BURIED LEADE ALERT: Increasing the Minimum Wage by a Buck Can Prevent 1,600 Suicides

This all might be old news for you—especially the bit I shoved in the title, as I’m told that finding actually saw a fair bit of press earlier this month—but I found this all eye-opening:

The Finance 202: Mo’ money, fewer problems: Two new studies show 1 percenters are the most satisfied

Three key takeaways:

1. This single factoid on the impact of tiny wage increases on suicide rates is pretty stunning:

At the bottom of the income heap, relatively minor adjustments in pay can yield such a dramatic difference they register as public health benefits, according to the second study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health. That paper found “state-level increases of $1 in minimum wage corresponded with a 3.4 percent to 5.9 percent decrease in the suicide rates of people with a high school diploma or less” among 18- to 64-year-olds

Picking that rather tortuous second sentence apart is a little tricky. Americans 18- to 64-years-old account for something like 200,000,000 people. About half of them would probably fall in the “have a high school diploma or less” bucket. So, this group—less educated American adults of working age—amount to something like one-third of the country. But they make up something like 70% of our suicides. So, that’s a population that’s really hurting, to the tune of more than 30,000 suicides per year. If you reduce that by an average of a 4.7% (as the above mentioned study found), that translates to ~1,600 lives saved.

That’s good. I don’t think anyone reading this is going to say “Thousands of families kept whole? Fuck that, Dave: Let them choke on cake!”

But what’s the cost? I mean, maybe it costs some absurd amount to get this done, and there’s a legit question if it’s a good investment or not.

Minimum wage is still pretty insanely variable across the US, but it looks like the average US minimum wage worker earns $11.80 per hour (given how the population of working-age Americans is distributed). That being the case, a $1 raise amounts to an ~8.5% increase in payroll. If that’s entirely passed directly to consumers (with all else staying equal), you might end up paying as much as 25 cents more for a Starbucks coffee, or almost 70 cents more for a Bacon Turkey Bravo sandwich at Panera.

That’s literally pocket change. It seems like a pretty frikkin easy way to save 1,600 lives each year. I say let’s do it.

2. Even 1%ers struggle with medical bills‽

“Among low-income households, for instance, nearly 40 percent said they had trouble paying their medical bills in the past several years and 30 percent reported having difficulty paying for food, Ingraham writes. “Among the top 1 percent, those shares were 5 percent and zero, respectively.”

I’m sorry, put we’re talking about the handful of families that have more than half the nation’s wealth—and even they can’t all cover their medical expenses? That right there is the single most persuasive argument I’ve ever heard for socialized medicine.

3. This all translates to a significant Democratic tailwind in the presidential election. Our economy is doing great—which historically gives an incumbent PotUS an easy win for reelection. But that great economy is only benefiting a small group of people in the upper reaches of the wealth curve. They’re happy and they vote—but they each get just one vote.

Meanwhile, huge swaths of Americans are “dissatisfied” (or much, much worse)—and don’t tend to vote. Get more of these less-likely voters to the polls, the Dem advantage increases (incidentally, as voter turnout increases, policies tend to get more progressive, too—BONUS!).

This all points to the one thing you can do if you want to see a Dem in the White House: Work to increase voter turnout. Get folks registered. Get them to the polls. Get them their absentee ballots.🇺🇸

I love that this was shot in Detroit…

…but hate that it’s yet another sci-fi film shot in the bizarro Detroit that’s mysteriously devoid of all Black people. WtF, dudes!  

