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Bakari
biodieselhau...
Male
Oakland, CA



 
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You are currently viewing archive for April 2010
Posted By Bakari

A couple friends of mine are taking a class on being a "white ally" - race awareness and relations, power and privileged, and counteracting racism.

One of them mentioned to me some critical feedback she had offered and it got me to thinking in more detail what has always bothered me about those sort of discussions, but up until now never quite pinned down.

The following is not a commentary on that class in particular, as I know essentially nothing about it, but rather a critique of a few general ideas I have heard and read on the topic in the past:




1 There is no such thing as "people of color"
-The impact of past racism (including slavery) and present racism does not effect all races equally, nor all in the same way.
- A black american  and a white american likely have more in common with each other than with a fresh-off-the-boat Vietnamese person.  A white american whose family has been in the US for generations likely has more culture in common with a black american than with a first generation eastern european immigrant with whom they share skin color.
 -The very term "people of color" encourages white people to think in terms of a false dichotomy of 'us' (all white people) and 'them' (everyone else).  It not only homogenizes all other races, it also makes everyone not white into an "other".
-Lumping all non-white cultures into one category, while giving white an entire separate category in itself suggests a type of superiority.
-This dichotomy also discounts the existence of mixed race individuals (officially 2% of US society, but really much higher - most surveys, as well as society, force people to choose one identity, even if they are in fact mixed)

2 Historical racism is the single largest cause for modern black poverty, and poverty does generally correlate with crime. However no historical or sociological factors can excuse individual behavior.  No matter what circumstances a person is born into, they have a choice about their own behavior.  Apologizing for, ignoring, discounting, or explaining away black crime rates, drug rates, or general anti-social behavior (e.g. boombox on a crowded train) does nothing to increase equality, and does not bring less conscious white people about as allies. 

3 Discrimination is explicitly illegal.  Talking about "institutionalized" or "systemic" racism does not address the issues which are most relevant today.  While there are still white supremacists in the US, their view has become as unacceptable in mainstream society as it once was only among civil-rights activists.  The president of the US is 1/2 African.  This does not mean that the conversation about race is over.  However, it does mean it is time to change that conversation. 

For example, talking about power hierarchies is mostly nonsensical today.  If racism = racism + power (as is often claimed by race activists), this does not imply that only whites can be racist, because whites do not have any particular power over other races.  There are minorities in the role of police officer, judge, congress person, boss, professor, etc. as well as whites in poverty, in jail, or otherwise powerless.  If you ignore all individual circumstances and look only at the whole society, then no one can be racist, because society is no one person.


 
[this blog has a character limit.  The rest of it is here: http://neapolitanblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/awareness-of-white-priveldge-vs.html ]

 
Posted By Bakari

"Turning-Hustlers-into-Entrepreneurs" discusses the possibility of increasing micro-credit in order to support independent "black market" business people.  As someone who has been running a successful off-the-books business for several years, I believe the major obstacle is not a lack of credit, but rather a government which is geared toward big business.

As the examples in the article illustrate, people are already doing what they are doing, without capital.  What they lack is official legitimacy.  Many entrepreneurs, such as myself, would love to "go legit", but it is not a realistic option.
I understand and support the idea that government regulate business to protect consumers.  The problem is that government does not take the size of a business into account in the requirements it imposes on operating legally.

For example, a single guy with a pick-up truck doing local deliveries pays the exact same state license fee as a company with a fleet of semi trucks.  The  least insurance available to him is a million dollars of coverage with a 1-2 thousand dollar annual premium, even if he never comes close to transporting a million dollars worth of goods.   Every city he works in requires its own separate business license.  If he needs to hire a subcontractor on occasion, he needs to buy worker's comp insurance at a minimum, and possibly more.  Being self-employed, he pays an additional tax (which an employer would otherwise cover).  And of course by staying underground, he avoids paying any income tax on his business revenue.

