The liberals, toothless and pointless, are not at the table. The great accomplishments of the liberal and progressive movements over the past one hundred years lay like so many cuts of meat served up on the negotiating table between the two sides, and the Progessives in Congress may just as well not exist. The President proposes cuts to both Social Security and Medicare with no one to stop him. Even the AARP folded like a house of cards. Liberalism as an effective political force is a joke, a satire on its past and a cautionary tale of expediency and stupidity destroying a movement. In particular, the willingness of its candidates to court corporate money and to sell out teachers, workers, soldiers and retirees speaks more of a moral vacuum than it does of effective politics. Without idealism and morality, political movements based on doing the right thing for the poor, the working class and the disadvantaged, have no identity.

I am often asked what we should do about a Wall Street excess, an unfair law, the rich evading taxes and many other things. I’ve taken to dodging the question because explaining to concerned citizens and students that there is no one to turn to, no one to vote for, no one to ask for help, … is depressing in the extreme.

There are two parties in the United States. One is devoted to privilege and a desperate need to stay in power. The other is devoted to privilege and a desperate need to stay in power. Neither deserves a single vote or a moment of serious concern.

Nevertheless, the only remaining arena of possible action is there. However, I have been getting a sense of the nation, that perhaps other choices beside the peaceful are being considered. I do not want to see violence but it is more and more likely.

James Pilant

To get your own copy, you can go here. jp

Philip Yancey on what american churches have become. (via Dover Beach)


James Pilant

Philip Yancey on what american churches have become. “In view of Jesus’ clear example, how is it that the church has now become a community of respectability, where the down-and-out no longer feel welcome? The middle-class church many of us know today bears little resemblance to the diverse group of social rejects described in the Gospels and the book of Acts.”   – Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew … Read More

via Dover Beach

Free Financial Choice?

I am what is call a compatibilist. Compatibilism is the belief that determinism and free will are compatible.

For many today, free will – free choices are terms of great import. “People should be able to fend for themselves.” “You shouldn’t count on the government.” “You should have read the fine print.” “They should have gone on the web and done their research like me.” “If only people would just get tough they could pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.”

These are all statements based on the hard concept of free will or, as it is more often termed, personal responsibility.

One writer to me said, “How come you can’t get it into your head that …” discussing another point of personal responsibility. You see, such choice seems self evident, it’s not.

Here are my objections –
1. The weight of culture, that is, parenting, schooling and the influence of one’s peers.
2. Advertising, several trillion dollars worth of it, ranging from political to mercantile.
3. Time and aptitude, for someone to make a choice, they must know there is one, they must have the time necessary to digest the data and have the mental capability and far more importantly the mental desire. By mental desire I mean a willingness and often a pleasure in thinking and deciding.

In my mind, individuals have free choices, but only a certain number of these individuals can make different choices. You see I was trained in statistics and when you are in that field you are taught (and realize that it is true) that you have very little chance of predicting what any one person will do but analyze several thousand instead of one and you have a very good grip on what most of them will do.

Who makes choices and what proportion of the population makes choices? If you go to the market and watch someone buy bread, you’ll note that only occasionally will someone spend any time making a decision, they decided at some point in time what bread they wanted to buy and they buy that kind of bread. Even at the bread level of thought there is an inertia about making a new decision. Now you can go into that supermarket and look at all the bread every time. In other words, choose not to make a decision in advance but re-study the problem every time new data (in this case, bread) comes in.

Now, you probably would agree with me that the second choice of deciding each time taking the new data into account is the better decision. Are you sure? You see, both of you are choosing from the same products limited by the store’s choices. So, you could argue (and quite intelligently) that by limiting yourself to what the store sells keeps you from making the best decision. On the other hand you might also argue that shopping outside that store poses problems of time and resources (and you would also be quite intelligent in presenting your argument).

So, here is my argument. Choosing between one alternative and another involves judgment. For most people in most situations there are physical, cultural or mental limits on making the full range of judgments. So, we don’t have a full range of decision making possibilities but only a limited set. Thus, for almost all situations, we limited by one of the three factors, have only limited choices we can make.

If we have limited instead of unlimited choices, the question of what judgments people makes moves from what is the best decision to a different one – what is the best decision that could have been made amongst the choices remaining?

This puts me in a world where I have to look at what people are likely to do.

Example – Someone puts a payday loan business in lower middle class community. The company carefully chooses an area where the education level is a low as possible say an average of tenth grade. I can statistically predict how much business they will get based on the population, the amount and interest of the loans, etc. I, personally, will be offended at what I consider the exploitation of a population already under terrible economic stress.

If you on the other hand, assume total, not limited choice, these people are just a bunch of imbeciles, who couldn’t find their ass with a flashlight.

I believe that in this country there are a wide variety of legitimate choices in many fields, in many places, all the time. I work hard to give people the opportunity to make choices and I like to make them myself. But as long as I live in a world where the rule is limited choice not total, I’m going to sympathize with the people getting the pay day loans and suffering for it.

James Pilant