Do you know how hard it is to find great Black actors for an SF movie in Detroit?  ZERO HARD! It’s a huge city, there are several solid acting programs at the various colleges and universities there, plus an additional 700,000 people.[*]

Also, not for nothing, but imagine how much more tightly on-theme this movie would have been if you highlighted race and consumption, rather than white-washing Detroit—THE BLACKEST CITY IN AMERICA:

[*] Yes, I saw that there were a couple Black ladies in the background of one shot. But, c’mon, dude, please. Incidentally, they weren’t even credited; i.e., they were probably just a pair of ladies that happened to be wandering around. 🙄

Like if “Springtime for Hitler” was both a real thing, and being performed by a middle school drama club

I’m sure I’m missing something here, but this looks an awful lot like a troupe of little mixed-race American girls doing a dance—with ropes!—around a “hanging tree”, which ends with a flamboyant black man crowing “Whooo! That was fierce you guys; I wanna hang from that tree!”

😳

P.S. “Springtime for Hitler,” just in case none of us are sharing any overlapping portions of bubble.

“We invade violent countries to make them peaceful” is the most American sentence I can imagine🇺🇸🔥

If you’re an American tax payer, then you owe it to ~3000 dead Americans, 20,000 wounded Americans, and more than 100,000 dead Afghans to read this whole thing:

AT WAR WITH THE TRUTH: U.S. officials constantly said they were making progress. They were not, and they knew it, an exclusive Post investigation found” by Craig Whitlock

This long piece is worth every second of your time—and deserves every moment of your attention. It’s full of gems: nauseous, heartbreaking facts, brief tales of uncertain moral.

“We don’t invade poor countries to make them rich. We don’t invade authoritarian countries to make them democratic.We invade violent countries to make them peaceful and we clearly failed in Afghanistan.”— James Dobbins, former U.S. diplomat

Also—and I’m not being flip here—but I sorta love that Rumsfield called his frequent memoranda “snowflakes.” Over the years, I’ve grown to realize that he may have been one of the most profoundly clear-eyed thinkers of the dawning of the American 21st C. Again, I’m not being sarcastic in any way here: The shit he said frequently sounded nuts, but it was and is perhaps the only clear and honest way to talk about Now.

Anyway, here’s a #fact you should know:

One unidentified contractor told government interviewers he was expected to dole out $3 million daily for projects in a single Afghan district roughly the size of a U.S. county. He once asked a visiting congressman whether the lawmaker could responsibly spend that kind of money back home: “He said hell no. ‘Well, sir, that’s what you just obligated us to spend and I’m doing it for communities that live in mud huts with no windows.’ ”

The gusher of aid that Washington spent on Afghanistan also gave rise to historic levels of corruption.

In public, U.S. officials insisted they had no tolerance for graft. But in the Lessons Learned interviews, they admitted the U.S. government looked the other way while Afghan power brokers — allies of Washington — plundered with impunity.

Christopher Kolenda, an Army colonel who deployed to Afghanistan several times and advised three U.S. generals in charge of the war, said that the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai had “self-organized into a kleptocracy” by 2006 — and that U.S. officials failed to recognize the lethal threat it posed to their strategy.

“I like to use a cancer analogy,” Kolenda told government interviewers. “Petty corruption is like skin cancer; there are ways to deal with it and you’ll probably be just fine. Corruption within the ministries, higher level, is like colon cancer; it’s worse, but if you catch it in time, you’re probably ok. Kleptocracy, however, is like brain cancer; it’s fatal.”

And here’s another:

“We stated that our goal is to establish a ‘flourishing market economy,’ ” said Douglas Lute, the White House’s Afghan war czar from 2007 to 2013. “I thought we should have specified a flourishing drug trade — this is the only part of the market that’s working.” 

No single agency or country was in charge of the Afghan drug strategy for the entirety of the war, so the State Department, the DEA, the U.S. military, NATO allies and the Afghan government butted heads constantly.

The agencies and allies made things worse by embracing a dysfunctional muddle of programs, according to the interviews.

At first, Afghan poppy farmers were paid by the British to destroy their crops — which only encouraged them to grow more the next season. Later, the U.S. government eradicated poppy fields without compensation — which only infuriated farmers and encouraged them to side with the Taliban.