All of this can easily add up to thousands of dollars.  That sum may be inconsequential to a corporation with annual sales in the millions of dollars, but to a small independent, going legit would cost me about 20% of my entire net revenue, more than two months income.

The solution to this is not to finance small business to help them pay for theses fees - these fees are annual, and taking loans only increases risk.  The solution is to have license fees proportional to net revenue, instead of being fixed amounts, requiring insurance companies to offer a full range of coverage options, including (potentially less profitable) low limit policies, and restructuring tax code so there isn't a penalty to being self-employed. Similarly, laws making it difficult or illegal to run certain types of business from home could be relaxed, (for example, allowing small scale retail in otherwise residential districts), eliminating the need for a dedicated store-front, a major on-going expense.

Reducing the government imposed costs of running an independent business legally would , without the additional risk incurred (for both the investor and the entrepreneur) by accepting loans or the costs incurred by providing grants.  It would also increase tax revenue, by encouraging existing underground businesses to come above the radar and join the mainstream economy.

 
Posted By Bakari

The following was a "letter to the editor" I submitted to a progressive magazine in response to articles on global warming:


In "American Psychosis" you point to the many people who acknowledge global warming, but do not change much, if anything about their destructive lifestyles, and in "Hot Air" talk about the point of view of skeptics and deniers.

I run a certified green hauling business. I modified my delivery truck to get 30mpg (from 15mpg) and run it on 100% biodiesel made from recycled veggie oil. I also work part time supporting people who bicycle to work (at a business which runs at a loss because our main service is free). I live in a 250square foot home and use less than $5 worth of electricity most months.
I also have some background in science, including degrees in earth science and biology, and generally track down sources for claims I read.

Having read arguments on both sides, I am not convinced that humans are significantly contributing to climate change. While I admit I haven't kept up with the latest research, I have yet to see several points addressed:

1 The climate naturally goes through cycles of extremes. The current climate reflects roughly where it is expected to be. Our methods of determining past temperatures are not precise enough to tell us the rate of change over small periods of time in the past, and so it is difficult to determine if what we see today is abnormal.
2 Geologic data suggests that in past periods of climate change, temperature has always changed first, with CO2 levels changing as a result of temperature change, not the other way around. This does not necessarily indicate it is what is happening this time, but it could account for what we are seeing.
3 Climate predictions are only as good as the models they are built on, which in turn are only as good as the computers that run them. We simply do not have computers powerful enough to accurately model something as complex as the earth's climate. Last I heard, in order to reduce complexity to a manageable level, most models omit details such as water vapor (arguably the single most important variable) all together.
4 Human caused climate change is frequently referred to (particularly in liberal media sources) as having "scientific consensus". According to Pew Research center 86% of scientists concur. While 86% is clearly an overwhelming majority in a democracy, in science 14% is too large a minority to simply ignore.

But here's the thing:
It doesn't make one bit of difference if humans are contributing to global warming or not.
Whether we are causing it or not, its happening (that doesn't take predictions, just measurements - its happening)
Therefor we should prepare for it.
Even more important: independent of global warming, our lifestyles are harming the ecology of our planet. Even if an individual feels no moral reason to care about life other than humanity, it is undeniable that we are totally dependent on the environment for our own survival.

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This blog server has a character limit.  The rest can be found here: http://neapolitanblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/global-warming-revisited.html


 
Posted By Bakari

OMG
I am going to be the person in charge of my local polling place.
Democracy will literally be in my hands.

It will be my responcibility to ensure every vote in my neighborhood gets counted.


I am proud, and slightly terrified.

 

How it is I skipped over getting experince as a clerk first, I am not entierly sure, but I just got a very official looking notice in the mail, informing me that I'm gonna be the guy in charge this primary election, June 8th.

 

I start at 6am, work until 9pm, and I will have a crew of 5 people.

My designated polling place happens to be the same as where I normally go to vote, and its easy walking distance from my house.