And here’s a picture. No trigger warning, because we should all look, regardless of how it makes us feel. Do you see the writing on his forehead? The duct tape on his shirt? These tell me that there is a tourniquet on his right leg. It was put on at 2:55 pm. I wonder if he kept that leg, if he survived at all.

Incidentally, here’s the previous winner for “Most American Sentence Dave Can Imagine”:

This is us, folks. Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something.

Back of the Envelope Calculation: “Billionaire Philanthropists” are Fucking Pathetic

Read this article:

Here’s how much America’s billionaires give to charity, in one chart

…and saw the chart:

And then did some math: 

The “average American” (that’s a family making $50k–$99k in this article here) gives ~3–6% of their income to charity each year. Now, that’s income, not wealth. If we want to apples-to-apples this, we need to gauge giving vs. wealth. It appears the “average” American’s wealth is something like $97,000  (which kinda sucks, given that the average American home is worth more than twice that—and is mortgaged to the gills).  So, we end up in about the same place: The average American annually gives money worth ~3% of their wealth. 

In other words, the average American is significantly more generous with their wealth than pretty much every goddamned billionaire out there.  Even Warren Buffet (who I actually really admire) is just a tiny bit above average on this one.  

So, if your argument against a wealth tax is “It’s OK for folks to sit on billions of dollars, because rich people are super charitable”—well, they just aren’t. In fact, multiple studies have found that as folks get poorer in this country, they give a higher percentage of their income to charity (and generally have zero or negative wealth). People at or below the poverty line often give ~10% of their annual income to charitable causes each year.  

So, yeah, give thanks on Thursday, sure—but give some fucking money, too, dammit.

Take 11 Minutes and Learn the Secrets to the Science of Persuasion

This video is mostly narrated by Dr. Robert Cialdini, who’s most famous for his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (where he first presented most of the ideas seen here).  This is a text book—if not the Bible—on how to talk to people about things that you really care about, and get them to see your perspective.

Cialdini started out as a research psychologist, and my understanding (which fits the tone of the book) is that he began working on the book—which catalogues and examines several categories of sales/influence tricks and techniques—as a sort of warning to lay folks. After its first publication, it became enormously influential among marketers, copywriters, businessfolk, and all manner of modern propogandists.  If you write for any purpose (e.g., speechs, op-ed, news, fiction, non-fiction, persuading folks on the fence to vote for this or that) or run any sort of business, you need to read this book.  For that matter, even if you don’t seek to persuade anyone of anything, I still strongly recommend every adult in America  read this book, in order to better understand how it is you’ve come to believe what you believe, embrace what you embrace, and reject what “just isn’t your thing.”

(While we’re on the topic, you really should also read Darrell Huff’s HOW TO LIE WITH STATISTICS; the black arts outlined in these two books cover the two major toolsets that the politically and economically motivated are using to manipulate you and your loved ones every single day.  Get your hands on Master’s tools; consider their possible applications in tearing down Master’s house*.)

Caveat: Yes, some of the hard data and studies in the original Influence haven’t aged well, but the bold strokes—about how people behave and how our minds get changed without our realizing it—is still rock solid.

BONUS: Check out this analysis of Oprah, and compare it with what Cialdini describes above:

Continue reading “Take 11 Minutes and Learn the Secrets to the Science of Persuasion”

Emotionally Scarring Children to Help them Cope with Things that Never Happened #HappyHalloween!!! 🎃👻🍬

The images below are taken from Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child’s Book About Satanic Ritual Abuse.  This is a real book that was earnestly written and actually published, then presumably read to actual children (who, one presumes, were duly traumatized) in order to help them cope with having not endured fake things that never happened to anyone (see also “Satanic Panic”and D&D as thrill-kill gateway drug—and recall, these were current events, reported in the newspaper, recounted in measured tones on the evening news, endlessly explored on the afternoon talk shows I watched while my folks were at work. I was a fat, gullible, ill-monitored Jewish pre-teen at the time. These cases enthralled and terrified me.) "Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" halloween

The craziest thing about all this, to me, is that the author and publisher really did have their hearts in the right place, I think.  In contrast to most materials surrounding the issue of Satanic Ritual Abuse, this wasn’t an attempt to bait the hook of Fundamentalist Christian propaganda or Normative White bigotry with raw meat ripped from the tabloid headlines. 

"Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" ritual

"Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" cover This book comes from the “Hurts of Childhood” series, which honestly and directly tries to address real burdens that many children really face: parental alcohol abuse, sexual assault, traumatic family situations, and so on.  Yes, every single title in this series is just as maladroitly handled—but, jeez, at least they were trying.

"Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" bath "Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" doctor 2 "Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" doctor 1

Let me stress: This stuff looks silly and ghoulish and comically naive now, but we actually believed these things were happening back in the 1980s. Real people really went to prison—and stayed there for years—having been accused of heinous abominations and convicted of committing a type of crime that hasn’t ever happened:

The survey included 6,910 psychiatrists, psychologists and clinical social workers, and 4,655 district attorneys, police departments and social service agencies. They reported 12,264 accusations of ritual abuse that they had investigated.

The survey found that there was not a single case where there was clear corroborating evidence for the most common accusation, that there was “a well-organized intergenerational satanic cult, who sexually molested and tortured children in their homes or schools for years and committed a series of murders,” Dr. Goodman said.

Many psychotherapists who have been vocal about a supposed epidemic of sexual abuse by well-organized satanic rings have grown more cautious of late. “There’s clearly been a contagion, a contamination of what people say in therapy because of what they see on TV or read about satanic ritual abuse,” said Dr. Bennet Braun, a psychiatrist who heads the Dissociative Disorders Unit at Rush-North Shore Medical Center in Chicago.

So, anyway, that was life in the 1980s. It was legitimately fake news that led to literal witch hunts and actually completely destroyed people’s lives.

(image sources  here and here)

Colt is ceasing production of consumer-grade assault rifles o_O

Washington Post: There are so many AR-15s in U.S. consumer hands that it makes no sense to produce more, Colt says”Stag2wi_

Three things worth noting:

  1. Colt is the father of the AR-15 and creator of the once highly profitable consumer-grade assault weapon niche. It’s enormous news that they’re out.
  2. This headline implies that the market is saturated because so many guns have been produced and sold, but if you read the article, that’s not what Colt said. They simply say demand is down. Yes, one explanation is that they overproduced and flooded the market. Another is that fewer people want these guns (often characterized as “the must vilified gun in America.”). Think about cigarettes: Demand for those in the US is also down, not because cigarette manufacturers overproduced and flooded the market, but because we worked hard to make having and using cigarettes less socially neutral and much more publicly controversial.
  3. Contrary to popular perception, while these guns are enormously popular with those committing the most heinous crimes, they are used in a vanishingly small percentage of total gun crimes.

 

If you want to understand the last three years in American politics, read Stephen King’s 1985 novella “The Mist”

This is, by no means, any sort of endorsement of any of the film/TV/radio-drama adaptations of this work—all of which either entirely miss what gives this story its lasting power, or convert a fundamentally profound work about kitchen-table American politics (i.e., the only kind that actually matters) to a moderately stupid and lazily nihilistic creature features.

Read the novella (which is also the first story in Skeleton Crew—a whole book of classic King shorts that costs just a couple buck more than the standalone novella—and is bootlegged here).  Ignore the monsters and the titular mist; watch the people.  And never lose sight of the final word in the story.

  

Listen to (or Read) My Story “Whatever Comes After Calcutta” on @PseudoPod

The Pseudopod team always does great work, but I’m especially thrilled with what the reader—Rish Outfield—has done here; the story has lots of voices, and he captures them all.  Such a treat. (For those less inclined to audio drama and more to old-fashioned reading, they have the full text of the story posted, too.)

PseudoPod 649: “Whatever Comes After Calcutta

And here’s a YouTube video of the audio, if that’s your jam:

Enjoy!